Why B2B marketing often fails at ROI

Why B2B marketing often fails at ROI

May 13, 2019

I think we can all agree that there's just a wee bit of pressure from the top on B2B marketers to increasingly (and more granularly) prove our ROI. Some days, it feels like this:

And yet, there is frequently a cruel irony at play.

The biggest impediment to implementing meaningful ROI, in our experience? The lack of a true executive mandate to force the needed process and cultural changes across the organization—well beyond marketing's toy-strewn cubicle walls.

Don't get us wrong. There’s a myriad of tactical issues to slash through.

Critical ROI Measurement Initiative Tasks

  • Create fully aligned marketing and sales funnel models
  • Reach agreement on performance benchmarks
  • Calculate projected economic values at funnel conversation steps
  • Negotiate service-level agreements for managing sales-accepted leads
  • Convince system owners (web analytics, CRM, ERP, etc.) to prioritize fixes

Phew! "That's some list," you might be saying (through chattering or clenched teeth).

Solving these challenges requires buy-in from all the stakeholders and, more importantly, commitments of time and resources from the same.

Which takes us to the brutal truths of the matter:

  • The executives know not (and care not) what they ask. Your leadership team wants to see marketing ROI. They don't care about the “how” or “who.”
  • You don't own the data you need. You can't measure marketing ROI in B2B without fully aligning processes with sales and without aligning key data points between non-marketing-owned systems.
  • You possess neither carrot nor stick. The stakeholders within your sales organization and IT/CRM teams work in a world where, for them, nothing is broken.

Ultimately, a successful B2B marketing ROI initiative comes down to marketers asking non-marketers to change, take risks and expend effort. Even when you have solid relationships with swell colleagues, that's a tall order in 2019.

The best way to ensure success: executive sponsorship

How do you go about getting an executive mandate? While every organization is different, here are three techniques we’ve seen that have proven to be effective:

1. Find allies among your stakeholders

At this point in your career, you've probably mastered the art of pre-selling ideas to key stakeholders before presenting them up the chain.

If possible, it is incredibly smart to find those special individuals within the stakeholder groups who embrace both challenges and change. They may or may not be the leaders, but what's critical is that they’re willing to help shape your thinking as you prepare to...

2. Sell a vision, not a plan

When you make your pitch for executive sponsorship of your initiative, present a vivid picture of a future that your leaders won't be able to live without one more day.

This is an art and science, but, done correctly, you’ll have them eating out of your hand.

First, begin by creating a basic funnel model based on your marketing and sales process. Then identify where the data sits to populate that model and create some hypothetical assumptions and benchmarks

Now, you are ready to wow them.

Create and start your presentation with a prototype of a marketing dashboard that would sit at the executive's fingertips.

How this dashboard would be delivered doesn’t matter at this point. Not only does this demonstrate that a marketing ROI and visualized marketing pipeline is truly possible, but showing the executives that they’ll have the ability to access it themselves will get their attention.

With the vision sold, now you can make the ask. Who are the stakeholders you’ll need them to muster commitments from? What systems (and system owners) need to be integrated?

Prepare whatever model of the working team you’ll need along with estimates of timing and resource needs. Propose a structure for the executive sponsor to manage (and take credit for) the ultimate success of the initiative. And then stop talking and see who bites.

3. Do all the heavy lifting you can early on

If you've succeeded in landing that executive sponsorship, your initiative's success is still far from certain.

You asked for and got a hammer. But, no one likes being hammered.

In the early days, your designated counterparts from sales and IT/CRM may likely be annoyed, stressed or disengaged.

The key is to make it easy to work with you for both your sponsor and your stakeholders.

Take on the logistics, the project management and, most importantly, the morale of the team. Create and sell visions to stakeholders just as you did for your executive team and spend as much time as you can making them feel heard in the process.

While there are many, many miles ahead on your journey, a B2B marketing ROI initiative with true executive sponsorship puts you in the best possible position to succeed. Give us a shout if we can help.

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