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Debbie Qaqish: Revenue Marketing Transformation Involves The Entire Organization

As your 2017 business revs up, is your marketing team operating as an economic engine with a revenue marketing mindset? CMO.com had the opportunity to talk with a pre-eminent thought leader is this space, Debbie Qaqish, who in 2011 coined the term “revenue marketer” and then followed up with a book, “Rise of The Revenue Marketer.”

Qaqish is principal partner, chief revenue marketing officer, at The Pedowitz Group. A 35-year B2B marketer, she is focused on why CMOs need to embrace marketing’s financial accountability in a digital marketing environment. CMO.com talked with Qaqish for insight on how CMOs can lead marketing’s transformation from a cost center to an economic engine revenue center.

CMO.com: What has been your business journey? How has this impacted your belief in the need for CMOs to adopt revenue marketing?
Qaqish: Most of my professional career has been in senior sales leadership in national and international organizations. But in 2004, in my last corporate role, I was a VP of marketing in a B2B company. My CEO came into my office one day and asked, “What are you going to do about generating revenue?” I suspect that every CMO today has been asked this question by their CEO. While the CEO did not hire me to do sales work, he wanted me to apply my sales experience in my CMO role.

I started to do research on marketing automation and demand generation platforms. I remember being blown away and envisioning brand new horizons for the marketing and sales roles. The new capability of being able to see digital body language as more of our customers and prospects were moving online to make purchase decisions was going to alter marketing and sales forever. I believed this was the future for sales and marketing.

Once our sales people saw how these platforms helped them better understand prospects’ interests across the customer lifecycle and how we could accelerate sales cycles and closings, they also bought in. I also started to understand how this data could help align and inform the marketing and sales relationship. For me, all of these new digital tools and information were about learning how to generate more revenue and enabling the CMO and marketing to adopt financial accountability.

CMO.com: In a 2013 CMO.com article, you outlined the “5 Stages Of Change On The Road To Revenue Marketing” as disruption, resistance, acceptance, adoption, and advocacy. Give us the 2017 update based on what you’ve learned recently with CMOs.
Qaqish:
These five stages are still relevant. But we’ve learned that transforming to become a revenue marketing operation is a major corporatewide change management initiative, not just a marketing initiative. Revenue marketing is disruptive to the business and gets natural resistance. CMOs are learning not to underestimate the effort it takes to do this change management and are leaning on their marketing operations functions to help drive the change through the smart use of technology. They’ve also learned that they need to get multiple functions onboard, build advocacy, and create collaborative networks to make this change management journey more successful.

The “Diffusion of Innovations” thinking of Everett M. Rogers is a good resource for CMOs to understand on how to approach this change management. For example, the new Microsoft CEO recognized the role marketing could play in terms of getting closer to the customer and affecting revenue growth, and made revenue marketing an organizationwide initiative. Senior leadership set the tone and pace for this change to begin happening in collaborative networks across the company to affect revenue growth.

CMO.com: In another CMO.com article, you said, “Sales is only beginning to get on board with marketing being part of the revenue equation, but it’s a slow journey.” What is the update on sales and marketing alignment with regard to implementing revenue marketing?
Qaqish:
I find that once sales understands what marketing can do for them to help them achieve their revenue goals and to help sales with their problems, there is alignment and advocacy. Marketing needs to demonstrate that they can drive the economic engine. There still is a lot of tension between these two functions. I think part of this comes down to education. Marketing needs to understand the world of sales. Marketing clients I work with who get some sales responsibility say that their thinking changes.


Put your marketing department on the same floor with sales. Hire marketing people with some sales experience. Have your new employees do a tour of duty with sales for several weeks. Educate your sales counterparts about what is possible with your marketing operations, like getting better qualified leads. This will change perceptions and understanding. For B2B marketers, focus on campaigns that sales thinks will be beneficial to them to solve issues they have—for example, what product is not selling or who’s behind on quota.

CMO.com: CMO accountability and alignment with the CEO and C-suite is critically important. With regard to revenue marketing, what are the most important metrics CMOs should be focusing on?
Qaqish:
There are two parts to my answer. First, what are the most important metrics? Second, does the CEO and C-suite believe and buy in to these metrics? These are huge issues. Generally, the metrics should be some type of revenue metric, contribution to pipeline, contribution to closed deals, and something around the customer experience. We know that in order to compete effectively, you have to provide a different kind of relevant CX. This is now a baseline requirement.

As a CMO, when you begin the revenue marketing journey, you will need to create the best campaign of your career in order to inspire confidence and belief in metrics. What I mean by that is you will need to think about all of the personas in the C-suite, and what’s in [the revenue marketing journey] for them. You’ll need to think about how they prefer to receive communications and what they see as credible. You’ll need to think about what you’ll say and report in meetings about what marketing is doing and delivering. You’ll need to create a communication plan that has all of these elements to help the C-suite adopt this disruptive change across the organization. You’ll need to change historical perceptions of what the marketing role has been. Communicate, communicate, communicate consistently over time.

I’ve worked with hundreds of companies on this journey, and I can tell you that the CMOs who get sales on board early and make them a part of the revenue marketing journey are the ones who create better relationships, alignment, and can deliver on metrics that matter for the organization. You have to realize you are changing what marketing is when you start this journey, and you need peers to be on that journey with you, to understand why it is important, and how it will happen. If you don’t do this, you will not be successful.

CMO.com: For the CMOs who have started this journey, what is your advice on how to build a successful “revenue marketing center of excellence”?
Qaqish
: First, identify key elements of your center of excellence and, second, focus on marketing operations. This goes back to what I call “the CMO’s do-over in 2017” and the importance of having a marketing operations capability in place. Become a customer-centric “marketing datanista.”

You are sitting on a gold mine of data and digital body language about your customers in your marketing automation systems that can help sales and help generate revenue. As CMO, you probably know more about your customers than any other department. Use the data and mine the insights to be the expert on who your customer is and what they want. You should be providing customer insights to every part of the organization that enables them to take action on it in real time. Find the marketing technology that will help you find, keep, and grow revenue with your customers. This will make marketing more valuable.

Transform your company’s approach to become customer-centric. There are years of studies [that show] companies that are market-oriented and customer-centric–meaning there is a firmwide capability to sense and respond to customer changes–win more revenue and more competitive advantage.

CMO.com: For CMOs who haven’t embraced “revenue marketing religion,” what are your most important calls to actions?
Qaqish: Well, my generous estimate is that only about 10% of companies today have institutionalized a successful revenue marketing operations approach, capabilities, culture, and metrics. And of this 10%, it is mostly smaller companies. We are at the very early adoption stage of this transformation. I do think there are many CMOs who have “revenue marketing religion” but are completely overwhelmed with the chaotic enormity of their ever-expanding CMO roles and responsibilities.

My suggestions are:

1. Become a student of revenue marketing. Go talk to a trusted peer CMO who has implemented most or all of the revenue marketing transformation in their company to learn from them.

2. Understand that success will not come from a single new tech tool. You need to take a step back and think about your priorities and how you are going to affect revenue and use technology to enable your strategy. Look at just a few core technologies that you can optimize. Most companies are not close to optimizing their marcom technology.

3. Do research on the financial scenarios where marketing could have a significant revenue impact in your company and draft a financial model. Create a working relationship with the CFO.

4. Draft an initial plan using the diffusion of innovation process. You have to know what you are talking about before you start this complex transformation. Then you start your revenue marketing campaign across the C-suite.

5. Look at what your competition is doing and see if they have moved to a revenue marketing approach. This will help move your CEO and C-suite quicker.

CMO.com: Looking into your crystal ball for 2017 and beyond, what do you see for CMOs?  
Qaqish:
I am seeing a new generation of CMOs who think like I did in 2004–of course, it’s about revenue! This new generation of CMO is technically astute, business-focused, and driven to transform marketing. They choose to work with companies that believe in the value of marketing and they leave the companies that do not see this value. Smart companies that hire revenue marketing-oriented CMOs who know how to make marketing part of the company’s economic engine will outpace their competitors. In 2017, I see more CMOs than ever before gaining both a seat and a voice at the table.

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