Blog post

Is Revenue Better than Leads?

By Todd Berkowitz | December 19, 2013 | 2 Comments

Marketing MetricsGo to MarketFuture of Salescustomer experience


In AT&T’s We Want More commercial, one of several great ones featuring Beck Bennett and groups of young kids, he asks “Is more better than less?” Her reply was priceless: “More is better than less because if there’s more less stuff, then you might want to have some more. However, your parents won’t let you because there’s only a little. If you really like something, you’ll want more of it.”

So imagine that I put four technology or service provider CMOs at a table (small chairs of course like Bennett did in AT&T’s High Fives commercial with NBA greats) and asked, “Is Revenue Better than Leads?” I’d likely get some quizzical stares, perhaps a “duh!” or maybe even a slap in the face!

While every B2B technology company on the planet knows the correct answer, they dont all practice what they preach. The nearly unyielding focus by many technology companies on Marketing Qualified Leads or MQLs has some clear advantages, but also many drawbacks. (See my post from a few days ago or my recent research note about this subject). And one of the unfortunate drawbacks is that while marketers have learned how to create a lot of MQLs, they often neglect the more important function of helping the field close deals!

Yes, it’s still the responsibility of the sales teams to close deals and that’s why they get paid the big bucks. But marketing must play a role in generating actual revenue instead of a bunch of leads. Given the shift in both resources and focus from many tech CMOs towards demand generation, several key changes need to take place to make this happen. That is the focus of my research note called “Tech Go-to-Market: Technology Marketers Need to Help Create Revenue, Not Just Leads.

I go into a lot more detail in the note, but I talked with more than fifteen CMOs and marketing leaders earlier this year and I wanted to find out what strategies they used to help balance the desire to create more qualified leads with the necessity of helping ensure that opportunities get closed. Some of them were primarily focused on generating MQLs, but the ones that took a more balanced approach felt that marketing was more successful and positively perceived than the ones that didn’t. They employed three critical strategies, all of which occurred “upstream” or prior to demand generation taking place, that helped them be successful. They included:

  • Creating a Strong Product Marketing Function- Product marketing is responsible for messaging and positioning, segmentation, competitive intelligence, launches, deal support and many other critical functions; When properly used, product marketing serves as the bridge between the rest of marketing, the field, the development organizations and the market, but when marginalized, product marketing merely provides content for campaigns.
  • Making Sales Enablement More Robust- With a buying cycle that is more customer-driven, sales must act as knowledgeable guides; Considerable time and effort needs to be put in to ensure that sales can truly add value to their interactions with prospects.
  • Increasing Investments in Customer Reference and Advocacy Programs- Customer references are hugely important in influencing a prospect to choose your company over a competitor and act as your best advocates; If you want to increase deal-closure rates, you must make customer references and advocacy core to your marketing mission.

Trying to make all of these changes overnight is a Herculean task, so hopefully you are already doing at least one of them. If not, talk to key salespeople (both leadership and those closer to customers) and pick the one that you think will either have the greatest impact or can provide the quickest “win.” More to come in this space over the next few months.

One more thing- keep this mantra in mind: “We want revenue! We want revenue! We want revenue!”

Leave a Comment


  • Paige ONeill says:

    Great post, Todd. Completely agree. We’ve all seen a focus on MQLs drive the wrong marketing behavior. At SDL we are aligning 100% with sales on revenue targets to measure marketing. Of course I still care about the volume of MQLs within my department as a sign of overall demand gen health, but we are not being measure on that. In the meantime, exactly as you say — we are doubling down on product marketing, sales enablement and customer references.

    • Todd Berkowitz says:

      Paige- Thanks for the comment. I’ve always believed that marketing will get no credit if the company misses it’s revenue target, even if they hit the MQL target. So at the end of the day, it does really come back to revenue. It takes a strong CMO to push back on MQLs as the ultimate measurement tool in sales or technology-driven cultures, so hoping this note gives some ammo to help make the argument.