Marketing ROI

Redefining Marketing ROI

CMO EXCLUSIVES | July 09, 2013

by Christine Nurnberger
Vice President, Marketing
SunGard Availability Services


For ages, chief marketing officers have been seeking an elusive ROI utopia, to no avail. Today, however, by aligning their sales and marketing organizations and employing new technology advances, they can achieve that goal.


  • It takes laser-like focus to generate the right kind of qualified opportunities at the most efficient spending level.
  • Marketing teams need to recognize it’s simply not enough to launch a creative program if it isn’t driving revenue.
  • Marketing-automation software allows us to interact seamlessly with our customers across all of these channels.

But aligning marketing with revenue performance objectives requires much more than defining service-level agreements between sales and marketing lead qualification. It demands more than plugging your conversion metrics into a pretty waterfall graphic. It commands more than designing colorful graphics on a dashboard to depict marketing performance. These activities are table stakes.

So what is the secret sauce to driving your marketing organization to become a powerful and reliable demand creation channel? It is actually pretty straight-forward. It requires nothing less than 100 percent alignment across your entire marketing organization with sales revenue performance metrics. It takes laser-like focus to generate the right kind of qualified opportunities at the most efficient spending level.

How Not To Do It
I recently took that plunge, and already it’s reaping visible payoffs that deliver much more actionable sales leads that ultimately promise stronger relationships with new customers.

I am vice president of marketing for a company that provides disaster recovery and managed IT services. When I took over marketing, my 40-or-so-member staff was fairly typical. Friction between marketing and sales was palpable, as is often the case in many organizations. It went something like this:

Marketing: Look at this creative new campaign! It generated 1,000 new leads!

Sales: I tried calling a few of your so-called “leads.” They don’t even remember clicking to download your whitepaper.

Marketing: You can’t give up yet! I spent tens of thousands of dollars on this campaign!

This is when sales went dark. You can bet your last dollar the vast majority of those 1,000 “leads” were never even contacted, let alone converted to pipeline dollars.

Instead of ROI, we focused on the more creative aspects of campaigns. We spent far too much money with creative agencies and “demand” programs that had little impact on generating real results. Indeed, the majority of the agencies we worked with refused to put any “skin in the game” with regard to their programs impacting pipeline or revenue.

The campaigns may have had great creative, but had little business return. Our campaigns lacked alignment with sales goals. We figured that in one recent year, we executed more than 1,000 crude marketing tactics, but they had a total impact of less than 3 percent on revenues. Volume topped quality.

Our campaigns may have generated raw inquiries, but there was no follow-through or analyses of whether those leads would spark long-term engagements with customers. The company didn’t understand the analytics and science of developing a scalable, repeatable demand generation engine that could be optimized to fuel pipeline growth.

How To Do It
What’s required today are marketing organizations with a resolute focus on, and commitment to, driving revenue. At the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins. The strongest team members will come from marketing organizations that use sales drivers to make their campaign decisions. Marketing teams must serve as more of an extension of their sales teams. They need to recognize it’s simply not enough to launch a creative program if it isn’t driving revenue.

The big difference: In this new breed of marketing organizations, each team member will receive a pipeline and revenue quota, much like that of a sales team. This removes the subjectivity and enables the shift to demand-generating goals from simple product marketing.

Our team now still numbers around 40, but the mindset is far different because we are each ignited by set expectations and quotas. This intensifies the need for marketing programs to truly deliver the right kind of sales leads and the right kind of future customer that will stay with your company.

New Technology Advances Help
The other requirement for today’s marketing team is the right technology via a new generation of marketing automation software. Such technology helps marketers locate, land, and grow relationships with more future customers over time.

Marketing departments need technology to cope with the sheer pace and complexity of engaging with customers in real time across multiple media–the Web, email, social media, online and offline events, video, e-commerce storefronts, mobile devices, and other channels. Marketing-automation software allows us to interact seamlessly with our customers across all of these channels. It delivers data and analytic insights to understand where and how to allocate our budget for maximum return.

So what new campaigns develop as a result? Obviously, the proof is in the pudding.

Our current marketing campaigns are worlds apart from previous ones. We recognize that in today’s world of information overload, ours must break through the noise and grab the target audience. Creative, compelling content that speaks to customer pain points and business drivers is at the heart of Marketing Campaign 3.0.

Consider a recent campaign that exemplifies how we believe we separated from the pack.

Tapping into our society’s obsession with zombies, we featured a zombie apocalypse survival manual for the enterprise. We compared the basic necessities needed to protect oneself in the event of a zombie apocalypse to the steps businesses need to take to maintain operations in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. This tie made it easier for our audience to understand how an enterprise and its IT staff can and should proactively prepare for a disaster. We used eye-catching graphics and useful content, generating more than triple the expected downloads and double the expected open and click-through rates.

What’s the bottom line to our new marketing approach? In less than nine months, we’ve increased marketing direct contribution to pipeline by 30 percent, tripled the number of marketing sourced opportunities, and quadrupled the average deal size of marketing sourced opportunities.

A Cloudy Crystal Ball  
With the rapid pace of change in the marketing game, it’s unclear what the landscape will look like in five years. The proliferation of social sphere information and the integration of that data to drive even more targeted campaigns are likely to be on the agenda of every B2B marketer.

Further sophistication around marketing analytics will allow us, hopefully, to evolve into master puppeteers–that is, understanding our sales and marketing funnel at such a granular level that we can adjust the strings in real time to shape the impact of our programs on the business.

Companies that deliver creative content with segmented messaging based on their targeted personas will continue to see their key campaign performance indicators trend in the right direction. Whatever the future holds, though, it almost certainly will favor a marketing team that acts far more like a spirited sales squadron–always looking at bottom-line results.

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