Throughout my 20 year journey as a marketer, I’ve tried to find the perfect way to figure out what marketing works. Unfortunately, many of the industry’s marketing reports fall short.
It’s easy to find tools that track leads. It’s hard to find tools that turn lead tracking data into actionable reports that actually answer the question, “what marketing works?”
In the past, I thought this one mantra could fix this problem.
“If you want to know what marketing works, you’ve got to tie your marketing to sales”
However, after working with hundreds of agencies to improve client tracking and reporting through WhatConverts, my opinion has changed and I operate under a new mantra:
“Leads, not sales, reveal what marketing works.”
All marketing reports are supposed to help you figure out what marketing campaigns work. Reports can do this by showing you one of two things:
- How many leads each campaign generated
- How many sales each campaign generated
Salespeople should be judged on sales, but marketers should be judged on leads. The difference between sales reports and lead reports is subtle, but important.
Full disclosure; WhatConverts generates both sales reports and lead reports. Many of our successfully use customers sales data reports. From a business point of view, tying marketing to sales makes sense, so why am I changing my tune?
Here are five reasons why:
1. Leads are better for long sales cycles.
If you’re asking yourself, “Should I use lead reports or sales reports?” you must first answer another question:
Do you have a short sales cycle or a long sales cycle?
The longer your sales cycle, the more important it is that you use Lead Reports instead of Sales Reports.
So why does the sales cycle affect reporting? It has to do with your business’ ability to adjust marketing campaigns based on data feedback — specifically, feedback from lead data and sales data.
When you launch a digital marketing campaign, you need data and insights to measure and modify the campaign. Data feedback helps marketers adjust creative executions, target new audiences and adapt to changing markets.
The problem with sales reports is that you can’t create the report until the sales are complete. For businesses with long sales cycles, sales data feedback might not get into a report and back to the marketing team for weeks or months. That’s a long time to run a marketing campaign without any data feedback or adjustments.
With lead reports, you don’t have to wait for the sales team to close deals. Marketers can quickly see if various channels are generating qualified leads and adjust campaigns accordingly.
Here’s the takeaway: Enhance campaigns based on solid lead data. Analyzing leads will provide insights and understanding for campaign success. Here’s an example of how detailed lead data can provide further insight:
2. Leads are one step closer to marketing.
Both lead reports and sales reports fall under the umbrella of marketing reports. Both reports are meant to reveal which marketing campaigns are working.
The difference is that lead reports can be created more quickly because leads are one step closer to marketing than sales are:
Marketing —> Lead —> Sale
The lead comes directly from the marketing. The sale has to go through the marketing and the sales process before it appears on a sales report.
Here’s the takeaway: Don’t let the sales process muck up your marketing reports. As a marketer, you should be concerned with what happens before sales gets involved, so you can adjust campaigns accordingly. Here’s an example of how the lead data can help optimize campaigns:
3. Customer Lifetime Value: The secret to successful reporting
Repeat customers are worth more than one-time customers. Customers that have potential for upselling are worth more than customers that only care about your least expensive product.
If you know what different types of customers are worth to your business over time, you can calculate an important metric; Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
CLV is especially relevant for SaaS (Software as a Service) businesses or similar industries where the most valuable customer is a long-term client that shows potential for increased spend.
If you know the CLV for various types of leads, you can add that data to the lead as the quote value. While a sales report might just show the actual value of a single sale, the lead report can show the estimated customer lifetime value, a far more accurate indicator of the real value of the lead. Find the marketing channels that generate leads with high CLV, and invest in those channels moving forward.
Here’s the takeaway: If it’s convenient, adding lead quote values and CLV to your lead reports can give your team more insights.
4. Marketing can’t control sales.
Good marketing campaigns shouldn’t be cancelled because of bad sales performance. As long as your marketing reports prove you’re delivering qualified leads within budget, your job as a marketer is done. But what happens when the sales department blames their lack of sales on poor lead quality?
In this case, its vital that your lead reporting platform can withstand interrogation, allowing you to dig into the actual lead details to identify qualified leads. If your leads are qualified, full transparency will be your friend.
Too many marketing leads get wasted due to salespeople with bad phone skills, salespeople who fail to followup, and calls that go unanswered. Call recording can identify potential leads that go unanswered, and form-fill tracking ensure your marketing team gets credit for unanswered form-fill leads.
If you can track every type of conversion action for every lead, you can prove you’ve done your part.
Here’s the takeaway: Marketers can’t control sales, which is why marketing campaigns shouldn’t be measured against sales numbers.
5. Sales may steal your thunder.
Sales is a profession in which compensation is based on performance. When marketing delivers a new customer for the business, the marketing department gets credit for the first sale. However, any future sales that come from that customer are typically credited to the sales team.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again with my agency clients. New customers typically start with a small test order to verify that the company meet their requirements. If that works out, the larger orders are placed. I’ve frequently seen customers start with a $1,000 then became a customer with orders totaling $200,000 over next 3 years. In this scenario, the marketing campaign might only credit for $1,000 instead of $200,000; a problem that affects the size of the marketing budget moving forward.
It’s not that the sales team doesn’t deserve credit, it’s that the marketing team doesn’t get enough credit and the marketing budget suffers as a result.
Here’s the main takeaway: Make sure you can attach marketing information to leads, and keep that information attached to the customer once they’re in the CRM database. This is how to get the credit your marketing deserves.
Ultimately, companies invest in marketing initiatives to increase sales. However, these five points show that relying solely on sales to measure marketing success can delay and complicate marketing decisions.
When your marketing delivers quotable leads, a sound sales process will turn those leads into sales. Simply put. leads are fuel for sales. As a marketer, your job is to fuel the sales vehicle.
Lead reports can give you sufficient data to make accurate marketing decisions, but only if you have a tool that allows you to accurately capture, organize and report on leads.