Marketing Masters: Debbie Qaqish on How Email Marketers Can Approach Revenue Marketing

Ready to shift your mindset from traditional marketing to revenue marketing? We sat down with thought leader Debbie Qaqish to find out how.

It’s the time of the Revenue Marketer™ and we’re ready to evolve. Debbie Qaqish first introduced the term in 2011 and began her mission to forever transform marketing from being a cost center to being a driver of revenue and growth.   

She literally wrote the book on Revenue Marketing and continues to carry the message forward as a speaker, prolific writer, and consultant on revenue marketing, leadership, change management, marketing operations, and sales and marketing alignment. Debbie also hosts Revenue Marketer Radio (WRMR).

As a principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group, she is responsible for identifying the current and future market trends and strategies to help her company grow and to help marketing to continue to transform. Not one to rest on her laurels, Debbie is also finishing her PhD and will be Dr. Debbie by the end of the year.  

We recently caught up with Debbie to discuss how email marketers can utilize revenue marketing to transform how they work.

You coined the term “revenue marketing” in 2011, what prompted that? And what does that term mean to you?

It began with a personal experience. I bought my first marketing automation system in 2004 and I used it as a way to generate revenue because my background was in sales and it just made sense to me. Fast forward to 2011 and I was seeing a similar trend in B2B marketing. I saw more and more use of technology and it really was changing what marketers were able to do to impact revenue. I was trying to come up with a term that would describe what was happening in the market so I came up with the term Revenue Marketing.™

It was really interesting because we used the term as a sort of qualifier when talking to prospects. We would get two distinct responses to the term. One response was a prospect would look at me like I was speaking a foreign language, they just could not understand what I was saying. However, if they looked at me and said, “Debbie, tell me more about that, I’m intrigued,” we knew that they were good potential clients for us.

Since 2011, that’s the term that we’ve used and it’s the responsibility of marketers today to generate revenue.

I think the term revenue marketing really means a few things to me. Number one, it is the process of transforming your marketing organization from being a cost center to a revenue center. It’s definitely a process and it can be a huge change for a marketing organization.

It also means that marketing gets a seat at the table because when marketers (especially the CMO) help drive credible revenue and growth, they become true leaders of the organization. I’m just finishing up my PhD and my entire thesis was on how the B2B CMO adopts accountability. Interestingly, 80% of CMOs feel an intense amount of pressure to show revenue. Yet, less than a third can actually report on credible revenue.

Marketing, with the tools and systems and the ways customers interact digitally today, is in the perfect spot to be the revenue and growth driver for the organization and applying revenue marketing principles is the way to make it happen.  

Why do you think there’s such a gap between those two CMO statistics you shared?

It’s a huge gap and my whole thesis is based on that gap. I think a lot of it has to do with mindset and with skill set. I believe there are still CMOs out there who really are more traditional. They really have a right-brain mindset as it’s really what they’ve grown up with.

I also think there’s still a mindset gap in how other parts of the organization perceive marketing. I’ve seen organizations where marketing was driving revenue and either the VP of Sales or the CEO or CFO still had a hard time wrapping their brains around the fact that marketing can actually have a direct impact on revenue and growth. I think the gap has a lot to do with a much-needed mindset shift and a CMO leadership gap.

In your book, “Rise of the Revenue Marketer,” you talk about how marketing has been transformed in recent years. What advice would you give to email marketers who are struggling to adapt to this strategic shift?

It can be a huge change for any marketer.

When you’ve got a career and you’ve been hired to do a certain thing, whether it’s email marketing or something else, and you have a set of metrics that are really based on activity (rather than value created or revenue generated), then that’s a huge shift.

To help make that shift, it really is a leadership responsibility. If you’re in an organization that’s just beginning to adopt revenue marketing (meaning that marketing is now becoming accountable for revenue), and you’ve got a whole team of marketers who have never been in that world before, then you, as a leader, are responsible for that team and for creating an environment in which they can be successful. This includes tools, systems, training, and incentives.

One of the reasons I love working with marketers is that I find that many marketers are lifelong learners and they’re very curious. I think those are two attributes that help someone, at an individual level, adapt to change. I think on an individual level you just have to be open minded. The world is shifting around us and it’s all because of technology and the way we all interact with technology. If you stay within that traditional email and activity-based mindset, then you will be in danger of becoming extinct.  

So, be curious, be a lifelong learner, and it’s really up to leadership to create that environment for change and success.

Email marketers often struggle with proving the ROI of their role and efforts. How can they address this issue and develop their own revenue marketing strategy?

It starts with the right mindset and the right toolset. First, you’ve got to have the mindset of “what can we measure?” Yes, we can measure send rate, open rate, and click-through rate but is there anything else that we can measure that might give us a sense of whether we’re making a business impact with the email marketing. Email marketers have to get into a value-based measurement mindset.

Once you’ve got the mindset, then you’ve got to have the tool set. You can’t do this without tools and systems. If you have email and it’s not connected to anything so you can’t track, measure, or report on some of these metrics that speak to revenue then you simply can’t do it. If you don’t have the tools and systems then you really can’t do it.

What I see these days is that marketers are drowning in technology. The average marketing team has no less than 20 different pieces of technology, with their email marketing system a core component of that. Again, having access to those systems so you can integrate, track, and report on the value you bring to your business is very important.

That’s right, we often see that martech bloat don’t we?

Yes, we do!

So besides choosing the right technology, when you work with marketers to execute revenue marketing, what obstacles do you help them overcome? What are the most common challenges you see?

This is a great question because I frequently see the same four main challenges. I see mindset, credibility, systems, and skills.

With mindset (a bit of a repeat from my prior comments), I think that a lot of the time, one or two people within a marketing organization will see that marketers have to become revenue marketers and adopt that accountability. However, getting the rest of the marketing team on board and getting other stakeholders like sales, finance, and other executives on board can be a real struggle.

And then, even when you are producing numbers, are those numbers viewed as credible? Being a revenue marketer is still an oxymoron to many executives, and even the marketing team.

Then, you’ve got to have systems, but you don’t have to have a lot of systems. The CMO spends more money on IT than the CIO does these days. You’ve got to have systems that have integrations so you can track and measure value-based outcomes.

The biggest thing that I see, which is not being addressed by anyone, is the gap in skills required in a revenue marketing organization. I just wrote an article for the American Marketing Association and I was talking about how we’ve seen this huge explosion of sales enablement technologies to help sales sell more stuff. Sales enablement has always been a huge cost center for organizations but one that was necessary to drive top-line revenue.

As a parallel, there is hardly any practical, consistent, and holistic training that is done for a marketing organization. They are basically as good as the last webinar or conference they went to or what they learned in their last job. As marketing becomes a revenue and growth driver for an organization, their skills need to be taken seriously and they need to be upgraded. I think mindset, credibility, systems, and skills are the most common challenges I see in adopting revenue marketing.

What’s the best revenue marketing campaign you’ve run, and why?

I love to work with a client where we take a look at where we can best apply revenue marketing and see some quick wins. Typically, what I like to do is look deep in the sales funnel where leads are leaking out, somewhere in that opportunity stage or pre-opportunity stage.

I’ll give you an example. I was working with a tech company here in Atlanta, Georgia. They are  a global company and they had a “try our system before you buy it” pilot. You just downloaded the software and you could play around with it. The problem was very few people who participated in the pilot converted to being a customer.   

Given this very low conversion rate from the pilot, we created a campaign that engaged users as they participated in the pilot. We highlighted features and benefits in a slow drip series of emails and even customized some email based on how they used or did not use the software in the pilot. In 30 days, we got an 8% higher conversion rate to closed business.

That did a few things. Number one, it helped the marketing organization understand where you look when you’re applying revenue marketing principles, you want to look for the best opportunities to create ROI. It also made a believer out of the sales organization because all of a sudden they were getting much more qualified leads that converted at a higher rate. So, we were able to get ROI, help marketing understand how to apply revenue marketing principles, and help the sales organization see the value in what marketing was doing. I consider that a great success.

Where do you see revenue marketing moving in the next five years?

I’ve written recently about how I think that really smart CROs (chief revenue officers) are going to want to own revenue marketing. In my first career, I was in sales and then I was VP of Sales for a national and international sales organization. If I were a VP of Sales today, I would want to own revenue marketing. Why in the world would I want something that’s helping me produce revenue in the hands of a different function within the organization?

We’re actually beginning to see some of those moves now. I’m beginning to see how sales and marketing operations are combining and I see those functions reporting into a sales function. I also see sales and marketing converging and finally working as one team around the customer lifecycle. More and more, we live in an age, I call it the customer-centric economy, where the digital customer is in control of everything. I’m actually seeing organizations beginning to meld sales and marketing together to create a revenue team and then to really do everything around the customer lifecycle.

I think revenue marketing will continue to evolve. I think it plays a significant role in elevating the status of B2B marketing in organizations. I think in many cases B2C marketing is already there because they’ve been accountable for a very long time. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out over the next five years. One thing is for sure – the role of B2B marketing is forever changed.

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