Jason Hekl is Vice President and Group Director at SiriusDecisions. A seasoned, 20+ year B2B sales and marketing leader, he specializes in the development and execution of demand creation strategies to accelerate growth. His expertise spans most facets of marketing, including strategy and planning, operations, demand generation, communications, product marketing and management, inbound marketing, analyst and media relations, channel marketing, partner management and lead development.

Q: How has marketing automation technology affected the development and execution of demand creation strategies in the SMB market?

A: Marketing automation has been a great enabler for marketers to quickly achieve scale in their efforts. With persona-level insights, contextually relevant content, good data, and automated rules-based workflows, SMB marketers have the tools they need to attract, engage, qualify and convert the right type of demand to drive growth. Plus, marketing automation tools give visibility to what marketing is doing, and how those efforts impact both pipeline and revenue.

Q: How should struggling SMBs address the misalignment between marketing and sales?

A: Start by establishing goal-based outcomes that both marketing and sales can rally around. For marketers used to focusing on activity metrics, this will represent a significant change. But when you shift your attention to affecting outcomes, and incentivizing marketing teams with contribution targets for sourcing and influencing pipeline and revenue, you open the door for real dialogue between sales and marketing and identify opportunities to better collaborate throughout the demand waterfall; because everyone is figuring out how their respective efforts contribute to a goal that is much larger, and important, than any one individual’s activities.

Q: A 2014 Accenture study showed that 42% of CMOs believe that analytics will become a core competence of marketing in the next five years, yet only 49% are satisfied with current analytical capabilities. What do SMBs need to understand about measurement and analytics to be successful with marketing automation?

A: Start by putting some discipline into setting goals. Measurement and analytics will be of limited value if it doesn’t start from a standpoint of comparing actual performance against reasonable targets. More importantly, though, I encourage marketers to think like scientists. Use measurement and analytics to support the formation of hypotheses on actions you can take to improve the business, and then run experiments to validate or disprove those hypotheses. It’s an iterative process. For every question you answer, two or three new questions should be asked. Measurement and analytics should be the foundation of ongoing diagnostics against your strategies and programs, to better inform decision-making. By contrast, manipulating numbers to support a narrative to appease upper management, without real interpretation and actionable insights, is just a waste of time.

Q: How important is lead scoring in the marketing-sales funnel?

A: Well, that really depends on how lead scoring is utilized. If your model is architected based on data-driven insights—so that it reliably identifies and prioritizes leads with highest propensity to buy—and that model is then validated through your sales channels and verified through performance comparisons to a control group, then lead scoring is absolutely essential. But if lead scoring is a no more than a marketing initiative based on loose assumptions, and is not validated with sales channels, nor continuously monitored and optimized, it will likely fail and cause productivity to drop. Unfortunately, too many marketers rush to implement lead scoring, without first developing a sound strategy for its utilization and optimization; and it misses the mark with their sales teams. In a research study SiriusDecisions conducted last year, just 40% of sales respondents agreed with the statement that lead scoring is effective.

Click to view the 2014 Accenture Interactive CMO Insights Survey

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