The Summer of Metrics: How I Got My Team To Ask Why

September 6, 2017 Latané Conant

Ok, so “The Summer of Metrics” doesn’t exactly bring back the same nostalgia as listening to music on the boardwalk or eating an ice cream cone. Nevertheless, it’s been an exciting summer for me, dedicated to really digging into our metrics and measurement as a marketing function. (I guess I’m what Tim Minahan would call a data wonk.) Culturally, Appirio is already very metrics-driven (particularly at the leadership level), so we’re always thinking about our numbers and how to improve, and we’ve come a long way in just the past three years.

One of the first things I did when transitioning from sales to marketing, was establish a quota. The saleswoman in me just had to know — are we crushing it? (Or not?) Sounds pretty simplistic, but often marketing teams don’t have consistent measurement across the entire organization. Part of the reason for that is there’s never a “perfect” measurement. Also, if you don’t have the right systems in place, it’s impossible to track stuff. Luckily, Appirio is 100 percent in the cloud, and the majority of our data lives in our Salesforce org. So, we can get down to the business of tracking pretty quickly.

What should we be tracking?

For us, the question wasn’t how to track, but what to track. We eventually landed on “sourced bookings” (% of closed deals that originated through a marketing activity) and “influenced bookings”(% of closed deals that marketing touched somehow in the sales cycle). Again, there are no perfect metrics, but when I hit the analyst reports and spoke with folks in my network, that seemed to be our best bet to get the data I was after.

Identifying the metrics that we would focus on was also a great way to get everyone on the team focused on results. It helped us look past what we think is working, and make decisions based on what we actually know is working (and what isn’t). Now, every conversation and decision happening on my team always comes back to the data. We question everything, and know the right questions to ask. “Yeah, sales said this event was great, but did it create any pipeline?” I also made sure it was pretty clear that influenced bookings are just a great consolation prize; the real deal is driving NEW pipe (even if it’s through existing customers).

Getting back to the basics of data-driven decision making was a fairly easy step to take, and has really started to pay off for us. Now we can really start to look at ROI. “So for every dollar we spent on this project, how much pipe did we get?” Once we started tracking those metrics, it became like a hurdle race, with everyone chasing those ideal numbers. And it immediately changed the conversations happening within marketing and our sales organization. My goal was for everyone on my team to become a questioner. “What do we prioritize?” “Should we kill some programs?” “Where should we invest more?”

While I believe these are big strides for us, they aren’t necessarily predictive — yet. What I really wanted to find out is if we’re doing what we need to do to hit our numbers. This required taking a much deeper look at the top of the funnel, and putting some predictive modeling in place. Of course having Salesforce applications that can do that for us makes it a lot easier, and we’ve also brought in a solution called Full Circle Insights. This tool has helped us do a better job of understanding velocity — looking earlier in the funnel (lead-level, rather than opportunity), and gives us better attribution. “Was it really the blog or the event that contributed to that lead?” “What counts the most?” “How can we tell if a lead is qualified?” We implemented lead scoring and created a 100-point threshold to tell when a lead is qualified. Until it gets to those points, we continue to nurture. This helps eliminate the common back-and-forth between sales and marketing; sales is saying leads suck and marketing is saying sales is not following up on leads. Because of the focus, we can now look at our monthly numbers and get a pretty good feel for whether or not we’re hitting the raw pipeline numbers we need.

Summer is almost over — now what?

While it’s almost time for pumpkin-spiced lattes and cute fall boots, I’ll continue to drive the initiatives from the summer of metrics — and continue asking “why” about everything we do. “We’re exceeding our goals… WHY?” “Leads are down … WHY?” “Why did this ebook get thousands of downloads, and this one not so much?” And it’s not just me asking — I wanted to create a culture of why; a culture of curiosity. To do this we are drilling down a lot deeper by function and even individual, so it’s based on the real activities that people are doing. I have my “Latane Bible Dashboard” that I look at everyday, but how does the work everyone is doing flow into that? How does everyone on the team move the needle and have the data they need to ask WHY?

So we set a goal: By the end of July, all my direct reports had their own dashboard created with the metrics that count. By end of August, everyone on their teams will get their own dashboard with the metrics that matter for them.

This isn’t meant to become some weird micromanagement strategy; we’re doing it because it’s fun to ask why, and it helps my team see how the great work they’re doing really impacts the business. It’s fun to get instant feedback on what’s working and what’s not. High performers want to perform. They thrive on data. So put the ability to make data-driven decisions in their hands.

Ahhh the Summer of Metrics … maybe not a summer we’ll recount to our grandchildren, but meaningful nonetheless.

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