Sometimes I feel like Colombo.
For the Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zs reading this article, Columbo was a frumpy, bumbling detective on a late ‘60s TV show. The modus operandi of the detective was that he was very observant and asked obvious questions. As a result, he was often perceived as not being “in the know” or not that bright. Ironically, he always solved the crime. As I carefully observe the ever-changing landscape of the marketing operations (MO) function, I must ask the most obvious question: Why doesn’t marketing have accountability for a revenue number? This is a Columbo-type question – the answer may seem obvious and I may seem not to be in the know, but there is more to this question.
If you have read any of my articles, you know I am a huge fan of everything that makes a MO group function well. This includes how the group is structured, who they report to, their roles and responsibilities, their martech stack and how they bring an operational discipline to marketing.
As we throw everything but the kitchen sink at the MO group, their responsibilities have greatly expanded beyond optimizing technology for marketing. Yet, 99% of the MO groups I talk and work with, have no direct revenue accountability. They often tell me, “Well, we are responsible for driving efficiency and effectiveness that enables marketing to meet their goals.” On the surface, this may seem reasonable and you are probably nodding your head in affirmation. However, I challenge this statement. First, because it sounds exactly like the response from the traditional IT group as to why they need to manage martech for marketers. Second, because it is a cop out response, similar to what I’d expect to hear from traditional marketing best known as the pens & mugs department who create killer swag.
Martech’s Promise: Revenue Accountability
The promise of martech being managed by marketing and not IT was that the tech-focused entity needed to be a unicorn – proficient in technology, marketing and running marketing like a business (revenue oriented). During this time, tremendous pressure was being applied to marketing to use all this new technology to step up and assume financial accountability in terms of contribution to pipeline and closed business. I often call the rise of the MO function, the CMO’s mulligan – a second chance to get the technology, people and process in line to produce credible financial results.
The rise of the MO function was first observed by analyst firm IDC in its annual Tech Marketing Benchmarks study early in 2005, with a detailed analysis and framework for the staffing requirements and responsibilities for this role′s contribution to marketing. Thirteen years later, I am dismayed to not find revenue front and center as a goal for the MO team. With that said, I understand the pressures of the organization given the direct connection between technology and operations. What I don’t get is where revenue got lost.
The Traditional MO Analyst
Let’s look at an analyst role in the context of a non-revenue accountable MO function. In this type of MO organization, the MO analyst is responsible for data mining and analysis to provide actionable insights to improve marketing performance. These insights are most often associated with improvements in three distinct areas: system functionality, processes and campaign/content. Reporting may also be part of the role. The problem with the traditional MO analyst role is it is too often tactically focused. The MO analyst looks to improve parts of the puzzle, not the entire puzzle.
From Analyst to Revenue Analyst
Fortunately, the MO analyst role is continuously evolving. I was recently talking with a director of a very interesting organization that has combined marketing ops, sales ops and customer success ops. One key role in the organization was the analyst who reported directly to the director. The reason was to ensure data analysis was honest and best served the needs of the customer and the company. This was especially important around customer data as the company had just completed a pivot away from being product-centric to customer-centric. As I pondered on this analyst’s customer focused role, I asked myself, “With all this data at hand and given marketing’s responsibility for revenue, shouldn’t there be a revenue analyst (RA) role?”
The Rise of the Revenue Analyst (RA)
In all honesty, I have yet to see this role on a marketing operations team. It seems to fall on the VP or CMO to figure out this part. My premise is that if a MO team had a dedicated revenue analyst, marketing would over-achieve their number. Let’s look at key elements of this role
The focus of the revenue analyst is to optimize not just marketing performance in general, but a specific number. That number might be the contribution to the pipeline or closed business in terms of percentage and dollars. It would not be a number of MQLs. With this focus, I suggest this role needs a sales background and needs to be intimate with how a sales funnel works. Next, the revenue analyst needs to be an opportunity spotter.
Translation: she uses data to continuously examine the entire customer life-cycle from acquisition to expansion to advocacy and determines the best opportunities where marketing can invest and get the greatest return. With a deep analytical acumen that is passionately applied to spot the best ROI opportunities, the revenue analyst is poised to optimize martech for its ultimate purpose – making marketing accountable for revenue.
Clearly, marketing has other responsibilities such as customer engagement. My argument is that the revenue analyst can only drive optimal revenue results based on a deep understanding of the customer. In this sense, the revenue analyst is a two-for-one.
Marketing gets a better revenue result while driving improved customer engagement.