For businesses, a pipeline is a targeted list of potential buyers who might have an interest in your products or services. Many companies face the challenge of capturing the attention of potential buyers and moving as many of these potential buyers as possible through the pipeline stages of contact, connection, conversation, consideration, consumption, and community. More and more companies are relying on Marketing to continuously and effectively grow their organization’s opportunity pipeline. Potential buyers who are not converted into customers are often referred to as leaks or pipeline leakage. Our role, as marketers, is to “plug the leak” and improve conversion rates. If the Marketing and Sales aspects of the pipeline are not connected and aligned properly, the potential pipeline leakage can be very large. So a crucial step is ensuring Marketing is properly aligned with Sales. Marketing and Sales alignment allows for the creation and implementation of strategies, programs, and tactics that will facilitate pipeline opportunity development and movement. Once your company achieves this alignment, the next important step is for Marketing to focus on marketing initiative that will effectively and efficiently contribute to pipeline performance and the generation of customers. We must be able to clearly demonstrate and measure our contribution to the pipeline.
Unfortunately, a Forrester Research study, “Redefining B2B Marketing Measurement,” found that “the metrics that most B2B marketers say they use — like number of leads generated and cost per lead” — rank in the lower half of the effectiveness list.” In fact, number of leads generated and cost per lead may actually work against us if we don’t look further into the buying process. At first blush, one program may produce more “leads” than another at a lower cost and therefore appear more efficient. But what is really important is how many of the opportunities convert (don’t leak) to the next stage in the buying process. If there is a higher conversion rate from the more expensive program, than it is actually more effective. If we only look at a marketing program in terms of qualified leads generated and cost, we could potentially be eliminating programs that actually help build the pipeline.
Therefore, we need to move beyond the lead as the marketing metric and leverage metrics more meaningful to the organization — metrics that are more closely tied to customer deals. Customer deals– that is, sales — is for most organizations one of the most important business outcomes. Every company establishes a revenue goal. This revenue target is generated by some number of deals and dollars from existing customers and some number of deals and dollars from net new customers. This brings up the question of what metrics should CMOs and their teams use to measure Marketing’s contribution to the pipeline? Here are four metrics to consider:
1. Pipeline contribution which measures the number of opportunities generated by Marketing that convert into sales opportunities and ultimately into new deals. This metric helps ascertain to what extent marketing programs and investments are positively effecting the win rate and reducing the number of qualified leads that wither and die or are rejected by Sales.
2. Pipeline movement which measures the rate at which opportunities move through the pipeline and convert to wins. This metric helps assess the degree to which marketing programs and investments accelerate the sales cycle.
3. Pipeline value which measures the aggregate value of all active marketing opportunities at each stage within the pipeline. This helps determine what increase in potential business marketing investments may generate.
4. Pipeline velocity which measures the rate of change within your pipeline-both in speed and direction. This enables you to determine whether your sales are accelerating, decelerating, or remaining constant.
When examining each of these metrics it is important to compare the marketing generated opportunities compared to non-marketing generated opportunities. This means we need to understand what is the difference in the win rate, average order value, conversion rate, and velocity between marketing generated opportunities compared to non-marketing generated opportunities. Ideally, over time, by monitoring results and analyzing the data related to these metrics, Marketing can begin to create more predictable results in terms of contribution, conversion, and value.