Intelligent Marketer Podcast Episode 15: How to Turn Marketing From A Cost Center to A Revenue Center

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When is the last time you evaluated the size of your tech stack?

Do you need all of the software you’re paying for?  Do you even use all of the software you’re paying for?

John Fernandez is the Vice President of Revenue Marketing at Contently and he asks himself these types of questions all of the time.  He is obsessed with revenue. After all, it’s in his job title.

So he is constantly reviewing his ROI model, and if something under his control isn’t contributing to revenue, it’s probably going to get cut.  

John is on this episode of The Intelligent Marketer to discuss how he has transformed his marketing from a cost center to a revenue center.  He dives into defining marketing success, managing data, and evolving marketing skills.





The Keys to Marketing Success

John defines marketing success on whether or not his team can complete the following goals:

  1. Are we effectively generating our pipeline?
  2. How much of that pipeline comes from Fortune 1000 companies?
  3. What is the close rate we are ending up with?
John jokingly says that he really only has one metric in mind though to determine this success: revenue. He still looks at secondary metrics like evaluating lead flow and conversion rate, but if his revenue number is looking good, he is happy.

John manages every single dollar that is running through his department, and he offers the same presentation to his board every month. John even remarks, “One thing I measure relentlessly is my ROI model.” He wants the board to see that if things are not directly contributing to revenue, they will not be around for much longer.

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That is exactly what John was thinking about when he cut his tech stack. There were 27 different solutions when John started cutting the stack down, and now his team just uses 5. This may sound pretty extreme, but this allows John’s marketing department to operate with only what they need. It means seamless integration across their platforms.

John admits that his tech stack is leaner than it should be, but he’s okay with that. It helps pull ingenuity out of his team.


Managing Data

John’s team at Contently has access to a large database they have built from the content they’ve generated, but having this amount of data is a bit of a double edged sword.


On one hand this large database presents a challenge, because managing this much data is difficult and expensive. On the other hand, it allows you to build some interesting models in terms of lead scoring because you have so much data to gain insight from. These models can help you cut through a list of several hundred thousand people to find the exact audience you want to target for a given campaign.

But data is radioactive, it can decay pretty quickly.

This is where it’s incredibly helpful to have a minimal amount of Tech Stack platforms to run data through. Having everything run through a platform like Marketo is incredibly valuable in terms of looking at simplified and cleaned up data. Instead of 27 different systems competing and overwriting one another, you can have one dedicated source of information as a baseline to move forward with.

Tools like Salesforce are not perfect, and this is especially true for marketers. SFDC has specifically come out and said that if there is a suggested change for the platform that will help marketers, but hurt salespeople, they won’t do it. After all, “It’s called Salesforce for a reason, it’s not Marketingforce.”

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That being said, it is vitally important for both sales & marketing to have access to the same information as a single source of truth. If there are separate CRM/ERP systems for sales & marketing, they will never be able to be on the same page in terms of the data that is coming into your company.

Once that single system is decided upon, it is important to maintain clean data. Agreeing upon the 10-15 critical fields in CRM software that need to be filled out in every circumstance allows for consistency and ease of integration with the rest of your lean tech stack.


Evolving Marketing Skills

John has become successful in his role in large part due to his ability to sift through noise and hone in on important information. Because after all, “People don’t want data, they want insights.”

“I live between the data and the business in a really good way. People don’t want data, they want insights.” - John Fernandez

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Finding data is a lot easier than finding the key insights that go along with that data. Marketing is not as clean cut as sales usually is. Salespeople can ask, “Did I hit my number?” It’s not that simple for marketers.

So how has John learned to cut through the clutter and persuade others that the information he is presenting is relevant? To not drown in the data? This may not be the most encouraging answer, but this skill has been developed over time in his years of marketing experience.

Marketing is often maligned because it has a history of talking about activities instead of outcomes. John approaches each new set of data with a revenue outcome in mind. In other words, he doesn’t test data just for the sake of testing data. He know he will need to give an account for every marketing dollar spent, so being able to explain his reasoning of exactly what he is looking to get out of each test is a fundamental discipline John has developed.

As a developing marketer, it is important to remember that you will gain credibility over time, and your failures will springboard you on to new successes (if you let them). John has learned what his skills are, and possibly more importantly, what skills he is lacking. He chooses to hire others based on how they will compliment his strengths and weaknesses.

This dedication to sifting through the noise, his ROI model, and hiring the right people has allowed him to turn his department from a Marketing Cost Center vs. Marketing Revenue Center.

This post is based on a Intelligent Marketer podcast with John Fernandez. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Intelligent Marketer Podcast here. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to the podcast here.

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