Welcome to the Revenue Marketing era - altered priorities ahead!

Profile picture for user barb.mosher By Barb Mosher Zinck June 4, 2021 Audio mode
The third era of marketing is here. Are you ready?


We’ve entered the era of Revenue Marketing - or at least we should have done, in theory. But what does it mean to be revenue-focused and what practical changes does it require of the marketing department?

David Cancel, CEO of Drift, explains marketing in three eras:

  1. The Brand era was pre-internet, pre-digital, where marketing focused on brand, PR, and communications.
  2. The Demand Gen era was the early 2000’s when the Internet arrived. It was focused on bringing digital into marketing. During this era, he said, the CMO emerged with a focus on marketing to prospects.
  3. In the Revenue era, which we are technically in - Cancel argues that it started roughly in 2020 - everyone is a buyer. It is digital-first, offline-optional, and marketers are now dealing with digital natives. And it’s not only about marketing to prospects; it’s about marketing to everyone, including customers, the media and employees.

Cancel states that in the revenue era, marketing need to be measured by revenue, not by leads. To win in this era, marketers need to think differently:

Today’s companies need to deliver the streamlined experience that meets the buyers on their terms and delivers lasting value. The problem with your company today is that we’re focused on this company-centric paradigm where we believe our tech is better, but the buyer expects the experience to be better.

Most companies are still caught in the demand generation era. It’s not a fast evolution, and it requires a marketing transformation that involves marketing and the rest of the company.

Defining Revenue Marketing

I’ve heard rumblings of the term Revenue Marketing for a while, but it’s been slow to take hold. A simple definition:

Revenue Marketing is a holistic approach that helps marketers prove return on marketing investment, create optimal customer experiences, and compete in the digital world.

A few key points here:

  • Customers want better experiences, and they will go where that best experience is can be found. Brand loyalty is fleeting if the experience you offer isn’t good. As Cancel notes,  customers have “an infinite supply of alternatives”.
  • A better experience may start with marketing, but it reaches across sales and customer success. It’s about the experience across the entire customer lifecycle.
  • Digital is more than a channel. The pandemic has accelerated this reality, but it was likely going to be true regardless. We have to stop thinking about it as one way to reach and engage; it is the way.

Revenue Marketing is about mapping marketing programs and campaign sales pipeline and revenue. And it’s going to be hard to pull off.

Latanee Conant, CMO of 6sense, wrote a book called, No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls. It’s a good guide to read if you want to understand a better way to market and sell. In the book, she talks about how marketing needs to transform into a revenue model. Her thesis is that marketers are obsessed with data, but all too often this obsession focuses on any data point you can measure, regardless of whether it has meaning or not.

Marketing gets caught up in meaningless metrics because they are told they need to prove the value of their programs and campaigns. But most of these metrics are worthless because marketers aren’t looking at them from the proper reference - their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

The fact that website traffic increased by ten percent means nothing unless that ten percent increase is your ideal customer. Having ten people download two more content assets doesn’t matter unless it's ICPs who are doing it.

From the book:

When everything you do is derived from your ICP, it’s like having guardrails in bowling; it’s impossible to throw a gutter ball. From paid advertising and social, to content syndication, to outbound programs, you’re always targeting the best accounts and never wasting resources on spray-and-pray assumptions.

The path to Revenue Marketing

It’s easy to say you want to shift to a Revenue Marketing model. It’s equally easy for a company to say it’s now going to measure around pipeline and revenue. The hard part is figuring out the people, processes, and technology you need to put in place to measure properly.

This starts with aligning with sales on who your ideal customer profile is and then, in turn, aligning across marketing, sale, and customer success on the customer experience.

Marketers also need to stop thinking in terms of MQLs and SQLs and start looking at accounts and account-based engagement. That doesn’t mean they should stop thinking about specific people. It does mean they need to focus on the right people in their ICP accounts and their role in the buying process.

The right technology will help them understand where accounts are in the buying journey and help them narrow down on intent. Understanding intent means marketing teams can offer the right content at the right time as well as the right approach to personalize the engagement.

Great content is critical; it provides buyers with information suitable for the stage of the buyer’s journey. Thought leadership brings your ICPs into your circle, but the right content at every step of the journey helps them work through their decision-making process and if your product is the right choice.

Wrap it up with the right metrics to help you understand if your programs are working and driving the revenue goals you are tasked with delivering. Metrics are challenging because attribution is complicated to work out. But getting it right is vital to proving the value of marketing in the buying process.

My take

There’s a lot of work required to make this transformation to Revenue Marketing and  I’ve only scratched the surface here. But the shift is necessary to prove marketing is needed and ensure the entire company is focused on delivering the best experiences to its customers. Transformation will need to go in phases - it’s not a one-and-done deal - and marketers will learn a lot about their company and their customers along the way. And that’s a good thing.