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Four Questions Bound to Make or Break Your 2018 Marketing Plan

Picture of the author, Mary Clare Davis
By Mary Clare Davis
M11 16, 2017

‘Tis the season for marketing self reflection. The annual budgeting season is a right of passage for marketing leaders, a time to assess what worked this year and what did not. One of my old managers used to say, “a budget is the most tangible representation of a strategy.” Will your budget and goals stay the same from 2017 to 2018? Didn’t think so. It’s time to take a deeper dive on your marketing strategy.

Here are the questions guiding our team as we weather the annual planning pilgrimage:

Where is the weakest link in my lead-to-revenue chain?

Evaluate each stage and corresponding KPI to determine where your approach is falling short and needs attention. No matter what model you subscribe to – we’re on the SiriusDecisions waterfall here at Bound – take the time to reverse engineer your lead-to-revenue path. Compare each metric to both your 2017 goals and industry benchmarks.

A 20% increase goals doesn’t simply translate to a 20% increase in activities or budget. Budgets cannot be set around simply growing inquiries. Addressing the weakest point has magnifying benefits. Efficiencies have to be gained through reviewing people, process, and tech. Where can you focus investment to make the biggest impact? There are a number of resources that outline stage-to-stage conversion ratios. Even a lightweight spreadsheet can help you quickly determine where to put your focus to hit next year’s target.

Are my customer acquisition costs accelerating faster than revenue?

There are many reasons to take a closer look at your customer acquisition cost (CAC). The simplest form of this metric is taking your quarterly marketing spend over the number of new customers in same quarter. Of course, this number is always just the beginning of the story. What portion of your budget has in-quarter or next-quarter impact? What portion requires more time to realize results? What should this balance be given your organization’s goals? Does your strategy mean your CAC should grow or shrink?

How do you size up revenue? Average sales price (ASP), annual contract value (ACV), total lifetime value (LTV), etc. – it’s time to evaluate what each customer is worth to your organization. Look at the average amount your customers spend with you, but evaluate the trends of these lines over time. Of course, we’d like to see customer acquisition costs go down over time while ASP/ACV/LTV go up as a proxy for future profits.

One of the fastest paths to a boardroom conversation is comparing these two trend lines along with a plan to impact changing their trajectory. Your finance team will love you for thinking about all of the expenses related to capturing new clients and understanding how much each of those new clients are spending with you.

How much is marketing driving pipeline?

While executives would love to think all of their marketing spend directly translates to amazing qualified new leads that convert instantly to high spending clients, the truth is far messier. Modern contact acquisition tools like Zoominfo make it nearly impossible for marketing to source a new name not already in the database and drive ‘marketing sourced’ pipeline. Additionally, companies performing account based marketing often have reps who load up new contacts for their key accounts as a first step prior to engaging an account. This makes it even more difficult for marketers to “source” new names that will result in marketing sourced pipeline for their ABM accounts.

Instead, marketing should review marketing influence. It doesn’t really matter who added the name to the database, what really matters is who (sales or marketing) is engaging the prospect. We count this engagement as marketing influence. For many B2B markets, marketing should ensure their marketing programs are influencing >50% of pipeline. Above all, you should use this time to evaluate which revenue impacting programs to extend into next year and which ones to cut and replace with new programs.

What are we missing?

Marketers are phenomenal problem solvers, when they know what problem they have! We routinely problem-solve on the fly when faced with real-time business challenges. Need to spur some last-minute pipeline? Send a blast and batch email to prospects. Need to help close a few outstanding deals? Notify prospects about a creative deadline driven discount. I have no doubt in our ability as marketers to solve the problems we know about. It’s the problems we don’t know about that keep us up at night.

Where can we turn to get hints about what we are missing? We tend to look outward for answers, but there is only so much analysts, influencers and publications can tell you about your business. Thankfully, in the B2B space, it’s nearly impossible for a prospect to purchase your product or service without visiting your website. Yet, most marketers overlook this goldmine of information. Do you know who – role, seniority, industry, company, etc. – is visiting your website? Do you know what they are looking for? Do you know if your message and content resonates with them?

Understanding your web audience is the gateway to knowing whether or not your marketing spend is effectively executing on your marketing strategy. Looking forward, analyzing your web audience is a valuable input for determining what your key personas and messages should be.
Bound provides these insights through a free audience report that can provide a data-driven perspective on personas you may be struggling to engage or missing entirely as you plan out 2018.

Make the most out of 2018

As you march through the strategic marketing planning season, I encourage you to take the task on with a keen eye towards revenue growth. Small adjustments in your marketing plan can have a profound impact on the results you and your team will see in 2018. While budgeting can be a daunting task, if you approach it with a methodological approach driven by real data, you can glean tremendous insight that allows you to partner with your sales team to drive your marketing engine to hit your growth targets.

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