The 3 Cs of revenue marketing: Culture, customer and change

When I bought my first marketing automation (MA) system in 2004, the idea that marketing could impact revenue was the driving force. A life-long sales leader turned marketing leader, I knew our customers had changed and I needed to find a new way to engage and affect revenue growth. My solution - Eloqua and Salesforce and a solid confirmation that marketing’s charter is helping sales drive revenue. Period.

In 2007 I became a partner at The Pedowitz Group and our charter was to help marketers use technology to impact revenue. In 2010, I coined the terms 'revenue marketing' and 'revenue marketer' as a way to describe the industry’s market dynamic. It was interesting when we used these terms. We got one of two responses. Either they would look at us like we had just sprouted a second head or they would pause, look us in the eye and say: “Now that’s interesting… tell me more.” 

The concept of a B2B marketer accountable for revenue began to gather steam and many voices joined this chorus. In parallel, we began to see an explosion of choices in technology to execute on the transformation and many practical examples of how B2B marketers could and should be accountable for revenue.

In 2017, my reflections on the role of the Revenue Marketing leader and  marketing in general have evolved. Today, revenue marketing 2.0 consists of the three Cs:

  • Culture
  • Customer
  • Change

1. Culture

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast"

Peter Drucker, author

The majority of B2B marketing organizations feel pressure to show ROI and impact on revenue, but only a third of B2B marketers can demonstrate these results. As I review the many customers with whom we have worked and I have spoken with or interviewed, a key conclusion emerges for marketing today: culture eats strategy for breakfast. This phrase from management guru Peter Drucker and popularized by Mark Fields, president of Ford Motor Company, is essential to understanding marketing transformation, or lack thereof. 

As good as it sounds and as possible as it is, many executives cannot wrap their head around marketing being a credible part of the revenue team. In many ways, this perception of marketing represents unconscious bias (a bias we're unaware of) and it can be an extremely negative and a largely hidden factor to overcome. This is a big part of strategy – what people believe and don’t’ believe both consciously and unconsciously. I’ve counseled many marketers to leave their companies because no matter what they did, their executive team and the company overall simply could not see marketing as more than anything except the 'pens, mugs and events' people. For the revenue marketer to be successful, they must work in a company with a set of conditions that are pre-disposed to embracing this change from marketing. These pre-conditions include an on-going history of company innovation, an intense and agile customer focus and an appetite for life-long learning.

2. Customer

"Get closer to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need before they realize it themselves"

Steve Jobs, entrepreneur

The revenue marketer is customer-obsessed. I remember launching my first Eloqua campaign in 2004 and saw real-time digital body language. I was blown away and immediately experienced the power of the data in connecting to and winning life-long customers. I could see marketing sharing this behavioral insight with sales, and sales using it to win more and bigger deals. I could see marketing becoming customer experts, even more than sales.

Truer words were never spoken when Forrester began using the phrase: 'age of the customer' a few years ago: meaning customers are now in control and B2B customers expect a personal B2C experience. Given the tools and data now available to marketing to create experiences across the entire customer lifecycle, marketing is now the best informed about the customer. More than anything marketing, has access to customer knowledge and is poised to share customer insights for better business decision-making in all parts of the firm, which ensures both a seat and a voice at the executive table.

Technologies at our disposal and the rise of the marketing operations capability has placed marketing squarely at the center of all things related to the customer lifecycle. With data and analytics, marketing is now a central relay station for real-time data about customers, from every part of the customer lifecycle, from every part of the organization. This relay capability collects, centralizes, synthesizes and serves back sophisticated customer insights that enable better and more coordinated decision-making about the customer and the business. Led by a customer-centric CMO or even a chief customer officer, these organizations create competitive advantage while driving improved revenue growth and profit margin. 

3. Change

"You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore"

William Faulkner, writer

It’s not enough to say marketing needs to change. Saying and doing are two different actions. Transformation of anything can be exceedingly difficult. This has certainly been true for the marketing function. In the early days, change snuck up on marketers and was not pro-actively recognized or managed. Today, the CMO is a change agent and must tackle this transformation head on. 

Quite often, technology is the catalyst for the change discussion beginning, but technology alone cannot be held responsible for implementing deep and lasting change. This is the role of leadership as a change agent through a transformational leadership style. Transformational leaders inspire others to achieve beyond expected results to remarkable results. Transformational leaders mobilize teams, motivate performance, set up conditions for team success, push decision-making down, and work intimately with teams to resolve conflict. Transformational leaders are also advocates for change and are highly effective at building advocacy across an organization. For a CMO and the marketing team to be successful today requires this kind of change leadership.

While not new, the three Cs of Revenue Marketing 2.0 – culture, customer and change – represent the key focal areas for the modern marketing organization. The job of marketing and marketing leadership has never been more complex, challenging or important. Figuring out how to take on revenue responsibility while stewarding customer engagement in legacy cultures creates clear competitive advantage for the organization. It also inspires marketing careers that are producing the future leaders of our global economy.