Defining marketing success


Not long ago, I had a client whose senior leadership decided marketing should no longer optimize their efforts to generating qualified leads for the sales team (qualified leads) but should instead own opportunity creation (qualified opportunities) as their primary metric. In their case, an opportunity created meant an initial meeting had been set with a person with the ability to purchase the product (seniority, job function, company size) and that person expressed a need and an interest to address the pain their software solved.

This turned out to be problematic. In their case, marketing had direct ownership of the process from lead generation through lead development (inside sales). Once the prospect was deemed able to purchase the product and willing to learn more (take a call with a commissioned salesperson) the prospect was passed to the sales team (different org, different VP) for further vetting and selling.

Since marketing had effectively no influence over the process beyond qualification, inside sales stopped spending their days qualifying leads and instead started spending their days on developing qualified leads into opportunities. The pipeline quickly dried up, but because this company’s marketing organization was well tooled and well staffed, the problem and more importantly — the cause — was quickly discovered and corrected.

The lesson here is that you can only own a metric where you can control (or at least greatly influence) the outcome. Pipeline is the early goal and revenue is the ultimate goal, but marketing’s primary KPI depends on the level of ownership and influence of the senior marketing leadership.