Back2Basics: B2B revenue marketing — trick or treat?
by Mark Eardley (@mdeardley) It’s a treat — a rare one. And there’s a chance to get a R7 500 report on it free.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner
I always like a bit of high-powered advocacy for pulling some marketers’ heads out of the sand — or wherever else they may be — and filling them with some age-old, right-thinking about creating sales and protecting margins. There’s nothing like dissing the distractions and getting back to the core task: generating profitable deals.
That’s why I really warmed to an August 2018 report on revenue marketing from Lori Wizdo , Forrester’s VP, principal analyst serving B2B marketing professionals. Titled “Three Waypoints on the Journey to B2B Marketing Transformation”, it’s about returning to the revenue-producing track marketers never should have strayed from in the first place. More specifically, it’s about planning how to stay on track.
A R7 500 call-to-action — free copy of Forrester’s report
Since MarkLives.com is South Africa’s top resource for relevant news and intelligent insights into the world of marketing, use our contact form to tell us why you deserve to be gifted with Forrester’s thinking on revenue marketing (RM) and the route towards it. Only one submission will win, which will be picked by the editors of MarkLives, and the winner will be notified vie email. Note: The winner’s details will be sent to Forrester.
Revenue marketing (RM)
RM is a vogue-term that popped to prominence maybe three or so years ago. It refers to the process of measuring how marketing-driven deals are moved progressively through the B2B buying-decision cycle from a customer saying, “We’re interested” to “Where do we sign?” It’s sort of like the century-old AIDA sequence with enhancing-iterations prompted by analytics — basically doing old stuff in new ways.
Like so much ‘modern’ marketing, the neologists have been at work here. No matter. RM’s modish moniker might meet the seemingly obligatory need for a bright and shiny buzz-tag, but there’s some potent thinking going on under its silly hat. While not yet fully emerged from its cocoon (and still a bit bashful about bluntly billing itself as ‘money-making marketing’), RM is a step in that direction.
It’s the right direction because, as Forrester’s report says, “It’s easy to mistake new technology, better data, new programs, and new marketing channels as significant progress. But these are all just components of a broader vision.” In a nutshell, that broader (RM-based) vision is to become a profitably customer-centric organisation.
Now that might sound like an innocuous ambition, smacking as it does of the touchy-feely jargon that the ‘banners-and-balloons’ people in many marketing departments are always spouting. For any gullible folk within a vendor’s markets, it also comes across as reassuring in fatuous mission statements, glib intros to annual reports and on countless, commercially-useless B2B websites. But…
…building a profitable RM approach: strong foundations matter
The report warns that, if smart marketers correctly decide that being truly centric is the only sustainable way to build sales, margins and loyalty, some powerful internal stakeholders are likely to get mightily pissed off. Especially, heaven forbid, since centricity requires those stakeholders to meet customers, listen to their requirements and respond positively. Plenty of, say, production and finance execs would rather self-harm than encounter the problematic people who create their firm’s sales. Same probably goes for some marketers.
On the road towards effective RM, Forrester advises marketers to explain their direction to internal power-wielders “in terms of better engaging the customer to drive revenue and lifetime value”. The idea is that by doing so — essentially by stressing that rising sales and margins are the direct deliverables — marketers can elevate their case for an RM-based approach to “an unassailable position.”
Talking about reaching such a lofty position is a lot easier than getting there. The report emphasises this point and backs it up with some sound guidance on how to get there by bringing ‘process rigour’ to the approach right from the start.
Ah, rigour and process. Methodologies. Definable, repeatable, adjustable, deliverable, measurable. Archaic words? Like snatches of half-remembered incantations from the old ways, from the days of money-making marketing and the now merely whispered wisdom of its high-priests — Drucker, Levitt, Kotler. Three wise men bearing a simple message: customers matter more than anything, so you’d better understand what they need.
Process rigour in money-making marketing? Seems it’s on the comeback trail
If it’s making a long-overdue comeback, then it’s travelling a tricky trail. Apparently, the concept of process rigour does not sit comfortably with all marketers. Forrester’s research has found it lacking as a core strength among us B2B-ers. Perhaps many are happier tinkering about with the latest glittery tools rather than concentrating on achieving the only job at hand: more sales at better margins to longer-term customers.
Forrester addresses this process phobia by supplying some clearly presented graphics showing how to frame a structured RM approach. One in particular, “A Simple Change Prioritization Method”, defines what needs to be done, the reasons why, the challenges to be addressed, what it will cost and the returns it will produce. It also provides an objective way to measure what’s most important on the ‘to-be-done’ list and therefore gets to sit at the top of it. It’s really neat, but it is a process.
The fact that this is a process underscores the key point about the principles and practice of RM: it’s a methodology, not a technology. I’d agree that it’s the right thing to do — anything that advances the discipline of money-making marketing is the right thing — and Forrester highlights a pragmatic way to do it. Obviously, it supports deploying technology to make activities more efficient and effective, but in a manner that keeps tech firmly in its place: as an enabler, not a driver.
Is RM a revolution in B2B marketing? No, it isn’t. B2B’s founding principles were set down in a past that is relatively distant but not dead. As Forrester’s core thinking about RM clearly shows, they’re not even past.
Mark Eardley (@mdeardley) advises B2B companies on how to govern their marketing to attract and retain profitable customers; several of his clients have grown to become market leaders. He and Charlie Stewart have written Business-to-Business Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide (Penguin Random House), which offers practical, actionable advice on how to make marketing make money. His monthly “Back2Basics” column covers how B2B companies and their agencies should manage their marketing.
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