Sharat Sharan on the Marketing Metrics That Matter

By: Sharat Sharan, CEO and Founder of ON24

This article was originally published on MarketingProfs.com 

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Over the past 20 years as CEO of ON24, we’ve pivoted several times, successfully navigated two of the worst downturns in recent memory, and become a sustainable, high-growth business.

I’m often asked what aspect contributed most to our long-term success. There are so many factors, but my answer is always the same: we became a sustainable business when we stopped looking at our marketing team as ‘nice to have’ team, but rather, as its own separate business department, one that impacts our bottomline. While I had previously thought of marketing as a softer department — one that made materials look slick — our business transformed when we transformed our marketing team from a cost-center to a revenue driver.

We did this through a range of measures, including conducting quarterly business reviews, and ensuring we hit our goals for marketing metrics that actually impact our revenue and bottomline. As we were changing the focus and goals of our marketing team, one of the struggles we found in the early going was determining what these metrics are that truly matter to our business and produce the highest ROI.

Entrepreneurs are inevitably focused on the product and sales, of course. But for CEOs looking to supercharge their growth, start measuring marketing by the metrics that will matter most to your organization’s bottom line.

Pipeline 

This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many marketers get this wrong. In fact, many get it wrong on purpose, in order to improve their numbers. If you’re undergoing a marketing team transformation, you should take the time to sit down with your sales team and understand which leads really are moving the needle for them and why.

With the help of your sales colleagues, you should create a more narrow description of a sales qualified lead (SQL), so your marketing team can focus on the right prospects and segments of the industry to go after. For example, if your business sells to VP-level roles primarily, and rarely closes a deal with those at the managerial level, a SQL should only include those at the VP-level or higher.

Yes, your pipeline will inevitably decline when you make this change. But if you have an honest conversation with your company about how this new description will help you engage the right prospects and produce more ROI, they’ll understand the dip and be on board with your long-term approach to pipeline.

Attribution

In the same vein of pipeline, marketers should have a firm grasp of which touchpoints are working for their business. Sure, if certain platforms like LinkedIn or Google Ads are most effective at converting customers, that’s where more of your budget should go.

But beyond that – marketers should understand what I call the ‘digital body language’ of your customers. What are the actions or touchpoints that indicate a prospect will become a customer? What indications show that you’re about to lose them? You should know the most important indicators — both good and bad – that your prospects give you. Then, you should engage accordingly based off these signals.

Of course, there may be some campaigns you need to run from a brand standpoint no matter what the attribution looks like. But you should have a clear idea of the initiatives that are driving the most dollars to your organization. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with new marketing tactics, but those tactics should be informed and guided by past successes you’ve seen and the digital body language indicators.

Churn & Customer Lifetime Value

These are two separate metrics, but they’re so interwoven that marketers shouldn’t think of one without the other. Customer lifetime value is the net profit you can expect from acquiring a new customer – a number that increases whenever you reduce churn.

Seventy percent of companies say it’s easier to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. But many marketers aren’t necessarily thinking about marketing to existing customers, because they’re too focused on trying to acquire new ones and increase their pipeline. That’s a noble cause, but it might not be the most efficient way to see true ROI on your marketing. Read the digital body language of your existing customers, and see which ones are most likely to churn or which could be open to upselling to try to maximize your ROI.

As you transform your marketing metrics, be sure to come up with a way to measure retention and upselling. You may need to pull statistics to show your executive team how valuable retaining customers is, and why you should market not just to prospects but to existing customers as well.

Overall Engagement

Looking at impressions, website visitors, and reach is no longer enough for marketers. Heck, I don’t even care how many views you get on a video.

Smartphones and the ‘always on’ culture has changed things for marketers in several key ways: It’s easier to get clicks than ever before. But it’s also harder to keep viewers engaged. CNBC reported that ads have just 5 to 6 seconds to keep Millennials engaged. One way to combat these shrinking attention spans is to tailor your content on a personal level. McKinsey found that “personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.” Now that’s a metric we can all get behind.

Whether it’s a personalized email campaign, recommending relevant products or solutions, or engaging through chatbots, companies need to focus on how to engage with customers in a personalized fashion. And this will only become more important as Millennials and members of Generation Z join the workforce and make more purchase decisions.

Clearly, all of these numbers help marketers stand out not just as the people who make things look pretty, but as the ones who drive tangible value to their organization — and that makes marketers indispensable to any fast-growing business.