As a fast-growing startup, goal-setting is something we revisit every month. Knowing that goal setting is a challenge for every marketing organization, we’ve opened up the kimono in a recent Socedo University webinar and shared how our marketing team sets goals. Below are the key topics discussed.
What’s marketing’s primary job? What’s the north star for the marketing team at Socedo?
Aseem Badshah (CEO and acting Head of Marketing): Marketing’s number one job is to provide the fuel for revenue growth. Marketing should enable sales to acquire new customers and help retain existing customers. Marketing engages in two categories of activities.
The first is the strategic side. Marketing should take the lead in defining the target audience, building out the segments, buyer personas, the brand positioning, value positioning, and product messaging and pricing. These activities set up the company to go to market in an efficient way.
The second set of activities is operational. Marketing sets up lead routing, lead scoring, lead nurture programs, and build out different pieces of content such as webinars, whitepapers, blog posts.
The job of marketing shifts between the two categories of activities depending on the state of the business. You start with strategy in the early days of a company – figuring out your target audience, core value proposition, brand messaging, etc.
Then, you come up with a plan and shift to operational mode, where marketing creates materials, programs and develops a scalable engine that fuels growth. At some point, as your company starts to saturate one niche of the market, or sees more competition, you go back to focusing on strategy and refining that.
Adam (Demand Generation Marketing Manager): Marketing’s primary job is to enable sales. Get sales the right kinds of leads that can close. Marketing’s role is in defining the funnel and controlling the gate: what kinds of people do we want in the funnel? Marketing also enables sales by providing the materials prospects need to make a decision. Marketing should also make sure that sales has the right data about leads in the CRM system so that sales can have productive conversations.
Lastly, marketing is responsible for branding, and making sure that the company is well positioned in the market. Marketing has to drive this effort because we’re sitting at the top of the funnel. We have to keep in mind whether we are getting the right types of prospects into the funnel, because this maps back to sales.
How does the marketing team stay aligned with the sales team?
Aseem: At Socedo, marketing goals are driven by sales. We start with our revenue target. We take a look at the revenue amount we need next month and the following month. From there, we figure out how many new leads Marketing needs to generate.
Because we’re growing so rapidly, we’re trying new channels or lead sources every month. Not all sources bring us the same quality of leads. Because leads from different sources close at different rates, it’s hard to predict how many marketing qualified leads we really need to hit a certain revenue goal.
While marketing and sales are aligned today on the revenue goal, we could be even more aligned. We could be making sure that every piece of content marketing produces maps to a specific stage of the buyer journey, or maps to a sales need.
Adam: Once we’re aligned to a revenue goal for the next month, marketing starts to figure out where that growth would come from. Can we ramp up any of our existing channels? Do we need to open up a new channel or try a new lead generation program? Whatever we decide to do, we have to think about how our programs impact the quality of leads we deliver to sales. We talk to Jack – our VP of Sales – to get alignment on the types of leads that sales reps are ready to call down.
What goals do we track in marketing?
Aseem: Right now, our goal is very simple. We track MQLs. A Marketing Qualified Lead is defined as someone who is using a marketing automation system. We know that those are our best leads. These marketers work at companies of a certain size. They understand concepts like lead capturing, lead scoring, and lead nurturing. Once leads pass through a firmographic gate based on specific characteristics we look for, they are scored based on engagement with our content, e.g. signing up for a webinar, or downloading a whitepaper. Once they reach a lead score of 50, we pass them over to sales.
In the future, we’ll move towards setting revenue-based marketing goals, so that marketing can take more responsibility for sales acceleration.
Adam: We track MQLs right now. Up until recently, we’ve had a fairly flat conversion funnel. We drive people to a landing page, and get them to sign up for our free trial. Right now, we get a majority of MQLs from our free trial sign-up. As we get more specific about our audience and try to improve conversion rate (or closed-won rate) of the leads we pass to sales, our strategy needs to shift to one where we can identify the right leads, whether these leads sign up for a trial or not.
Now that we’ve moved to a state where we score leads based on how they interact with our content, tracking MQLs is not as relevant as it used to be.
What does the marketing team do on quarterly, monthly and weekly basis from a goal setting perspective?
Adam: we figure out how many MQLs we need to deliver to sales on a monthly basis. Marketing sit down with our VP of Sales – Jack — and Aseem. They tell us their revenue target for the next month. Because we know the historical conversion rates on each channel and type of program, we can use revenue and conversion rates to calculate a high level MQL monthly goal.
We break down the monthly goal by programs, i.e. paid ads, paid lists, blog, email, events, third party publications, search, webinars, word of mouth, etc. We ask ourselves: what programs can we rely on to give us a similar number of MQLs next month? What programs or lead sources are going away next month (i.e. an event we sponsored last month, a partner webinar)? What are the new channels or programs we will try? Given the current mix of planned activities, where do we land in terms of MQLs?
We sit down on a weekly basis to track our progress, and look at MQLs by each channel. In the weekly planning meeting, we identify areas of opportunities in specific channels, make tactical adjustments in the same week.
Aseem: Right now, we don’t set quarterly goals. We’re in a fast-changing organization where sales targets grow each month. We have certain marketing programs planned several months out, but our business is in a monthly cadence right now.
How does sales and marketing work together to ensure that the leads passed to sales are high quality?
Adam: Right now, marketing and sales jointly define the type of lead we want. Our VP of Sales- Jack – developed a sales process that every sales reps adheres to. Think of it as a SLA (service level agreement). At Socedo, sales reps follow a 10-day process with each lead.
Aseem: Sales takes the attitude that every lead passed to them gets worked through the process. It’s the process that qualifies leads, not individual sales reps. If the lead didn’t close, it gets sent back to marketing.
Because the sales process is constant, marketing is able to identify specific lead sources that aren’t performing well, or specific audience segments that aren’t converting.
If the marketing team can get more data on revenue, we’ll have a better idea on whether we’re doing the right thing.
For example, we know that customers who get the most value from Socedo are the ones with marketing automation systems. This makes sense because these organizations are able to consume the leads and nurture the leads. They have a clear sales process and know where Socedo fits in. But we also sell to organizations that don’t have a marketing automation system in place.
If we have revenue tracking turned on, we would know what percentage of revenue comes from people who are using marketing automation versus people who aren’t. Once we do the analysis, we may find that 80% of revenue comes from organizations with marketing automation. This type of data will help us focus our energy at the end of the day.
Setting revenue-based marketing goals is hard to do in practice, what steps do you take to move in that direction?
Aseem: It’s easy to talk about the benefits of setting revenue based goals, but it’s actually a hard thing to do. The data isn’t going to be perfect. Right now, we don’t have the integrations between all of our systems to get visibility into how our marketing initiatives impact revenue.
Even the next step of connecting our marketing automation system to Salesforce to help us see the revenue numbers is something we’re working towards.
Getting Salesforce to track revenue in the way we’d like requires custom work. In our business – the SaaS business – monthly recurring revenue is what we care about. But Salesforce is not set up to track monthly recurring revenue out of the box.
Adam: One baby step we’ve taken towards setting revenue-based marketing goals is breaking down our monthly MQL number by channels. We use a ground-up approach to come up with our monthly MQL goal. We assign MQL numbers to each channel (i.e. email, social media, paid ads, Socedo, paid lists, webinars, free trial, pricing request, etc.)
For each channel, we look at MQL to Opportunity rate, and Opportunity to Close-Won rate. By tracking these conversions, we can see that leads who come in through certain sources (i.e. a pricing request) moves through the sales pipeline significantly faster than leads from other sources (i.e. a webinar). From there, we can adjust our lead scoring model to put greater weights on lead sources that convert well, and less weight on lead sources that don’t convert well.
How do you keep different teams – Marketing, SDRs, Sales, Customer Success – from tripping over each other from a goals perspective?
Aseem: The key is to make sure each team has as specific focus. Have different teams focus on different parts of the funnel: prospecting, closing, working with existing customers.
It’s important for everyone in the company to have a common definition of our target audience.
We had this problem in the past: Before we tightened up our MQL definition, we decided that anyone who signs up for a trial is a lead that sales reps will sell to. Our Customer Success team found that it’s challenging for some new customers to be successful – because our product isn’t set up to help all types of businesses.
Our product does not serve B2C customers as well as it serves B2B customers focused on lead generation. We knew that, but we did not make the decision until a few months ago. Once we decided that we want to sell to B2B customers (not B2C), Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success all got aligned around this type of customer.
Any parting thoughts?
Aseem: Goal setting is an exercise that requires constant refinement. We set monthly goals because it allows us to stay agile. We want our goals to be realistic, so that we can assess where we are on a weekly basis and make tactical adjustments in real time.
Your goal should be realistic and achievable. When you set a goal, think about what it takes to reach this goal with your current level of resources. Your goal should be achievable if the marketing team is pushing at 100%. If you don’t make it, you can adjust it.
Adam: Don’t shy away from getting qualitative feedback from sales. Sales can give Marketing qualitative feedback on lead quality. You need to get this kind of feedback, especially after you start a new program. It helps you realize that something isn’t working and make adjustments quickly.