Metrics and Analytics

Nailing the Numbers: The Reports Your CMO Wants to See

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November 6, 2023

10 mins read

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Nailing the Numbers: The Reports Your CMO Wants to See

One of your most important jobs as a senior marketer is communicating the impact of marketing investment on business results. Without showing this clearly, it’s difficult to justify and defend the budget you need to be successful. 

The language, metrics, and reports you use matter. Choose the wrong ones, and you diminish marketing’s credibility across the organization. Choose the right ones that speak to revenue and profitability, and you strengthen the perception of marketing as a strategic driver of growth.

Let’s explore this, beginning with how the wrong reports and metrics can hurt marketing credibility.

Metrics that hurt marketing credibility

Vanity metrics

Vanity metrics sound impressive but don’t connect to business outcomes. For example, reporting how many people registered for a webinar or how many impressions your press release received. Other executives don’t care about these numbers and don’t have a sense of what they mean for the business. Stick to metrics the business cares about like pipeline and revenue.

Activity metrics 

It’s easy to measure marketing activities — campaigns run, content published, events held — but hard to measure marketing impact. In contrast, it’s hard to see sales activities, but easy to see sales impact — deals on the board. No wonder people think of marketing as a cost center and sales as a revenue driver. Marketers perpetuate this perception when they report on activity volume metrics. You want to show the outcomes of marketing programs, not just that you did them. 

Cost-focused metrics

Reporting marketing metrics like cost-per-lead frames marketing as a cost center. Instead, talk about your marketing investment per opportunity. This reminds people that marketing is an investment that pays off over time. Avoid reinforcing the perception of marketing as merely a cost.

Boiler room metrics

Boiler room metrics are metrics that marketing can and should care about, but the rest of the business doesn’t. The analogy is a ship’s captain versus engineer. The captain doesn’t care about the temperature of the boiler, she just wants to know how fast the ship can go. But the engineer very much cares about the boiler temperature since it’s his job to keep it running. So by all means, track those metrics — just don’t make a habit of reporting on them outside of marketing. 

The right metrics

So if those are the wrong metrics, then what are the right marketing metrics and reports? As we’ll see, they break into three categories:

  • Pre-funnel metrics: Uncover the early indicators that set the stage for revenue generation within your marketing initiatives.
  • Journey analytics: Navigate the complex pathway from lead acquisition to revenue, employing metrics that offer actionable insights.
  • Program review and attribution: Dive into the metrics that make or break accountability, focusing on both short-term goals and long-term ROI.

Let’s dive in!

Pre-funnel metrics: The boiler room indicators that matter to marketing

These metrics are definitely part of the marketing department’s “boiler room,” but they’re essential leading indicators of revenue-generating potential. By monitoring these metrics carefully, you lay the groundwork for achieving broader business goals. (Just keep them internal to marketing.)

Digital engagement: The first stop

Digital engagement is often the first stop when assessing pre-funnel metrics. Here, web traffic takes center stage. Think of web traffic as a gauge of how well you’re connecting with your target audience. The goal is to see month-over-month growth and understand the source of this traffic. One specific area to focus on is direct traffic — a simple yet powerful metric that can act as a first-order proxy for brand awareness.

SEO: More than just keywords

Search engine optimization (SEO) is another indicator worth your attention. Beyond looking at how well your site is optimized for key terms, it’s also important to see how you stack up against competitors. Segmenting by keyword groups can give you a nuanced understanding of how your brand is positioned in the marketplace.

Advertising lift: Rethinking cost-per-click

Many CMOs have a negative view of advertising because they’re assessing its impact solely based on cost-per-click (CPC). That’s the wrong lens. Advertising serves as a foundation supporting your other marketing efforts. Instead, consider “lift” as the key metric. For example, if lift is 65% for Tier 1 accounts, it means two-thirds of these accounts are more likely to visit your site after seeing an ad. This is a solid indicator that your advertising strategy is effective.

Qualified responses: Zeroing in on the right audience

Qualified responses (QRs) provide a fine-grained look at engagement. Rather than being impressed by sheer volume — say, 1,000 webinar attendees — you should focus on the quality of those engagements. Are they from the right personas and the right accounts within your target account list? If yes, they are qualified responses, and it’s a reliable early indicator that your programs are reaching the right audience and are well-positioned for effectiveness.

Account engagement over time: Your foundation for future revenue

Lastly, measure account engagement over time. The adage “Before someone spends money with you, they spend time with you” encapsulates the essence of this metric. Segmenting engagement by factors such as enterprise vs. mid-market or key verticals also enables actionable insights. If you notice a dip in engagement within a particular audience or territory, it’s a cue for the marketing team to recalibrate their approach.

Journey analytics: navigating the roadmap to revenue

Journey analytics provide an insightful lens to measure the impact of marketing on revenue over time. It’s about deconstructing the pre-opportunity labyrinth into clearly defined stages. Just as a sales methodology with stages gives rigor to the sales process, these stages allow us to understand not only the message that resonates with the potential customer but also whether we have the requisite volumes at each stage to meet future goals.

Multiple funnels, multiple angles

At the crux of this is the utilization of more than one funnel. We’re not just looking at marketing qualified leads (MQLs), but also at marketing qualified accounts (MQAs). This “double funnel” — account-based and people-based — offers comprehensive insights into the trajectory of leads and accounts.

The four V’s: the cornerstones of journey analytics

Let’s dive into the 4 V’s — value, volume, conversion, and velocity — that serve as the guiding lights for understanding journey stages.

  • Value: Think of this as your bank account balance for leads or accounts. How many do you have at any given stage? It’s a snapshot of your current assets.
  • Volume: This metric is all about movement and is like your cash flow statement. It answers questions like, “How many new MQAs were generated this quarter?” Volume lets us know if we’re creating enough activity to hit our goals, making it a must-watch metric for assessing efficacy.
  • ConVersion: Cheating a bit on the “V”, but this one’s all about conversion rates, e.g. how many of your MQAs turned into sales opportunities? This data lets us understand how the sales team interacts with the leads we generate, helping us adapt and fine-tune our strategies for better alignment and performance.
  • Velocity: The often-overlooked V, this metric shows how long it takes for a lead or an account to progress from one stage to the next. It’s crucial for anticipating time lags and understanding when an MQL will likely convert into an opportunity.
Segmentation and cohort analysis

Segmentation and cohort analysis add another layer of richness to your reports. By examining different groups over designated time periods, you can answer questions like, “How did the Q2 cohort of MQAs compare to the Q3 cohort in conversion rates?” or “Do Tier 1 accounts move faster through the journey than other accounts?”

Assessing program effectiveness

Tracking movement — how accounts or leads advance through the journey stages — serves as an excellent yardstick for evaluating your marketing programs. For instance, if accounts exposed to a new campaign demonstrate faster progression through the funnel stages compared to those that weren’t, you have a compelling case that your campaign positively influenced the journey.

The power of forecasting

Armed with the data from the four V’s, marketing teams are well-placed to do something extraordinarily valuable — forecasting. Just as sales teams forecast future revenue, marketing can predict future pipeline. This forward-looking capability isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a credibility multiplier that places any CMO in a position of considerable influence.

Breaking silos: The unified pipeline

It’s essential to clarify that none of this is about pitting marketing against sales when it comes to pipeline metrics. Both teams share ownership, obliterating the need for phrases like “marketing missed its MQL goal.” Metrics are tracked to improve collective performance, not to declare a departmental winner. Both teams should engage in discussions about fluctuating metrics and how they can collaboratively accelerate deal conversions.

This holistic, team-based goal is a game-changer. It ensures that both groups — marketing and sales — take collective ownership for creating deals and moving opportunities down the funnel. The result is a more effective, cohesive unit that’s aimed at one thing: driving revenue.

Program review and attribution: The bedrock of marketing accountability

Program attribution is all about answering the questions “Did my campaign work?” and “Which programs work best.” It’s often tacked with attribution, but that’s a loaded topic, often mystifying even seasoned marketers. Every attribution model comes loaded with assumptions. You might use first touch, last touch, multi-touch, or weighted touches as your cornerstone, you may use a three-month or a six-month lookback, etc., but no matter what, you’re making assumptions about how to measure impact.

It’s essential to acknowledge every attribution model is built on assumptions and no model offers perfect clarity. Using attribution to calculate ROI as an exact percentage can lead to false precision; instead, attribution should be used to measure programs relative to one another. In essence, attribution should be used to improve, not prove your marketing. When you need to make decisions about resource allocation, you pivot toward programs that have shown a higher likelihood of effectiveness, based on these relative comparisons.

Short-term program goals

Measuring a program’s full impact with attribution takes a long time since pipeline takes time to develop and deals take time to close. But we can’t always wait that long; at the end of each month, we still need to assess whether the investments that month have an impact. Fortunately, we can review if the program hit goals for volume and responses — be it connecting with senior execs or generating qualified responses, at a reasonable price. Monthly reviews are not just scorecards; they’re also learning opportunities. The question to ask is not just if the program met its goals, but also whether it should be repeated. If not, that’s OK, it’s a learning opportunity.

Long-term attribution

Quarterly reviews using a multi-touch attribution model add another layer by focusing on longer-term outcomes. Here, metrics like multi-touch ratios become useful. This ratio compares the revenue and pipeline dollars attributed to a particular program against its total investment. It helps evaluate how a program stacks up against others in a similar category. Such long-term perspectives inform not just marketing but also sales strategies. For instance, knowing which marketing touches influence different sales stages helps align marketing and sales efforts more effectively.

Efficiency metrics: The final word

Lastly, efficiency metrics serve as the linchpin in this complex system. These metrics compare the total marketing investment, including personnel and technology costs, with key outcomes like opportunity and pipeline creation. They provide a holistic view of your marketing’s effectiveness, tying back to the core question: are we getting a reasonable return on our investment?

The right reports build credibility 

Having a finger on the pulse of critical marketing metrics is non-negotiable for CMOs. From the boiler room of pre-funnel metrics to the strategic roadmap offered by journey analytics, and finally the cornerstone of program review and attribution, a comprehensive, metrics-driven approach is the key to marketing effectiveness and accountability. These aren’t just numbers; they’re the language of smart decision-making that aligns marketing with the ultimate goal of the business: driving revenue.

Want to learn more about this? Join me and Ashley Long, Demandbase’s Director of GTM Operations and Forecasting on November 14 for a special Demand Gen Report Strategy & Planning Series webinar called The Reports Your CMO Wants To See, in which we’ll show the actual reports that we use at Demandbase. See you there!

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Jon Miller

Former CMO, Demandbase

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