There’s been a sea-change in B2B marketing and it’s all about our relationship to revenue.

Here’s why it’s a good thing, why it’s an inevitable thing and what you B2B marketers can do about it.

i’ve sifted through dozens of ‘B2B Marketing Predictions’ blog posts over the last few weeks and there is one that is showing up a lot more than in last year’s batch: B2B marketers will be much more accountable for revenue going forward. The R-word topic is so ubiquitous in B2B blogs that it’s at risk of becoming a truism.

Cue fuzzy flashback…

It reminds me of when I was a pup account exec at Ogilby & Mather in New York (way back before Mather was erased from the brand but after Benson was).

By some twisted irony, I was responsible for a handful of budgets. That meant a lot of spreadsheet work, which, in 1983, involved actual spreadhseet paper and lots of erasing and recalculating every time a number changed. 

Then Lotus 1-2-3 was invented and my world changed overnight. I could change a single number in a spreadsheet and watch the implications trickle across the entire budget. Instantly. It was beautiful. For about a month, I was the God of Budgets. Asked for an update, I’d bring in three, showing different scenarios. I was a bloody star.

Until one day, my account supervisor looked over my shoulder and discovered the power of Lotus 1-2-3 for herself. Now my advantage had become a hygiene thing. She knew she could ask for dozens of budget iterations and models and what-ifs and would expect it all in minutes instead of days. Damn.

Well, the Great Revenue Epiphany in B2B is kind of like that. The progressive marketers who discovered that they could track their activities and map them to actual revenue have been the superstars of the last few years (people like John Watton at ShipServ).

But soon, revenue ownership will be like spreadsheet software: everyone will be doing it; every boardroom will expect it; so no one will be a hero by doing it.

But if the new era of revenue won’t make as many heros, it will expose thousands of people who just aren’t up to the task. Most of today’s senior B2B marketers spent most of their careers being judged by things like whether the sales team liked the new brochure or exhibition stand.

They weren’t judged by revevenue generation because of three things:

a) no one thought marketing really drove revenue;

b) mostly, they were right; and

c) even if they did believe marketing to be a revenue engine, there was no easy way of proving it.

Well now there is, so if you want a great career in B2B marketing (in fact, a far better career than would have been possible even five years ago), you need to get good at generating revenue and proving it. That means doing these kinds of things:

  • Make nice with the sales team 

    You can’t count the money if there’s still a Berlin Wall between marketing and sales. Knock it down. Talk to the sales team about their sales process. Agree on the definition of a sales-ready lead. Agree on what to do when one is passed on to them (and when one gets passed back).

    Nail down the dynamics of your company’s sales funnel. Know your conversion rates. Calculate how many real leads need to be generated to hit revenue targets. You get the idea.

  • Release your inner geek 

    Analytics is the heart and soul of digital B2B marketing. If you’re not excited by the kinds of things you see in Google Analytics, you might be in the wrong job. In any case, hire someone who is excited by it. Because analytics is to B2B what air and water are to the human body.

  • Release your inner mother 

    Leads aren’t netted like fish any more. They’re nurtured like little babies in swaddling clothes. Lead Nurturing is what you do with everyone that isn’t yet sales-ready. It turns what used to be chaff back into wheat. And it’s core to B2B-as-revenue-engine.

  • Man up and own the pipeline

    Declare a revenue target and do it publicly. Stick your neck out. In Year One it will feel awfully scary. But it will get better as you start forecasting based on historical data.

  • Become a publisher

    If marketing is a revenue engine, content is the fuel. Your analytics will tell you: it’s what works in B2B marketing.

  • Go beyond basic SEO 

    In most B2B markets, search is the main feed into the top of your funnel. If you still think SEO hygiene (tags, titles, URLs) are the beginning and end of search marketing, it’s time to wake up and smell the Starbucks.

    In all but the least competitive markets (know any?) on-page SEO won’t earn ranking and traffic any more. Off-page content marketing and active backlink-building will.

  • Socialise intelligently 

    Yes, social media is a powerful B2B tool (especially as a vector for content marketing) but you have to balance your time investment with the returns. Use social to meet and engage with key influencers in the market.

    But if you find yourself checking to see if anyone has retweeted you in the last hour, it’s time to close TweetDeck and get some real work done.

That’s just a quick overview of the kinds of things you’ll need to master in the age of Revenue Marketing. The good part: it’s exciting, it’s fun to learn and once you’re good at it you will be utterly un-fire-able. So get those dollar signs into your PowerPoints.