Let’s start with the goals that don’t matter (to the executive).
B2B executives: As you set your goals for 2020, what really matters? What goals, if achieved, are going to move your company forward?
Ultimately, bookings growth is what measures the extent to which your solutions are providing value to your customers, and in turn, measures the value of your company.
So, if bookings growth is the measure of a successful 2020, what goals across your company, if achieved, give you high confidence that you will hit your bookings target? Focusing on marketing, my strong advice for B2B executives is to ask for marketing goals that deliver true growth in your sales pipeline.
Beware of “leading indicators” that simply reflect activity. There will always be a million interesting things you can do in marketing. The question is, especially in a constrained-resource environment, what are the most valuable things you can do to impact bookings? Let me give you some examples of goals that don’t matter to the B2B executive:
Google Ad clicks. A notoriously misleading indicator for B2B. Why? Because they often do not result in sales opportunities that are likely to close. The feel-good thing about Google Ad clicks is that we can see them immediately. And we think they are leads. But it is very difficult to target Google Ads aligned with a growth strategy that identifies desired market segments and prospect roles. And often, your most valuable prospects are not Googling your solution. Your marketing function should have educated your prospects much earlier, so that when they have the notion to seek a solution, you are top of mind. In addition, the lack of targeting I’ve seen distracts your sales force. They start chasing all of these “leads,” and creating new sales messages that diverge from the core value proposition. Not to dismiss Google Ads outright, but they need to be part of a larger strategy, and scoped at a level that makes sense.
Social media followers. This is a good indication of successful content marketing, but don’t let it distract you from actual lead generation. In B2B, some social channels matter. Some don’t (from a bookings performance perspective). My philosophy is that LinkedIn is the brain content, Facebook is the heart content, Twitter amplifies. Facebook may be used to support recruitment, but it should not be used for lead generation. LinkedIn should be an amplification of your Thought Leadership, but again, is often not a highly productive channel for lead generation. Social media is an important part of the marketing mix, but followers can be a deceptive indicator of imminent sales pipeline growth. It is, however, a decent indicator of awareness progress.
Website traffic. We are getting closer, but website traffic can still be misleading. We can do a lot of things that increase website traffic, but don’t produce leads. As examples, issuing a press release that is interesting for investors, but not prospects… posting new job opportunities… adding new executives to your team… and in the worst case, promoting a message that entices the wrong audience to click to your website (a problem often indicated by a high bounce rate). Again, increasing website traffic is a good indicator, and will increase with good lead generation, but it is still not an indicator that you are truly optimizing your marketing spend to get quality leads into the pipeline.
Email clicks and open rates. We are getting closer again, but this can still be deceptive. I see so many marketing departments dwell on these statistics, and tout marketing success as the numbers improve. It is true that good marketing produces good click rates and open rates. It is a good indicator that your subject lines and messaging are valuable (assuming that we are segmenting the performance to prospects). However, if the prospect does not respond to the action that generates a lead, all the clicks and opens are of little value.
Event attendees/booth scans. When we work with early stage companies that have not developed scalable marketing, events are typically a high percentage of the marketing spend. Why? Because it produces sales conversations. While this is good activity, it is not scalable. Events are very expensive… and, I hate to say it, but sales reps like to travel and attend events. We often get anecdotal evidence that “the event was great!” but when we apply performance tracking to events, we often don’t see resulting opportunities that justify the investment. Again, events are an important part of the marketing mix, but they are a hybrid marketing tactic between awareness and lead generation. Often, the most valuable part of attending an event is getting the contact information of the attendees so you can add them to your database and market to them over time.
The above types of goals may be interesting to your marketing team as they optimize their activity. But even so, they must optimize activity based on actual bookings produced. And to do that, you have to be able to see results from click to follower to web visitor to: QUALIFIED LEAD to SALES-ACCEPTED OPPORTUNITY to CLOSED DEAL.
Now we are getting somewhere! Those are the actual results that grow your pipeline and result in new bookings. Part 2 of this blog is coming soon, and we’ll explore the goals that really do matter: how to define them, how to set them, and how to track them.