With companies of all types and stages facing economic headwinds, the need to grow revenues efficiently is top of mind for everyone. Marketing and sales organizations share responsibility for leading the effort, but how can they best work together to achieve their shared goal when they often operate in silos? This question was the focus of a webinar I hosted with Crissy Saunders, co-founder and CEO of CS2, an agency that helps B2B SaaS companies solve their most pressing marketing operations challenges.
Marketing and sales executives from the Norwest portfolio joined the conversation, adding insightful comments and posing pertinent questions.
Our discussion focused on the emerging practice of RevOps (revenue operations) and three ways it can be leveraged to build an integrated marketing function:
- Owning the customer journey
- Creating an analytics framework
- Driving operational efficiency
Following are highlights and key takeaways from the discussion. You can watch my entire conversation with Crissy at the bottom of this post.
Crissy’s insights and advice can also be heard regularly on her podcast fwd:thinking.
Owning the customer journey
(Beginning at 07:14 in the recording)
LA: What do you mean by owning the customer journey, and why is it important?
CS: The customer journey simply means the experience a customer or prospect has during the process of researching, evaluating, purchasing, and using your product or service. The customer journey today is very different from what it was in the past. Sales calls, telemarketing, direct mail, and trade shows have been replaced – in whole or in part – by email, webinars, on-line ordering, and self-administered product trials.
As the tools of marketing and sales change, it’s essential that we understand what the journey through this process looks like from the customer’s perspective. Once you have captured a person’s interest, it’s important that the journey is a seamless one, because that will increase your conversion rates.
LA: That makes sense. So, who owns the journey?
CS: That’s precisely the problem in many companies. Various teams and individuals are involved in different aspects of the journey – sales reps, SDRs, campaign planners, content creators, etc. On top of that is the alphabet soup of frameworks and tools that are used, such as ABM, PLG, CRM and the like. But seldom is there any one person or team that takes ownership for ensuring that all these parts comprise a coherent, strategic whole. That’s one of the roles played by RevOps (aka revenue operations).
While it’s possible for RevOps to be an identifiable team or function, it’s primarily a best practice – a shared commitment by marketing, sales, and other involved parties to coordinate their strategies and tactics in pursuit of delivering a seamless customer journey that efficiently increases close rates and grows revenue. Think of RevOps as air traffic control – monitoring and coordinating the activities of multiple teams to ensure they don’t collide and that they reach their destinations.
Think of RevOps as air traffic control – monitoring and coordinating the activities of multiple teams to ensure they don’t collide and that they reach their destinations.
LA: What’s a simple first step that someone can take to begin implementing RevOps?
CS: It’s simple: documentation. We often find that people don’t even know what the customer journey looks like today, because they’re only involved in one or two steps of a multi-stage process. It’s a common problem of people working in silos. So, a helpful first step is for someone to start the process of documenting the journey as it exists today, including the people and technology that are involved at every step. Meet with your colleagues in other functions, learn how their processes work, and document your findings in a visual roadmap of the customer journey. Then, gather round the table together to uncover the opportunities for tighter integration.
If your company is like many we see, this roadmap will have multiple paths, some of which intersect with others, reach dead ends, or circle back to a place the customer has already visited. These are warning signs that the journey isn’t the seamless one you want which not only creates inefficiencies throughout the funnel, but ultimately reflects negatively on your brand in the eyes of your prospects and customers.
Creating this map can be a strong first step toward closer collaboration between multiple teams. We saw this recently when we helped a client create a customer journey map. Seeing it laid out visually, the client quickly grasped where the problems lay.
Creating an analytics framework
(Beginning at 21:10 in the recording)
LA: What’s an analytics framework, and how does it fit with RevOps?
CS: An analytics framework is a shared set of reports that everyone can use to answer 80 percent of the routine questions that arise. Everyone agrees that what’s important must be measured. So far, so good. But things start to break down when you must identify the specific measurements to be tracked. When everyone has their own metrics, silos form quickly. And when the inevitable time arises that the CEO or a board member asks a basic question about the business, they will get two or three different answers, depending on who they’re talking to. [Raise your hand if this has happened to you…my hand is up!]
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Typically, we’re talking about familiar dashboards available from Salesforce, HubSpot or whatever CRM/MAS system you use. It can even be a simple spreadsheet. Most of the fields are going to be related in some way to revenue. The point is: everyone across sales and marketing should have a single set of goals and metrics – drawn from a single data source based on a unified set of criteria. Then, teams can collaborate on what steps can be taken to accelerate progress. This can and should be in addition to any function-specific reports you generate within sales and marketing.
The more teams rely on these shared metrics, the more often common questions can be answered on a self-serve basis. Lots of queries arise near quarter-end, and almost always they can be answered by looking at an existing piece of data. The key is to map metrics to the customer journey and make the measurements relevant to the teams that can help create a seamless journey.
Everyone across sales and marketing should have a single set of goals and metrics – drawn from a single data source based on a unified set of criteria.
Driving operational efficiency
(Beginning at 35:40 in the recording)
LA: If growing revenue is on everyone’s mind, controlling expenses is also a high priority. How does your approach address this need?
CS: Working in silos and at cross-purposes are enemies of efficiency. So, the steps we have already talked about – breaking down silos, eliminating program overlaps, sharing a common set of goals and metrics, focusing on the customer journey – will also contribute to efficiency.
Being strategic and cautious about hiring is also important. Startup companies are first going to have a CRM system; that’s foundational. And then probably a sales operations person, followed by marketing ops. In-house resources can be supplemented by agencies as well.
Another avenue to pursue is marketing automation. With much of the sales process moving online, there are opportunities to remove the human element from certain steps without disrupting the customer journey. For example, if a prospect wants to sign up for a webinar, or a product trial, or obtain certain information, all of those can be done on a self-serve basis.
Any assessment of efficiency, of course, requires measurement. And measurement leads to a very tricky subject: attribution. Who or what is responsible for the success (or failure) of a sales effort?
LA: This is huge. I’ve been grappling with questions around attribution my entire career.
CS: So have I. You hear the same arguments over and over: “Marketing is trying to take credit for sales wins.” “Marketing has to prove its worth, so measure everything.”
These debates ignore one critical fact: a successful sales motion does not have a single success factor. It’s a collaborative process that involves several steps, several decisions by the customer, and several forks in the road.
LA: But companies become obsessed with identifying the one thing that won the deal, because they assume that if you can isolate that factor, then you can throw more dollars and people to replicate it, thus guaranteeing more success.
CS: Which of course is a fallacy. It takes multiple teams to move from opportunity to close. And no two customers are identical. The danger of an infatuation with attribution is that it can quickly deteriorate into finger-pointing and blame. Which is the antithesis of what we want: marketing and sales working in alignment.
The danger of an infatuation with attribution is that it can quickly deteriorate into finger-pointing and blame.
I like to say that RevOps is about improving, not proving. We’re trying to learn what to do better, not prove that any one step in the process was responsible for success.
LA: Those are great insights, Crissy. Many of the comments and questions we received during this webinar have focused on the question: what can I do today; how can I start?
CS: I’d point to three things:
- Start documenting the customer journey, which will identify areas where immediate improvements can be made and will foster collaboration with other stakeholders.
- Identify the core set of metrics – based on a single data source and unified criteria – that every sales and marketing function can use to track progress.
- Recalibrate your expectations about the role of marketing attribution and increase your understanding of its opportunities and limitations. It’s about accuracy, not precision.
About the Author
Lisa Ames is Norwest’s CMO and Operating Executive. She leverages her more than 20 years of B2B SaaS marketing experience working shoulder-to-shoulder with portfolio companies to help them thrive.