Meet your 2016 sales goals by turning your marketing outside-in

20th Jan 2016

Ah, a fresh New Year lays out like a blank sheet of paper ahead of us. I can’t be the only one to have set out some pretty hefty goals for the next twelve months.

The questions are: Have you put them in context? And, are you prioritising profitably?

Many marketing plans I see have volume goals for things like the number of Twitter followers, site traffic, or email open rates.

Very few that take these goals all the way through to profitable customers, and fewer still that map these goals in profitable order against stages in a buying decision.

Turn your marketing outside-in to identify focus areas

Most marketing metrics are inside-out. That is to say, they focus you on measuring outcomes (effect) that show up inside an organisation, resulting from an action (cause) a person outside the organisation has taken

It is extremely difficult to create compelling marketing for a metric that is not set within a real human context.

To make these metrics meaningful you need to turn them outside-in, which is to say that you need to reverse from the effect to find the cause.

The way I like to map marketing metrics back to their context is to draw up a table in which you reverse through the buying decision, by asking these five questions:

  1. Metric: What is it that you are counting?
  2. Stage of sale: At what stage in our internal sales process would this typically place them?
  3. Action: What action has the person taken to show up here?
  4. Stage of decision: Where does this mean they are likely to be in their decision? (I typically use the Kotler Model of Rational Decision-Making for this)
  5. Marketing task: What does marketing need to do to support that stage of decision and facilitate that action?

Here’s a simple table for an online business selling through webinars:

Metrics table

This exercise will often highlight two key considerations:

  1. Are the metrics truly representative of where someone is in their decision?
  2. Are there metrics across the whole buying decision?

When you track back to the action someone would have taken to truly pick up the label in your sales system, I often find that none exists. For example, a company will tell me that they ‘buy in leads’ perhaps someone has ticked a survey box on a third party site. These usually get counted in the metrics as ‘leads’ – but if you investigate the action taken by the human beings behind the data, it is obvious that they have not been sussing you out at all. In fact, they’ve never heard of you.

The question I ask is ‘would that person wear the label you’ve given them?’ If not, then don’t attribute it to them. When you have metrics set in their true context, your marketing team is much better able to create campaigns and activities that facilitate the action you are looking for.

The second consideration often shows a focus on measuring the top of the process. Metrics for Awareness and Interest abound, with fewer and less focus on what happens down stream.

It takes concerted effort and coordination between teams to get the fuller picture – but doing so will always benefit everyone involved. The customer gets a more fluid and coherent end-to-end journey, sales people have conversations with genuine leads, and marketers know where to concentrate their energy. However… many do this the wrong way up.

Swim upstream to generate sustainable returns

Once you’ve got to these top line metrics, the next step is to zoom in to interrogate exactly what’s happening to move people to each point, and from one to the next.

When reviewing a customer journey in this way, it’s pretty typical to arm yourself with a set of post-its, a large wall and then walk through the process from your customers’ perspective. This means that you typically map the path in the direction of flow, from a prospect first hearing about you to eventually becoming a customer, and beyond. You map it forwards.

In doing this, you will uncover pinch points and stumbling blocks in your set-up. We call this ‘profit leaks’ as it is usually where someone on whom you’ve spent money exits the process. It can be very tempting to fix these leaks in the order in which your prospects find them.

However, and perhaps a little counter-intuitively, when it comes to making profitable investments in improving the journey you’ve mapped, it is often much more effective to walk in the other direction. You fix it backwards.

This is because people pick up costs as they go. The further they get without buying, the more expensive they are. This means that fixing from the top is almost always the least efficient use of your time and money.

Two regions

So, if you’ve been set goals to reach in 2016 it is well worth setting them in context of the whole customer decision. Because, meeting your volume targets at the top of the process might not actually be the best thing to do for overall, and long-term, profitability.

For optimum profit, it’s not the goals at each stage that really matter, but the ratios between them. You don’t want people to stand still… you want them to move forwards, so that should be your focus.

To pinpoint the optimal priorities for a marketing team, we take people through a process of creating a traffic light report the marketing activities that support someone moving from stage in the process to the next, from the bottom up.

Once you have something in place that is ‘functional and not embarrassing’ at each step, you will start making money. From there on in, you are almost always better tweaking your leaks from the bottom up. Get anything on Red to Amber, from the lowest point upwards. Then, go back to the bottom, and move anything from Amber to Green.

With a clear customer context in mind from looking outside-in, and a commitment to improving from the bottom up, your marketing effectiveness builds profit like compound interest.

© Bryony Thomas.

Bryony Thomas is a professional speaker on marketing, the multi-award winning author of ‘Watertight Marketing’, and the founder of the UK’s only directory of quality-assured independent marketing consultants,

Grab your free digital copy of Watertight Marketing here

Replies (2)

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By houstonone
20th Jan 2016 15:53

This is a very thought provoking blog. I would like to know whether you think these outside in metrics would make the relationship between marketing & finance better. All of this is very sensible stuff but I wonder whether non-marketing departments are used to a particular set of metrics and by changing them you might confuse the people that you are relying on for investments in marketing. Perhaps they should just send the finance team a link to this article!

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Replying to houstonone:
Bryony Thomas
By Bryony Thomas
22nd Jan 2016 12:18

Getting non-marketers on board is actually much easier when you take this approach. I would replace your traditional labels, I would supplement them with the addition of the 'cause' label alongside to always set the metric in context. It can certainly be a challenge to get this more holistic approach in place, but the effort of cross-departmental reporting and common terminology & meaning pays dividends!

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