Why CMOs Must Embrace Responsibility for Revenue

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

cover-wholeBy Debbie Qaqish

In today’s business world, marketers who embrace their responsibility to advance revenue with in their organizations advance professionally. Of course, this fact wasn’t always top of mind for marketing executives.

When I was vice president of marketing for an Atlanta software firm several years ago, the CEO walked into my office one morning and asked me point blank: “So, Debbie, what are you going to do about revenue?”

My first thought was, It says VP of marketing on the door—not VP of sales!

Like many companies, top-line revenue growth and profit were business imperatives for us, and it had become clear that simply adding more salespeople as a path to revenue growth was just not going to cut it.

Our CEO was doing what good CEOs do best—pushing each member of the executive team to think outside the box and look for new solutions to the age-old problem of revenue production. Given my sales background, my CEO was asking me to look at marketing from a new angle—a revenue angle.

As a former VP of sales, I was used to talking about revenue. But throughout all my  years in sales, I had never asked myself how marketing might directly impact revenue and—moreover—how to track the metrics to prove that it did. For me, it had always been about acquiring qualified leads with little help from marketing. Marketing was the creative side, the “make it pretty” department. I honestly didn’t care what font or color was being used on the website. I had a sales team to run, and we had a number to hit.

My personal experience with marketing had very little to do with revenue production—that was the sole domain of sales and, frankly, marketing was not my problem. And it certainly wasn’t the answer.

But all of that changed when I took the role of vice president of marketing and my CEO asked me The Question. My perception of marketing as not being a direct revenue contributor went up in smoke, and my journey to becoming a revenue marketer began.

Immediately, I went into investigative mode. I searched for experts, asking them what marketers can do about revenue, and soon became engaged with marketing automation.

I still remember the meeting, the people, the room, and even the date of my first marketing automation capabilities presentation. I was blown away. I instantly knew it had the potential to totally change how I was running my marketing organization and the role marketing would play in driving revenue. I knew this would dramatically change the relationship between sales and marketing, redefine how revenue is driven, and help me answer my CEO’s challenge.

A Real World Example: Premiere Global Services   

Marketing hasn’t always had a seat at the revenue table at Premiere Global Services (PGi), a worldwide provider of conferencing and collaboration solutions. Marketing was known for producing great graphics, buying lists and sending direct mail campaigns, but this wasn’t producing the results needed to grow the company.

PGi wanted to move marketing from its traditional role to a revenue center. Marketing had not been held accountable for revenue results in the past and knew they needed to earn credibility.

When Liz McClellan came on board as the vice president of field marketing, she began to reeducate the organization. She immediately started working hand in hand with sales to transition marketing from working with unqualified suspects to a process where they could better qualify and nurture leads into true prospects, and then hand truly qualified leads over to sales.

McClellan included metrics in every conversation, as she challenged sales executives to imagine a better world where sales spent less time hunting and more time closing. She convinced leadership that, instead of increasing sales headcount, marketing would enable sales to be vastly more productive.

“We got their attention because we talked to them about things they could relate to, about how we would move the needle from the top of the funnel to closed sales,” said McClellan. “We discussed the difference between suspects, prospects and leads. Right up front, I told them that what they had been calling a ‘lead’ wasn’t really a lead.”

An infrastructure for a tightly integrated sales and marketing team was put in place over several months. At a recent sales kick-off with 400 people, Marc Lambert, senior vice president of sales, turned to McClellan and said, “I now totally get what you were saying. The answer isn’t necessarily about adding more headcount. It’s about building the proper infrastructure to make our existing reps more productive. I support you 100%.”

This article is an excerpt from Debbie Qaqish’s new book “Rise of the Revenue Marketer: An Executive Playbook”.  The book is based on interviews with 22 executive marketers from companies like GE, Citrix, Sage and IronMountain. Quqish is the principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group.


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