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Snake oil salesmen, your guard goes up when you recognize them.

But only if you recognize them.

A snake oil salesman makes promises that are just within the realm of possibility.

He knows you wish for it be true. So much so that you’re willing to ignore the idea that it could be too good to be true.

Revenue, new customers, unit sales, customer retention, and lower customer acquisition costs are all promises marketers make.

And yet, when we go to judge performance, compensate and decide budget, we do so based on metrics that are irrelevant to what marketers promise.

No one today is wondering why we’re convinced -- satisfaction guaranteed -- by the evidence of KPI’s like lead goals, pageviews, click-through-rates, and social shares.

We want so much to believe marketer's contribution to the bottom line that we’re willing to ignore the elephant in the room: they make promises we can’t prove.

Either marketers are snake oil salesmen, or they are selling a product that works, but nobody can prove it.

"Dr. Oz is perhaps America’s most famous doctor, and yet, he shills a load of anti-science B.S."  --The Daily Beast

Following Up On Promises Requires Proof

You’d think the marketers of the 60’s and 70’s had it worse. Proving the effects of radio, print and direct mail marketing on the bottom line relied on elaborate and inaccurate models.

They wished they had tools and channels that tracked everything. 

Today, everything is indeed tracked. But it’s not easier to do revenue attribution.

There are too many tools and too many platforms, making it impossible to attribute revenue from various channels.

In 2012 there were 350 marketing technology companies. In 2015, Bizible is one of 1,876 marketing technologies

This is a problem for today’s marketers. 

This Is Real. Here's How Many Marketing Technologies Marketers Have To Manage.

The disconnect between platforms like marketing automation, CRM’s, paid search, and A/B testing means marketers are stuck reporting siloed data that has nothing to do with business objectives like revenue and customer acquisition.

It’s going to get worse.

In 2016 the number of new marketing tools and platforms will double again. If we do nothing marketers will continue justifying their spending, their compensation and their performance on metrics that matter very little to management.

Here’s What We Need To Do

Marketers need to care about what happens after they hand off leads. They should care which leads become MQL, SQL and sales-closed. They need to do this in order to prove revenue and improve their top-of-funnel activities.

At the least, it will help them understand how their fancy marketing funnel functions.

Here are the metrics online marketers need to begin measuring:

  • Average time from first-click to closed deal

  • Lead to opportunity rate 

  • Opportunity to customer rate

  • Number of opportunities needed to hit revenue goal

These metrics result in a different conversation between marketers and executives.  The conversation about clicks and lead goals is characterized by a lack of confidence, uncertainty, and being near dubious.

The conversation about revenue generated is entirely different. We call this Pipeline Marketing.

The Pipeline Marketing Funnel

The Revenue Conversation

This conversation matters. It’s where budgets shift, channels get eliminated and new investments get made. 

Marketers easily get this wrong using the metrics they are given.

In B2B, channels are associated with funnel stages. For example, top-of-funnel (TOFU) channels includes activities like paid social and organic search.

TOFU audiences are unaware of the brand and are in the discovery stage. 

Bottom of funnel (BOFU) stages includes PPC and retargeting where audiences are actively researching solutions. 

Here's a resource for understanding lead stages

Reliance on data from any single channel or platform means channel success is over or under estimated. In turn, investments into these channels are either too high or too low, i.e. marketers introduce channel bias. 

Data connecting every stage of the funnel to the bottom line gives marketers an accurate understanding of where they should propose further investment.

This is a much more credible conversation. 

Time To Turn Marketers Around

Marketers can move away from making promises that hinge on selling flimsy data.

Marketers can put their money where their mouth is by connecting sales and marketing data. And this enables multi-touch attribution modeling.

In order to succeed here, companies need to remember 4 steps:

  • Track first-click data

  • Get agreement on the key touchpoints

  • Measure post-lead marketing touches

  • Use account-based attribution

First-click data is the anonymous visitor. This touchpoint is the first-time discovery of your brand by a visitor who later becomes a lead. You need to track this to understand how your TOFU activities perform.

Getting agreement on the key touchpoints means having a clear set of qualifications for each stage of the funnel. For example, demo or free trial sign-up marks them as an MQL. Know these transitions points to measure funnel pipeline efficiency and effectiveness.

Lastly, use account-based attribution. In a large deal, especially in B2B, there are multiple stakeholders and each stakeholder plays a different role in the pipeline.

For example, the researcher gets engagement at the top of funnel, understanding the problem and comparing solutions. The budget authority is in charge of investigating price and functionality.

All these stakeholders need to be attached to a single account and tracked through the funnel.

For example without account-based attribution, marketers would track an individual researcher who is only involved in TOFU channel. When the budget authority comes into the picture, in the BOFU channel, marketers attribute revenue to that channel. In reality, the TOFU channel played a role in deal as well.

The Last Ask

Without attribution, marketers and businesses enter a relationship built on hopes and dreams, not fact.

If marketing is to move beyond talk, and towards numbers that deserve to exist on budget sheets, they need to prove their value.

They can, and it’s easier today despite the number of marketing technologies.

Using specific techniques they can avoid the inevitable realization that they are today’s snake oil salesmen.