Evolving a marketing organization from a cost center to a revenue center--what I call “Revenue Marketing”--is a daunting task that requires strong leadership and the ability to drive change.
This is the theme of my upcoming book, “The Rise of the Revenue Marketer,” and one I’ll explore in this article, in which I’ll share insights from interviews with 23 marketing executives to help you understand why change leadership is vital in revenue marketing.
Following are the five stages of change along the journey to revenue marketing that CMOs must embrace and master.
Stage 1: Disruption
Disruption occurs when the marketing status quo is failing. Some tipping point has occurred, typically as a result of company performance, changing market dynamics, competition, new strategies, or shareholder influence. During this stage, there may be many obstacles.
The Interviews: As I spoke with the marketing executives, a correlation between business disruption and revenue marketing success became evident. Those companies undergoing significant disruption were more engaged at all levels, and they moved quicker than those companies that just wanted to do revenue marketing because it made sense. Two camps of disruption were evident, and they both accelerated revenue marketing: bad disruptions, such as loss of revenue, and good disruptions, such as fast-growth businesses wanting to maintain the pace. In both cases, the marketing executive stepped in to become the champion of the change.
Ask yourself: What’s going on in your company that the status quo is no longer good enough? Be honest. As a leader, how can you make your company better?
Stage 2: Resistance
This is where resistance to revenue marketing rears its ugly head. It retreats when stakeholders understand, “What’s in it for me?” and demonstrate a willingness to evaluate options.
The Interviews: A common interview theme for successful revenue marketing was the presence of detailed and continuous communication and collaboration. Also key: a well-defined and jointly developed “What’s in it for me?” for each stakeholder group. When this was missing early on and continuously in the process, we saw marketing starting to have issues.
Ask yourself: Do you really understand all of the key stakeholders and what changes mean for them? Do you have the right stakeholders fully involved?
Stage 3: Acceptance
Revenue marketing gains momentum during the acceptance stage as a clear plan of action is developed. The revenue marketing plan defines why change is needed, what will change, how and when it will change, and who is responsible.
The Interviews: From the interviews it was clear this plan of action needed to be communicated and visible throughout the entire life cycle of revenue marketing, not just a point in time. When you ask stakeholders to change and work with you, they need a visible representation of where things are, what will be happening next, and what their role is and will become.
Ask yourself: How ready are you to put this kind of plan in place? How will you use your leadership position to communicate and support this plan?
Stage 4: Adoption
In adoption, stakeholders move from “going through the motions” to personally realizing the value of the change. This creates synergy among all key stakeholders to embrace and optimize revenue marketing.
The Interviews: A common indicator of adoption of revenue marketing across organizations was the use of a revenue marketing language in which all stakeholders have learned the language and use it every day.
Ask yourself: What is the common language in your organization? When you attend a senior management team meeting, does the entire leadership team understand and use the language of revenue marketing? Have you created this language?
Stage 5: Advocacy
Advocacy is born when revenue marketing becomes the new status quo. Marketing has a defined role on the revenue team, and the company has a new way to drive, measure, and forecast top-line revenue growth.
The Interviews: Advocacy was found in companies where marketing is a full-fledged member of the revenue conversation and comes to meetings with a revenue marketing forecast. These companies also structured variable compensation plans for marketing to tie to revenue-related goals, such as percent or dollar contribution to the pipeline or bookings as a direct result of marketing efforts.
Ask yourself: What is the real value of having marketing focused and accountable for revenue? As a leader, this is your charge.
Yes, there are a 1,001 things you must address as a marketing leader, especially if you are involved in transforming your marketing group from a cost center to a revenue center. Your No. 1 job in this transformation is not to be the technology expert, or the campaign expert, or other such roles.
Rather, your No. 1 job is to be the leader for change, and to secure and maintain buy-in, alignment, and collaboration. Ask yourself: Are you up for the challenge?