As I shared with subscribers of THE LATEST (the thrice-weekly email newsletter I write for IMPACT) a couple of weeks ago, in my role as IMPACT's editorial director, I'm positively obsessed with numbers.
Website traffic. Page views. Page session. Bounce rate. Email subscriber counts. Organic search trends. Volume of content published. Percentage of deadlines hit. Heat maps. Open rates. Click-through rates. Read vs. skim vs. glance.
On, and on, and on. 😴
As a digital marketer, the sheer volume of metrics I care about as a part of my job is staggering. But, let's face it, as much as I like to pretend I'm some sort of unique princess in almost every facet of my life, that is certainly not the case when it comes to metrics.
Every single day, business leaders, digital marketers, and sales pros alike all are operating within (and trying to make sense of) their own personal tornado of numbers, based on their team, their specific job function, and the tasks they own.
But which business metric is the most important?
This is where it gets tricky. I could give you a complex answer that takes into account all of the different objectives executive, marketing, and sales teams are all chasing after.
And that answer technically would not be wrong.
For example, I'm on the marketing team at IMPACT. That not only includes the editorial division (which I oversee), but also our events, demand generation for the agency, and a lot more. So, you could potentially argue from the inbound marketing perspective that metrics like website traffic growth or virtual event attendees could be the most important. Or maybe how many qualified leads we're bringing in from our demand generation efforts.
There are a lot of options, right? And you can literally do that with any department within your company — where y'all are aligned around your singular suite of goals.
That said, the right answer is actually a single word. The #1 metric every single person in your company, top-to-bottom (no matter their role), should be obsessed with is revenue. More than anything else.
But Liz, what about website traffic?
What about qualified leads?
What about the NPS of our current clients?
That's why we're having this conversation today.
These all still matter, but they all are second to the #1 metric that is revenue. In fact, I would argue that these all feed into the revenue metric you now must obsess about.
If you're not chasing revenue, then what the heck are you doing?
The metric push-and-pull struggle for marketers
When I thought about how to unpack this topic, I knew I needed another brilliant mind to weigh in to help align leadership, marketing, and sales teams around this notion that revenue is the most important metric.
Especially marketers, who are (as I've shown you) often buried under a mountain of other metrics that can easily become a distraction.
That's true. But since this is my article, I can go further and toot her horn on her behalf and say, as a DSMC, Jen is a no-BS, downright transformational agent of change for businesses.
Her superpowers include, but are not limited to, sales and marketing alignment, ushering in revenue-focused company culture changes that employees love, empowering business leaders to get their organizational ducks in a row so they can achieve aggressive growth goals.
So, I asked her to speak a little bit about this confusing data dance marketers are often forced to engage in that take away from their focus on revenue. Here's what she had to say:
"For the traditional B2B or B2C marketing department, its primary goal is demand generation.
But there’s a conflict.
The marketing department also faces tremendous pressure from multiple stakeholders and employees across the business. Team issues; internal events; standardized branded documentation; freelance and agency management; client communication; implementation and management of technology; website issues, all to be delivered, more often than not, with very stretched resources.
Then, like they're on a relay race team, they 'hand-off' responsibility to actually bring revenue in for a company to their sales team. Their demand generation and other goals have been 'met.'
This doesn't work. This is a broken model."
Now, if you're a marketer like me, you might be thinking to yourself:
"Wait, what's wrong with that? Why is that a broken model?"
That was the reaction I had when Jen said that to me. But her follow-up to me blew my mind:
This relay race approach is no longer an effective way to manage revenue-generating activities. (In fact, I'd argue that it was never effective. All it did was create silos and friction between sales and marketing and leadership, even though they're all (in theory) chasing after the same goal of growing the company.)
Instead, sales and marketing teams must act more like a basketball team.
In basketball, all team members are involved throughout the entire game, and their roles change dynamically based on the situation. The same should be true with sales and marketing and other teams within a company. You all have different positions (roles), but you're all working together toward the same goal of scoring more points (revenue) than your competitors."
Since I'm 6 feet tall, I was drafted onto basketball teams starting in middle school, so this analogy spoke to my soul. (Darn skippy, I played center. I stood there like a wall, towering above all of my shorty competitors and teammates.)
According to AIIM CEO Tony Paille, this shift in mindset so critical now since the path of a lead is very rarely linear, before a deal is closed and revenue is brought through the door with a company:
“The traditional sales funnel model doesn’t accurately depict the way leads flow through an organization today. A lead is likely to bounce between several departments multiple times before making a purchase. Sales, marketing, and customer service all need to align to a single metric to measure the success of the whole.”
How do you shift from a "metrics everywhere" mindset to a revenue-focused one?
This is a two-part process for digital marketers (and other department professionals) who have not previously moved through their work lives with a revenue-focused mindset.
First and foremost, you need to look at the metrics you already are responsible for and put them through a revenue lens.
For example, as our editorial director, I track our website traffic. But is that traffic qualified traffic that will convert into marketing and sales qualified leads, and (later on) close as a deal in our pipeline with someone in sales... thus bringing revenue through our virtual doors at IMPACT?
Your goal is to look at all your metrics and mentally chase it until you land on how it generates revenue for your company. If you can't do that, then you need to ask yourself if it's a relevant metric you should be tracking or chasing at all.
Second, Jen has this key suggestion:
"This is no small task.
The goal is to align each department with revenue-based KPIs where the objective is completely clear and easily understood by every member in the company.
For example, marketing team shouldn’t end their efforts on middle-funnel prospects because leads are now assigned to a sales team member. Instead, marketers should work hand-in-hand with sales to find out how to move prospects down the funnel more quickly by delivering specific assets like targeted 'assignment selling' educational content.
So, marketing teams should start tracking the efficacy of this content they're now creating. How often is it used to close deals? Anecdotally, how effective to sales team members is the content being created?
By going after this content creation method that is lockstep with sales, marketers can start directly tying their content creation efforts to bottom line revenue numbers. Like, 'This article about X alone has generated $2 million in 18 months.' That's powerful stuff."
I totally agree with Jen 1,000%.
What does this type of marketing-focused revenue reporting and communication look like in practice?
To answer this question, I am going to use IMPACT as an example, because we follow this model that Jen laid out in her answer. (We're big fans of practicing what we preach.)
At IMPACT, we have a revenue team that meets on a biweekly basis. This revenue team includes myself, all of our sales team members, and Melanie Collins, our VP of revenue. The agenda for this revenue team meeting is as follows:
What assignment selling content we've published recently, based on sales-identified needs and requests. (Includes written and video content.)
What assignment selling content is currently in production, along with estimated publication dates.
A brainstorm portion, wherein I work with sales teams to uncover and refine the questions being asked by prospects, so the answers to those questions can be created as content.
Feedback from sales team members on how previously published assignment selling content is helping or not helping them. (Are there high-performing pieces? Are there under-performing pieces that should be revised?)
With just these four points, we align our sales and marketing teams around revenue as the single goal, while also uncovering whether or not the marketing team content efforts are driving revenue through assistance in closing deals.
On a monthly basis, we publish an IMPACT Content ROI newsletter, in which we spotlight traffic and lead generation wins from content, PLUS something called a Content ROI Spotlight. The Content ROI Spotlight features two or three high-dollar value closed deal from sales and showcases every single piece of content that was used during the sales process to bring that revenue to IMPACT. So, everyone sees explicitly how their content contributions drive revenue for the company.
Bottom line, even if you're in marketing or sales, everyone is really on the revenue team
How this revenue-focused mindset manifests in your company will be unique... as it should be.
But Jen says, no matter your industry, size, place in the market, or individual role, you need to keep the following in mind:
"The mindset that 'everyone is in sales' should be replaced by 'everyone is in revenue.' Selling, like marketing, is just one piece of the puzzle. Revenue is a marathon that requires the support of a business, not simply a team or an individual.
But the companies that see the most success all share one thing in common. They don't just embrace a one-dimensional revenue-based mindset. Instead, they focus on revenue as a gateway for all stakeholders — leadership, sales, marketing, service, and so on — for seeking collaboration, communication, and group success.
No one department should be ranked higher or more important than another.
When we are all responsible for the revenue metric, we find that we are all a part of the same beating heart.
We think differently, we empathize, and we seek to live in the solution. That's when you begin to truly unlock your growth potential as a company."