Chief marketing officers (CMOs), unlike other line-of-business executives, are in a unique quandary. Their responsibilities span across the customer journey--from awareness to engagement to sales--which makes it difficult to obtain C-level insights. Unlike sales, finance or HR functions, for example, marketing has no natural "atomic unit" which can easily roll up from individual to team to division and eventually up to the whole enterprise. As a result, even the most basic, existential questions--such as "how did we do last month?"--are often difficult to answer. And paradoxically, the massive wave of new marketing applications only makes the problem worse.
Marketing, by necessity is a diverse function, encompassing artists and quants under the same roof. But ultimately, its mission is to drive future revenues. Unfortunately, the only metrics readily available to marketers are interim ones -- such as traffic, leads, awareness, followers and attendees. This lack of visibility into the true impact of marketing spend frustrates both CMOs and their executive peers.
Ironically, this makes CMOs more similar to CIOs than it does to their line-of-business peers. CIOs have long dealt with disparate metrics such as cost, speed, innovation and security. Where the similarities end is that CIOs have many tools at their disposal to measure and manage their universe, whereas CMOs do not.
Software vendors have emerged to provide CxO insights to sales, finance, HR and IT executives. But the same cannot be said for CMOs. The market simply wasn't mature enough 5 or 10 years ago, and the CMO IT stack had yet to emerge.
The good news is that we are now seeing a massive wave of new marketing applications emerge. This helps sub-functions within marketing--such as the demand generation team or the social media team--do their jobs better. The bad news is that it only makes the CMO's job harder, as they now have even more data to track.
I ran across an interesting post on the rise of inside sales teams in startups, by Scott Irwin, a General Partner at SaaS and enterprise-savvy VC Rembrandt Venture Partners. He notes that "inside sales jobs are growing at 15X the rate of outside sales roles." That's an eye-opening data point, and if you like at job openings in the software industry, seems to pass reality check.
In a nutshell, inside sales is high-velocity sales: no travel, shorter sales cycles (<90 days), and lower price points (<$100k/year). Inside sales has given rise to successful companies Salesforce.com and Webex, and new challengers such as Box and even the aptly named InsideSales.com.
But What Does Inside Sales Mean for Marketing?
A common mistake is to draw a parallel between inside sales and inbound marketing. It's not that simple. Inbound marketing -- by itself -- is poor man's marketing. Pure inbound marketing is a great concept for a corner florist or neighborhood butcher. If you've come to this blog, that's not you. For marketing professionals growing high value (i.e. high multiple of sales) enterprises, time is money. Waiting patiently for leads to trickle in isn't -- by itself -- a smart approach, especially if you're a venture-backed company. What's needed, instead, is what I call High Velocity Marketing (HVM), which is expressed, simply as follows:
HVM = Inbound Marketing + Outbound Demand Generation
Thinking of marketing as high-velocity, rather than inbound, is a lot healthier -- and effective -- approach to marketing for inside sales-driven companies.
In other words, rather than creating a high quality webinar, with a name brand customer advocate, let's say, and waiting for people to find it through search and word of mouth alone, what a high-velocity marketer needs to do is to quickly get that content promoted to the right people.
Ironically, this is a consumer marketing problem -- "how do I get a person to see my media?" B2C companies, of course, are generally all high-velocity in nature (unless you're buying a Gulfstream, but that's high velocity of an entirely different kind). For a B2B marketer, the idea isn't to engage someone and serve an ad to them, but instead, it's to get them to take a high-value action, such as a meeting with an inside sales rep.
Purely inbound marketing is an awful way to to solve that problem. It would be like throwing a party and only relying on people to stumble upon it, without making the effort to promote it through emailed invitations. Likewise, promoting B2B marketing content through paid channels is critical to High-Velocity Marketing. The distinction is as follows:
Inbound Marketing = blog posts, downloadable assets, etc.
Outbound Demand Gen = distribution via newsletters, display ads, etc.
Note that unlike penny wise, pound foolish inbound marketing approaches, the distinction isn't about paid vs. unpaid. Ultimately, you pay for your inbound marketing (whether it's done by an employee or an outside professional), same as you do for outbound marketing (whether you rent a list, or spend time/money building one over the course of years).
I, for one, welcome the new era of High-Velocity Marketing. It makes B2B marketers more of a revenue function, and therefore more critical to the organization. And it's also more fun.
Nadim Hossain is CEO of BrightFunnel, and formerly the chief marketing officer of PowerReviews (acquired by Bazaarvoice). He was previously with Salesforce.com, McAfee and Amazon.com, and holds a BA from Cornell and an MBA from Stanford.