Blog post

Making Win/Loss Analysis Count

By Todd Berkowitz | May 19, 2014 | 1 Comment

product strategyMessaging and PositioningMarketing MetricsGo to Market

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I grew up in Denver, Colorado in the 1980s. Denver has always been a football-crazed town, especially when the Broncos were playing well. We had a future NFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback (who is now the team’s EVP and General Manager) by the name of John Elway. When you looked at his statistics compared to other quarterbacks, they didn’t always compare favorably.  But he took the team to five Super Bowls, winning two of them. So when the discussion turned to who was the greatest quarterback in the league and someone asked, “Name one statistic where Elway is number one?” the most persuasive answer was always “wins!”

Technology product marketers can measure themselves on any number of different metrics and key performance indicators, but the only one that really matters at the end of the day is revenue. You can overachieve on every other measure, but if the revenue numbers for the company (or business group or product line) come up short, it doesn’t matter. No one will pat you on the back and say “great job.”

Revenue (and ultimate success) comes down to winning as Tony Dungy, Reece Bobby. Vince Lombardi, Charlie Sheen, DJ Khaled and numerous others have said or paraphrased. Elite athletes (and their coaches) spend more hours watching tape to understand why the won or lost than they do competing in their sports. That’s because success (or continued success) depends on understanding why you did or didn’t win in previous attempts.

For technology and service providers, we call this win/loss analysis. While the vast majority of Gartner clients (and likely non-Gartner clients) do some form of win/loss analysis, only a minority (likely 35-40%) conduct it in a comprehensive, rigorous and thoughtful manner. While ad-hoc reviews about key losses can help identify obvious problems, providers that only utilize that strategy are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

This is an area that my new research note that I cover in my new research note, “Tech Go-to-Market: Three Ways Marketers Can Use Data from Win/Loss Analysis to Increase Win Rates and Revenue” (subscription required). Win/loss analysis can be a powerful tool, but only when done right and only when there is a commitment (and follow through)  to use the results to make strategic decisions and changes.

The note doesn’t talk about the basics of setting up a program, but I do highlight some prerequisites to getting it to work, including:

  • Securing buy-in not only from sales and product executives, but also senior management
  • Sharing the results broadly rather than hoarding key information
  • Conducting enough interviews to be meaningful and not making snap decisions based on limited data points

Once you have those basic tenets in place, then win/loss analysis can help improve three critical functions within most provider organizations:

  • Targeting and segmentation (helping to identify deals you “should win” rather than deals you merely “can win”
  • Product road map and strategy (understanding what capabilities will help you better improve win rates particularly against key competitors)
  • Positioning, messaging,  and sales enablement (improving the sales experience and storytelling)

There are any number of reasons why providers don’t engage in more comprehensive win/loss analysis. Culture, budget, resources, and lack of collaboration are often cited. But if revenue is the most critical metric and win percentage is the best predictor of revenue, then product marketers need to work harder to overcome the resistance.

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1 Comment

  • Ryan Sorley says:

    Brilliant piece. The results are impressive. Nice work!