By Katie Lowell
I stumbled upon this Forbes article the other day, The Marketing Proof Gap: What It Is And Why Marketers Should Care, and it totally hit the nail on the head.
In my former life leading a marketing team, there were two driving motivations that I lead with:
1. Always challenge the old ways (and yes, I had one of those Startup Vitamin posters in my office). I will explore that driving motivation another day as that dates back to one of my first weeks in business and has been with me ever since.
2. Prove and show the value that Marketing has in an organization. It was so incredibly important, for me personally, for Marketing to be viewed as a strategic arm of the business. I was so tired, of those less informed viewing Marketing as a simple service sitting around waiting for their request to make something look pretty or to create a sell sheet.
And now in our short time in starting up at OneDayOne, we have had numerous conversations with presidents and leaders of organizations that know they need to ‘do’ marketing and need to invest in it, but for them it’s painful and a necessary evil. In one conversation we had, Marketing was equated to writing that ‘thank you’ note for the $10 bill that grandma sent you when you were a kid. You have to write the thank you because you love grams, but taking the time to do so is a kind of a pain.
So why are these people saying this? Because the partners they are working with are giving Marketing a bad rep and further exploiting the proof gap of Marketing. Let me give you two legitimate examples:
The president and office manager/assistant who wears twenty hats of the company was on the phone with their agency for their monthly call. The agency explains to them that if they modify their homepage text to include targeted keywords in the first paragraph, the Google tool will go from red to green. It’s valid. That is the best practice of SEO. Here’s the thing, does the president of the company care for two seconds if Google is showing red or green? No. What does that have to do with driving sales? He doesn’t have time for that. He wants to know that what the agency is doing is going to drive business. No wonder why he looks at Marketing as a necessary evil. I would too.
The client has monthly check-ins with the agency and the agency provides them the dog-n-pony show of all the ‘great’ things they are doing for the company. And most likely it’s a ton of work, it looks great but what is the impact? How is that agency measuring the effect of their work to the ‘impact metric’ of that business? They’re not. There is no mention of metrics at all on the call.
Those are two, maybe extreme examples, but my guess is that that happens more times than not. We’ve only been in business for a couple of months and to say I’ve had a handful of conversations like that already, isn’t a coincidence.
As I had started this rambling, a less extreme example is from my own experience leading a Marketing team of a manufacturing company that sold through distribution and had a long sales cycle. This proof gap is a legit thing. We experienced it first hand and actively iterated to narrow that gap as we continued to sophisticate our efforts and expand our tech stack and metrics/data.
Side tangent: …Marketing’s mission and what some sales gurus tout
Last year we had the opportunity to attend the Outbound Sales Acceleration conference— It was a great event, the lineup of speakers was stacked with sales gurus and experts, one of whom we knew personally. Their showmanship was top-notch, and they did an amazing job speaking in theory to the 1 percent of unicorn sales reps that exist in the world. They spoke about understanding the customer, cold-calling, prospecting, and the philosophy of providing value in exchange for the customer’s mindshare. The premise was that sales were responsible for all of this—more specifically, the sales reps were responsible.
There may be a few unicorn reps who could potentially do everything needed to create demand, nurture, and close business, but realistically it is a partnership and collaboration with Marketing. Assuming Marketing is aligned with the mission stated above.
And not all Marketing teams are aligned to that mission, and we know from our real-world experiences that not all sales reps are unicorns. That in itself is what lit a fire under our asses to create a platform to share our methods and write a book to help businesses drive growth.
So if Marketing’s primary mission is to help Sales sell more product, faster, and more profitably than Sales would be able to do by themselves, what causes the gap?
A lack of alignment between many business leaders and their marketing teams on the definition of Impact, Value, and ROI. The two groups understand these terms very differently.From our experience and the two examples I shared, sometimes there is truly a misalignment as the Impact Metrics are not clearly defined upfront. Meaning, in the agency examples above, success wasn’t defined as to what was going to be measured that would indicate if the efforts and investment were moving the needle. And other times, there is a lack of understanding and marketing jargon thrown around—we’ve learned it has to be simple and meaningful to the person you are speaking with to help them understand. That might be a gross oversimplification, however, breaking it down and taking the time to educate can go a long way.
Marketers often do not think about attribution in terms of cause-and-effect relationships that must be captured and correlated.Attribution is tough to capture and can be tricky to measure against. We’ve learned it’s so important to have the right tech and processes in place to be able to capture the information needed for reporting, otherwise, there’s no way to tie everything together. Regardless of attribution, marketers need to absolutely start thinking in terms of “I am pulling a lever ‘here’ and expect/hypothesize that it will do ‘x’” and then measure it. Do not set it and forget it.
Most B2B marketers and C-suite don’t factor in the time lag between marketing investment and when those programs deliver audience impact and business value.
As the article states, many marketing teams don’t know how long it takes for them to create value. And B2B marketing creates value on a different timetable than B2B sales. From our experience, this is 100% legitimate. In the world we live in, the world of NOW, educating leaders to have ‘patience’ is a tough sell. I will say, that once you have a ‘win’ under your belt and can correlate, with data, it becomes easier for the business to understand. In this example, even as marketing leaders, ourselves, we became impatient. It was key for us to have the tech and processes in place for when those sales finally did close, we could correlate the sales back to the opportunities/leads created x number of months prior (aligning to the typical sales cycle). “Last year’s MQLs are this year’s deals.”