The power of revenue marketing: What’s in a name?

Debbie Qaqish, chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group, explores how naming marketing can spark a fundamental change in your mission.

Great power resides in how you describe marketing because as soon as you label it, you change people’s perception. Case in point: In 2011, I introduced the term revenue marketing to the industry and to my B2B clients in particular. Quite simply this term means marketing is transforming from a cost center to a revenue center with credible ROI. With the influx of game-changing marketing technologies and massive changes in buyer behavior, marketing now had the distinct ability to directly impact revenue performance. In retrospect, using the term revenue marketing inspired a fundamental change in marketing’s mission and how other functions perceived and worked with marketing. It was magical.

The power of name calling

This seismic shift really hit home in 2013 when I was working with a large financial services firm who had bought marketing automation and a plethora of other marketing related technologies. Early on, when we were working with them to develop their new marketing strategy I asked what they called their initiative. They responded, “the marketing automation project.” What impact do you think that had? What change do you think that inspired? Marketing had just spent tons of money to product a lot of tactical, nonstrategic activity.

Compare this name to revenue marketing, which was adopted by a large technology company in 2013. Using this concept as the foundation for marketing, resulted in marketing way over-achieving their first-ever revenue goal. Revenue marketing literally inspired the beginnings of a global transformation at this company.  


EVERY client I’ve worked with since 2013, I question and challenge how they describe marketing. Why? Because I have experienced firsthand how the power of a name dramatically changes business outcomes, specifically revenue outcomes. In the last few years, several new terms have entered the market – including these: modern marketing, agile marketing and growth hacking. Let’s review.

Modern marketing has gained a lot of popularity because, in my opinion, it is safe. It denotes something new, yet lacks a revenue focus. Ironically, the term is not new. In 1939, Barker and Ashen published a book called “Modern Marketing.” Books and articles about modern marketing have appeared in every decade from 1939 until today. It is a term used to signal a change in marketing – but what is that change exactly? While modern marketing is a safe term, it fails to convey the essence of what’s happening today, i.e., marketing’s revenue accountability.

Agile marketing and hacking marketing are other terms that have been popularized by Scott Brinker, Program Chair of MarTech, Editor and author of “Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster and More Innovative,” (March 2016). Characteristics of an this type of organization include agility, accelerated strategic and operational tempo, continuous, micro customer experiences, highly engaged audiences, experiments and testing, scaling for growth, integration across the organization, innovation as an engine of growth, and democratization of marketing. Agile marketing is based on software development principles and really strikes a chord with what it takes to be successful as a marketer today.

Growth hacking may be viewed a type of agile marketing as it shares similar characteristics. Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across a range of marketing channels to identify the most effective ways to grow a business. In this scenario, marketing is a partner in growth, not an afterthought. While most closely associated with new companies with few marketing resources, as a concept and a practice, is may be applied to any size organization. At the heart of growth hacking is a group of cross-functional teams using the power of new technologies and new customer behaviors to engage and improve client acquisition and retention.

Making sense of the terminology

In my opinion, revenue marketing drives to a specific goal, while agile marketing provides a way to achieve that goal. Growth hacking has a combination of the two – it uses new technologies and processes to drive desired growth.

What is exciting about all of these terms is they clearly denote the change in the role of marketing within the organization, including the why and the how. At the end of the day, what CEOs want to see from marketing is a quantifiable ROI. If this is not currently your reality, it soon will be. So think carefully about what marketing can and should be in your organization and give it the power of a name. To assist in this process, consider these 4 steps:

4 steps in naming marketing:

  1. Deliberately name marketing as it relates to your specific organization. Think about what you are trying to accomplish with marketing and name it accordingly.

  2. Create a charter based on the name. This charter becomes your mantra and your talk track for every marketing initiative within your department.

  3. Ensure your behaviors and those on your team are in line with the name and the charter. If you are revenue marketing but your people spend 80 percent of their time on traditional tactics, this will not work.

  4. Be a PR machine internally. Let other departments within your company know who you are and what you are doing as it relates to your charter.

If you choose wisely, you will opt to become a revenue marketing organization – as such you will need to align tightly with the mission of sales, to drive revenue. This relationship between marketing and sales must become symbiotic to the core. Expect obstacles and bumps in the road on your revenue marketing journey. But know that the price for change is worth the investment – you and your team are earning your seat at executive table because of your quantifiable contributions to your company’s bottom line.