CMO Rebecca Stone - CMO Chandar Pattabhiram
June 18, 2021

Perfecting B2B Marketing Metrics

Guest: CMO Rebecca Stone - CMO Chandar Pattabhiram - CMO Katie Risch, Cisco Meraki - Coupa - Centro

The perfect B2B marketing metrics dashboard doesn’t exist. Well, not in the way that you’d think. Every organization is at a different growth stage, has different opinions in the C-Suite, and has different strategic priorities, so it only makes sense that there’s no one-size-fits-all measurement standard out there. Savvy CMOs know this—and they also know that not everything marketing contributes can be measured—but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done.

In this episode, we explore which metrics matter to the CMOs at three B2B organizations: Rebecca Stone of Cisco Meraki, Chandar Pattabhiram of Coupa, and Katie Risch of Centro. This insightful discussion is about how to demonstrate the value of marketing to the C-Suite, to your organization, and to the world at large. Tune in to learn about the best “brand-quisition” metrics, the state of attribution modeling today, why employer brand metrics are really important (even if no one thinks so), and more.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • Which marketing metrics B2B marketers should focus on
  • The state of attribution modeling
  • How to build the perfect metrics dashboard

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 245 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Thinkers Live
  • [1:30] Cisco Meraki’s Priority Metrics: Net New Business and Influenced Pipeline
  • [8:11] Coupa’s Priority Metrics: See More, Win More, Win Bigger, Activate More
  • [14:52] Centro’s Priority Metrics: All of the Above, Plus Brand and Customer Retention
  • [21:19] Can (and Should) Marketers Measure Everything?
  • [26:25] On CMO Huddles
  • [28:26] The State of Attribution Modeling
  • [33:50] The Perfect Metrics Dashboard
  • [43:46] Why Employer Brand Metrics Matter
  • [47:58] Looking Ahead: Navigating Data Security Changes

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Rebecca Stone, Chandar Pattabhiram, and Katie Risch

[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Thinkers Live

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! Drew here to let you know that this episode follows a different format from our usual one-on-one marketing stories. Instead, it’s from Renegade Thinkers Live, our livestreaming series where 3 amazing B2B CMOs come together to discuss the hottest marketing topics.

And what could be hotter than the topic of metrics? That’s what this episode is dedicated to. It’s about metrics that matter when it comes to measuring marketing’s impact on the organization. It’s why marketer’s should probably take the often uttered phrase, “Don’t do it if you can’t measure it!” with a grain of salt.

Tune in to hear the amazing, brilliant Rebecca Stone of Cisco Meraki, amazing, brilliant Chandar Pattabhiram of Coupa, and amazing, brilliant Katie Risch of Centro, three CMOs who are dedicated to measuring smarter, better, and to building the perfect metrics dashboard. This one is packed with insights. I know you’re going to love it. Let’s get on to the show.

[1:30] Cisco Meraki’s Priority Metrics: Net New Business and Influenced Pipeline

“The first one that I always start with is net new business pipeline generated from marketing campaigns.” —@rlstone33 @Meraki Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser live from my home studio in New York City. So here’s the deal—as a marketer, you can be the most courageous leader, the most artful visionary, the most thoughtful content creator, but all is for not if you don’t have the right metrics in place. How else can you justify not only your role, but also how much you spend and where you spend it?

Needless to say, getting your marketing metrics right is not always easy in B2B, especially if you have 12- to 24-month sales cycles with a number of decision-makers involved. Nonetheless, you must identify metrics that matter to your CEO and to the board and then work backward from there. No metrics, no seat at the table.

And with that, I’m thrilled to bring in our first guest, the CMO of Cisco Meraki, Rebecca Stone. Rebecca was the star of Episode 134 of Renegade Thinkers Unite when she was a CMO of LiveRamp and is my go-to source for anything to do with building and optimizing a demand gen engine. Welcome, Rebecca. How are you?

Rebecca Stone: Hi, Drew, I’m good. How are you doing?

Drew Neisser: I’m good. I’m seeing a different part of your home.

Rebecca Stone: Yes. It’s not the laundry room—actually, I am still in the laundry room. It’s just a fake background.

Drew Neisser: Well, anyway, we’ve talked about, and I mentioned demand engines, and these are so important to measurement. I’m just curious—which comes first, the metrics or the tech?

Rebecca Stone: It’s a great question. I think before even the metrics and the tech is the process and the data quality because we have right now at Meraki both the technology and the metrics and it doesn’t matter because the data is so junky that nothing is actually accurate. I learned a lesson from working here—data and the quality and the thought into it are just as important as those two things you just asked about.

Drew Neisser: It’s so interesting, the clean data thing. I mean, it’s the old rule in direct marketing—and this goes back 100 years—was that 60 percent was the quality of the list, 30 percent was maybe the offer, and 10 percent was the creative, which of course always bothered me as a creative person. So that data integrity was where we start because if you have bad data, you have bad metrics, and obviously, you have bad performance.

Let’s assume for a moment we do have good-ish data. Let’s start talking about priority metrics. I feel like there might be some differences in the roles like the CEO might have a set of metrics for you and the CFO might. Let’s talk about those in terms of how you go about determining your priority metrics.

Rebecca Stone: Yep. The first one that I always start with is net new business pipeline generated from marketing campaigns. Whenever I join a company and there is not a strong set of metrics in place, that’s the first one that I establish. The reason why is because that really ties you to the sales team and it gives you a reason to be integrated and to be able to just align on what those priorities are from the very beginning. And it gives sales a desire to talk to you.

The second one that I think is really important after you think about that net new pipeline and as you’re growing is influenced pipeline. As you have established that you can set a baseline, you know how much pipeline you’re generating, the next thing on top of that is that influenced and upsell and retention number so that you can really talk to, “Hey, not just am I acquiring new customers, but I am driving benefit to existing customers and how they’re working with us.”

Drew Neisser: Interesting. I want to go back to net new business for a second. A lot of folks use the term “net new logos,” right? And sometimes when you hear a term like “net new business,” we might be thinking—these are new customers coming into the company, right? That’s not the same as adding revenue through an existing customer. And when we’re measuring that, that’s just a closed deal. We’re not looking at the value of that deal. Are we looking at this based on revenue or based on the number of new clients?

Rebecca Stone: Not number, it’s pipeline. If sales is going to be tied to a number, you’ve got to tie yourself to a number too. It’s not going to be the total number of opportunities, it has to be how much money are you actually bringing. I will say pipeline, though, not just close one business, because I think there is a certain aspect of it that does fall on the sales team, which is from that open to the time that it’s closed one. So I look at pipeline generated, not just net new business.

Drew Neisser: So pipeline generated that led to net new business.

Rebecca Stone: Exactly.

Drew Neisser: One of the tricky parts there, though, is there’s a lag time. It doesn’t become a net new business until they close it. So am I understanding this correctly? I just want to make sure for everyone else that’s listening that we know what this means, this measurement, because it sounds simple, but is that a leading indicator or a lagging indicator?

Rebecca Stone: Well, it depends on what it’s leading and lagging. I think if you track pipeline, pipeline is a leading indicator of the business that you’re bringing in. And then closed one is where that lagging indicator is of how good that business actually is that you’re driving. Now, when you want to go a layer down below CFO, I’m happy to talk about that layer of leads that you’re generating and the pipeline of leads that you’re generating to get to the level of opportunity pipeline that you’re also generating as well.

Drew Neisser: We’re going to bring on Chandar and then we’ll come back.

Rebecca Stone: Awesome.

[*:11] Coupa’s Priority Metrics: See More, Win More, Win Bigger, Activate More

“Every acquisition moment is a brand moment. How do you use brand as a way of effectively driving acquisition?” —@chandarp @Coupa Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Our next guest is Chandar Pattabhiram, who is the CMO of Coupa. Chandar was the star of both Episode 199 and Episode 14, going back in the archives when he was at Marketo. Now among his many distinctions as a rock star marketer, I’m most grateful that Chandar is on the advisory board of CMO Huddles. More on that in a minute. Anyway, welcome, Chandar.

Chandar Pattabhiram: Great, Drew. It’s great to be here. Thanks for the kind words. Looking forward to today’s discussion.

Drew Neisser: Thank you. Well, let’s start at the 10,000-foot. Are there one or two metrics that matter most to you as a CMO?

Chandar Pattabhiram: Yeah, it’s a good question and I think I want to piggyback on what Rebecca said, she said that really well. If I Google Earth it at the highest level, I would say there are three or four metrics and it depends on what you are measuring at what stage. To me, it’s See More, Win More, Win Bigger, and Activate More, which is more of the community piece.

See More is the sales accepted pipeline. It’s not just stage one pipeline—and the word “leads” and stuff like that are good within the engine room of marketing, but as we know, sales doesn’t really care about that. It’s not just even stage one opportunities, it’s accepted sales opportunities. And you have to have, in a plan of record, a goal for that every quarter. To Rebecca’s point, it’s a leading indicator. If that’s hitting the right thing, then six months from now, your business is doing well because you’re leading indicator generated enough pipeline to close six to nine months from now depending on the sales cycle.

That’s the See More. The Win More and the Win Bigger is trying to measure the effectiveness of your product marketing assuming that the CMO also runs that. No salesperson is going to come and say, “I won because your presentation was great” or “Your messaging was great” or “Your pricing was great.” So how do you measure the effectiveness of that? Effectiveness of the right go-to-market approach is, A, your ASP increasing if that’s important to you, and B, your at-bats increasing relative to the competition. So I think those are important points and at the highest level, that’s what I would start with from my perspective.

Drew Neisser: What I like about this progression is it is in fact a progression. First, we just want to get more quality leads in the system. Then we need to win a higher percentage of them if I’m understanding this correctly. Then we win bigger deals, which means we’re moving up. And then finally, there’s the last one which I wrote down but have now forgotten.

Chandar Pattabhiram: Activate More, which is, in creating this flywheel of advocacy driving acquisition, how do you activate more of your community, more of your advocates to be part of this community and activate for your brand, shout from the rooftop, and really drive the program? That was the fourth one I talked about.

Drew Neisser: Now you and I have talked about this before—and you know I love to talk about it—how brand and demand are interlinked. It’s just very difficult to separate them, yet we know that a CEO will typically approve a demand generation budget like that, and a brand budget kicking and screaming. Is there a problem? And is the problem that you can’t draw this measurable connection between brand measures and revenue growth?

Chandar Pattabhiram: It’s difficult if you’re using traditional approaches to brand building. The way I think about it, as a company is growing, I use the word “brand-quisition,” which is, every acquisition moment is a brand moment. How do you use brand as a way of effectively driving acquisition?

One tactic for that, the playbook we use at Marketo, the playbook I’m using at Coupa also is this educational marketing playbook, which is a really good playbook for a small company growing for brand building, which is how do I use content and thought leadership to drive acquisition? But that’s also a brand moment. For example, we partnered with The Economist to create this whole “the strategic CFO in a rapidly changing world.”

But I can use that asset as a brand-building asset for going after every CFO to advertise that as much as it’s a demand gen asset. I think that’s why the brand-quisition thing is really key in a company that’s growing in terms of how you look at brand and do contextual brand building.

Drew Neisser: I get those and you’re very clever because if I go to a CEO and say, “I’m doing brand-quisition,” they’ll go, “I like the acquisition part of that, so keep going.” But you’ve also invested dollars in television, which I think was really interesting for Coupa. And some might argue that that’s a little bit retro particularly as everyone went heavy into digital, particularly B2B, in the last COVID era. How do you measure the value of your TV ad buys in this context?

Chandar Pattabhiram: Well, you asked me the $64,000 dollar question. I think we went to television, again, it’s a stage of the company. We are in a different stage than we were three or four years ago. It is going from industry dominance to more mainstream prominence and that’s why we shifted into going from this great company to a great brand and how to get more mainstream. That’s why we invested more in that.

From that perspective, I think it’s a little bit of correlation then causality here, which is, one, if you see the connection to your web traffic going up in the regions that you have advertised in. Two is you do a formal brand study every year to see if the aided and unaided awareness have gone up too. And three is that every deal we won, we asked the economic buyer, “Hey, where did you see us?” We’re connecting the dots on those pieces less at scale, but more to get that emphatical point of view or anecdotal point of view on that.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I also recall from my analysis of what GE did, having been one of the largest owned stocks in the world, part of their advertising thing was also just to help them with their stock. There is some investor relations value to being it.

Chandar Pattabhiram: Totally. For example, we’ve done it on CNBC. So contextual brand, when we go after the CFO—and we didn’t just do mass marketing, but really contextually to go after the CFO in CNBC and do TV advertising in that. So that has definitely investor value too from that perspective.

Drew Neisser: As we’re talking about this, now we have these sort of surrogate brand measures of site traffic and we have our brand health measures which are real in some sense, although everyone knows that consumers of all kinds in any category are notoriously poor at remembering the exact moment they learned about a brand. All really good stuff.

[14:52] Centro’s Priority Metrics: All of the Above, Plus Brand and Customer Retention

“We want the customers who are going to be sticky, who are going to really dig in and really start to leverage our platform for all aspects of their digital media versus just one component.” —@Katie_Risch @Centro Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: It’s time to bring in our third guest, Katie Risch, who is the CMO of Centro and the star of Episode 206 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hello, Katie. How are you?

Katie Risch: Hi, I’m good. How are you, Drew?

Drew Neisser: I am great, thank you. Nice to see you.

Katie Risch: Good to see you.

Drew Neisser: Now, you’ve heard Rebecca and Chandar speak about their priority metrics. How do these compare to yours?

Katie Risch: Yeah, I mean, I would say similar camp. I liked how Chandar organized his by the See More, Win More, Activate More. I think that he hit on one of the big misperceptions, which is that you can’t really attribute any kind of ROI or value to a lot of your brand efforts.

I fundamentally disagree with that. I think if we look at a lot of our brand-building efforts, there are things that we can measure that are leading indicators, such as press mentions. We utilize our customer education arm called Centro Certified, which actually lives in the marketing department, as a really big branding tool for us so we can measure how many people are actually signing up, getting certified, sharing their badges on LinkedIn, how many those people are then converting into potential leads or customers.

I think there’s a lot we can measure from a brand-building standpoint. I think the numbers that we’re probably the most hyper-focused on, though, are really that Win More stage and looking at the revenue that has resulted in marketing-generated leads, whether that’s on the inbound or the outbound side.

The way we actually structure things is we have our BDR team sitting within marketing, so we’re able to really look at inbound and outbound holistically because those two have bled into each other. We do approach it really kind of as one lead gen strategy overall versus siloing that out.

I think the one thing that we didn’t really hit on so far was talking about the customer retention metrics. There are a couple of things that marketing is really focused on as it pertains to customer retention and customer growth. We like to look not only at new logos that are acquired through marketing efforts but then what does that returning revenue look like? What does that LTV look like for customers that were generated by marketing one or two years ago? Are we seeing them grow? Are we seeing them churn at a higher or a lower rate than new customers that come in via other channels? That can really help us to gauge whether we’re driving truly quality customers and the types of customers that we as a company want to bring on.

Drew Neisser: I love that because we certainly know—although no one has actually ever really, truly proven this mathematically, that keeping customers is far more effective. It’s just one of those things that’s always existed out there as a truth but hasn’t really been proven.

But let’s go to customer retention. How do you actually look at that? I mean, it’s a year, it’s two years. It’s a lagging indicator and an important one, but what are we looking at? Churn rate? Are we looking at growth rate? And how do you put that in context?

Katie Risch: Sure. I’m looking at a couple of things. One, I’m looking at churn rate and I’m also looking at growth, but then I’m also looking at product adoption. Are these customers who are coming on board and growing their spend with us and starting to leverage all the different components of our platform? Because those are ultimately the types of customers we want. We want the customers who are going to be sticky, who are going to really dig in and really start to leverage our platform for all aspects of their digital media versus just one component of their digital media. Those are the three things that I probably would care about the most.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. I’ll hold off on this question for the rest of the group, but I do want to just follow up—are there metrics that you think are undervalued or overvalued by your peers in the C-Suite?

Katie Risch: I think that we’re starting to get more aligned on the metrics that I would say have been overvalued in the past. I would say the most overvalued metric is probably just looking at the number of inbound leads. I think historically a lot of marketing teams have been hyper-focused on the volume, the quantity versus the quality.

Where I see this kind of prove out is, I can look at 2020, and there are months where I saw a lot less inbound leads, but overall last year we generated a lot more new revenue from marketing tactics than we had in years past off of less inbound leads. I think that’s one that luckily that we’re actually getting away from, looking at that overall number of inbound leads. I would say that that one’s been overvalued historically.

I think the undervalued one is one that Rebecca hit on, which is that marketing-influenced revenue. A big part of my job and my team’s job is really supporting our sales organization, working in tandem with them, and that’s where that marketing-influenced revenue becomes really important.

If we’re helping sales move a prospect from a decision to the purchase stage through various marketing tactics, we really want to measure marketing’s impact on that. We have resources allocated towards those efforts, so how can we measure that and then report back on that so we can show a collective snapshot of marketing’s influence overall in the company?

Drew Neisser: Love that. Give me an example where you would actually be able to show that. What does that look like?

Katie Risch: I think one good example is, let’s say we’re partnering with sales and they have 30 customers that are in the contract stage and they’re just really trying to get them over the hump. Marketing might in tandem with them host a virtual event where we bring them all together to do a gin tasting like you’re going to do today or whatever it might be. That’s going to require marketing resources, marketing time, so we then track and measure—were those customers more likely to convert than customers who did not participate in the event? I think that would be one good example.

Drew Neisser: That’s perfect.

[21:19] Can (and Should) Marketers Measure Everything?

“Attribution has to focus on effectiveness and not efficiency.” —@chandarp @Coupa Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring back the other guests, Melissa, thank you. And while we’re doing that—Hey, Google, what are marketing metrics?

Google: On the website Klipfolio.com, they say: “Marketing metrics are measurable values used by marketing teams to demonstrate the effectiveness of campaigns across all marketing channels.

Drew Neisser: Effectiveness of campaigns across all marketing channels. Well, that sounds about right. I have a broad question for you and then I want to come back to one thing, which is, I have heard this come out of some CMO’s mouths, which is, “Don’t do it if you can’t measure it.” I’ve heard that many times. And then I’ve also heard CEOs, specifically Jeff Jones of H&R Block, say, “That’s pure baloney.” Where are you on the side of not doing it if you can’t measure it?

Rebecca Stone: I came up on the demand side and I used to be a, “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it,” girl, and I have seen some very clear examples over the course of my tenure as CMO—and actually, probably my most recent mentor/boss, where he really demonstrated that things like changing category can have a huge impact on your business and on the reputation of your business. That drives so much really strong growth on both industry-wide reputation as well as sales that you can’t measure because you can’t measure a re-categorization effort, really.

Drew Neisser: It’s really hard. I guess you could look at whether an analyst embraced it or something. But I’m curious, Chandar, where are you on that side? And again, your CEO is not watching, so you’re safe, I’m sure.

Chandar Pattabhiram: Even if he is watching I would say this. I think there are two aspects to it, just piggybacking what Rebecca said. You can be a chief marketing officer and a chief market officer. With the chief marketing officer hat on, then I would say do not do it unless you can measure it because ultimately all of these things have to drive—going back to the Google thing—effectiveness. I would say that if you’re doing an activity, why do it unless it drives to revenue?

Why do brand, why do any marketing unless it’s revenue marketing? So that’s why we call the team itself revenue marketing in terms of having the mindset that ultimately this has to be pointed to something meaningful. That’s on the chief marketing officer.

But if I Google it and say I’m also the chief market officer where I’m driving strategic change and competitive advantage and, to the point of category creation, how are you cementing your category, how are you relatively positioning yourself, that becomes less of a measurement exercise, but more of a strategic positioning exercise. That I would say you definitely have to do. The value for that can be felt years from now, but that’s also a mindset you need to have from a marketing perspective. That’s why you have those two hats of chief market officer and chief marketing officer.

Drew Neisser: Well, I think that the challenge in this thing that I have constantly seen is when you say don’t do it unless you can measure it, what you’re basically doing is saying all marketing has to be demand generation marketing. Almost all marketing has to be direct marketing. And you don’t leave much room for how could you do a TV campaign like you’re doing even though it’s targeting? You might be able to measure it, but it’s going to be hard to correlate and it’s going to take a long time.

And if we’re talking about measuring things on a quarterly basis, I just don’t…anyway, it is an interesting thing. But there’s also this other part of this, which is we’ve got 10 to 12 decision-makers in most of your purchase cycles. Are you measuring every little interaction with every single one of those individuals? And how do those pieces fit together? I just find this notion that everything could be measured—we’ll just ask this right now. How confident are you in your attribution model right now?

Chandar Pattabhiram: I’ll just say that the problem we have today is, to some extent, just because something can be measured, people think it’s meaningful as opposed to measuring what’s only meaningful. There’s a lot of these vanity metrics and engine room metrics we’re throwing out there for attribution purposes.

Going back to the Google ad that was there, I think it’s about effectiveness, not efficiency. And I think that was the point made earlier, too. A lot of times we measured on efficiency of leads: “I went to this event and drove 150 percent of the people required. I’ve generated X number of more leads than required.” Those are efficiency metrics. You might be doing a lot efficiently but doing it wrong. Efficiency is about doing something very well, but it could be the wrong thing, which is effectiveness metrics. That’s why the attribution has to focus on effectiveness and not efficiency. We can get rid of a lot of these efficiency metrics, especially when it comes to alignment with sales, it doesn’t matter. It matters in the engine room of marketing; it doesn’t matter in the alignment room with sales.

Drew Neisser: And what’s interesting is, there are certain points where you can easily measure this. Like what Katie was talking about, that closing event to help with it.

[26:25] On CMO Huddles

“It's really been a phenomenal resource for me and for my team. —@rlstone33 @Meraki on @CMOHuddles Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’re going to take a little bit of a detour for a second because I want to plug CMO Huddles. We launched CMO Huddles in 2020. CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.

Now, one CMO described Huddles as timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment. Another called them a cross between an executive workshop and a therapy session. As it happens, Rebecca, Chandar, and Katie are all huddlers. Tell me—do you guys have anything to add? No pressure.

Katie Risch: I would say, first of all, it’s a fun group. It’s a nice break in your week from a lot of other meetings, and it’s been a good opportunity to really network and hear from what others have succeeded at and others have learned from. So definitely, definitely appreciate the group and you pulling it together, Drew.

Drew Neisser: Thank you. Rebecca, Chandar, not to put you on the spot, but feel free to chime in.

Chandar Pattabhiram: Well, I think none of us is as smart as all of us, so that’s a great manifestation of that. And I think every huddle I go away with one idea that I didn’t know before that can really be actionable for me. So that’s been very, very valuable from that perspective.

Drew Neisser: I love it. One idea. All right, Rebecca, anything else?

Rebecca Stone: I will echo that. I have found such value over the last year in participating and really do believe I have taken away so much. And I think my team is almost tired of me coming back from every CMO huddle saying, “Hey, I heard this. What do we think about this?” They kinda just roll their eyes at this point. But we have implemented a number of things that have made a significant amount of difference, so I do think—I love that the hive mind that Chandar referred to. It’s really been a phenomenal resource for me and for my team.

Drew Neisser: I love it. I love it. That’s awesome. Thank you all.

[28:26] The State of Attribution Modeling

“So much of what we do is relationship-based selling that there is no perfect attribution model that's going to give me the exact formula of what's going to work every time.” —@Katie_Risch @Centro Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’ve talked a little bit about this, but “effectiveness”—Chandar you used this term, and obviously, we heard it on Google as well, but there’s such a complex sales cycle. There are so many people involved. I know that you could do something at the end of the thing and then we can have this marketing influence thing. But where does it show up and how are you measuring? CFOs are a key target for you, Chandar, and I know, Rebecca, you have a range of targets, but what about influencers and what about all these other things?

How are you really holding this together and saying, “We did this thing and it got us here?” All the way through. I mean, again, I’m sort of pushing on attribution modeling to say, are we at a state of the art where we know that this combination of things will get us to X based on these effective measures?

Rebecca Stone: I think that is where the art of marketing comes in, Drew, and there are some things, again, to the point that I think you’re trying to make that you can’t measure. I think every deal is different because [inaudible] being sold to and have different cares about.

There are the politics of the organization that you’re selling into that have an impact. Whether or not the person that downloaded your thing or is talking at your event is looking for a new job or not, that has sometimes a little bit of an impact. I think that there is a little bit of art to marketing. There’s not going to be one thing that is going to be the same and you just press a button and it will be the same for every single company that you sell into. But that’s the fun of it, the challenge of continuing to try and drive, to Chandar’s point, the most effective of those strategies and then being able to plug in the little nuances and differences that make an impact to that particular company at any point.

Katie Risch: I want to add to what Rebecca said. So much of what we do is relationship-based selling that there is no perfect attribution model that’s going to give me the exact formula of what’s going to work every time, because, again, every customer is different. Every vertical is different in how we approach it. The sales cycles look different. The ways they would engage with us might look different. So I would say the state of attribution modeling at this point is just a state of growing complexity.

For most marketers, implementing that last touch model is probably the easiest one to implement. But to Chandar’s point, that’s not necessarily going to measure effectiveness. That’s not going to take into account all the other things that we’re doing to help that prospect along in the buying cycle like utilizing our blog or social media, thought leadership, virtual events, even our display advertising.

So I think personally for B2B marketing, particularly when you have a longer sales cycle like we do and there are many opportunities for that prospect to engage with us along the way, you’ve got to really kind of figure out what is the right attribution model that’s going to work for us? That might weight the first touch and the last touch as your two most important things because the first time someone engages with your brand and the last time they engage with your brand before they convert, to me at least, are two of the most important touchpoints. And then really figure out how to weight those other activities that happen in the middle. But even that is going to be directional and there’s an art and a science to it.

Chandar Pattabhiram: Yeah, the interesting aspect that’s changed in the last few years is, when you’re running a double funnel approach today—and what I mean by that is most companies in B2B have this double funnel where they have a lead-based marketing approach and then you have an account-based marketing approach. Typically running a double funnel in larger enterprise segments you probably run more account-based marketing. In smaller mid-market corporate sales segments, you’ll have much more of an inbound lead-based engine working.

The challenge becomes, if you just start looking at the traditional metrics of what did I source, et cetera, that will not work in an account-based model because what does that sourcing mean if you and sales are going after the same accounts? So having that mind-share to go from this traditional aspect of who opened the door, what was the sourcing, into more collectively, jointly, what are we influencing and winning? I think that shift and attribution is better.

The big change happens not only in the minds of the marketers, in the minds of the CFOs, too, like how am I allocating marketing budget? It was all sourced into a world that you’re completely influencing in an account-based world, right? So that’s the big shift that is happening that a lot of these marketers are going through.

Rebecca Stone: I was going to say that I really love that thinking because it’s not like, “Oh, this email had more weight than that email in an attribution model.” What I really think of it as is, what is, over the lifetime, the number of touchpoints, whether they be email or event or whatever, and how much is that impacting sales? You have to look at those things together and you almost look at them as a continuum on the spectrum of touchpoints that lead you to that ultimate close.

[33:50] The Perfect Metrics Dashboard

“If your sales in a high growth environment is expected to grow 30%, is your pipeline also relatively going in the same amount of 30, 40% to show that it's a leading indicator?” —@chandarp @Coupa Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I had a question as we were talking about this earlier—and I’m going to try to remember it—but this notion of learning, right, we’re trying to learn as we go along, so if we have all these combinations of metrics, isn’t part of the program of having metrics so you can say, “Hey, we did this and this happened, let’s try this”?

Talk a little bit about some changes in things where you’ve been able to see that your metrics have actually helped you change your programs and make it more effective. Isn’t that the goal here, too?

Chandar Pattabhiram: I’ll say one thing that’s helped us in the last year in the pandemic and then people can jump in here. Historically, cross-sell marketing has been very important. I think the point that Katie made was a really good point, that adoption is so important. In the stairway to heaven of marketing as they talk about it, it’s awareness, acquisition, adoption, and then expansion and advocacy. And people kind of forget that adoption in between, because if nobody adopts anything, you can’t go expand.

But what we hadn’t had was really metrics for expansion and adoption, really have tangible product lines, and say, “For this particular product line, we’re trying to drive this particular number of opportunities or pipeline for expansion into install base.” But having those kinds of metrics really gets a mindset for us to go and say, just like we’re running the programmatic engine for acquisition, we’re going to run a programmatic engine for these specific product lines for expansion at the right stage of the journey. Starting with the metric and working backward really helped us on that.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. How about you, Katie or Rebecca? Did either of you have a metric or revisit a metric and said this one isn’t helping us, but this one is?

Katie Risch: I think one of the helpful metrics for us has been, you know, we launched our platform Basis three years ago. When we first launched the platform, we cast a really wide net simply because we needed to understand the audience and the customer base that we were going to see start to use this platform before we could kind of home in and do more customized, tailored, targeted marketing.

I think starting to look at metrics by vertical and then customizing and tailoring our marketing efforts around those verticals across the entire board, so everything from product marketing to content marketing to what are we focusing on for new content on our website or new pillar content, and then bleeding into our demand gen efforts. That’s been incredibly helpful for us because it allows us to kind of narrow our focus. If we have limited resources to work with, I want those resources to focus on the areas where we’re most likely going to win. So I think that’s been a tremendously helpful one for us.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, actually, this came up in a huddle yesterday, and because they’re always confidential, this individual was talking about really looking at all their metrics on a vertical and a micro-vertical level, because some verticals just have slower close rates and some have different revenue levels. I thought that was a real insight.

I want to step back for a moment and do an exercise. We’re going to imagine a perfect world where you have a CEO who says you get to report eight metrics to the board. That’s it. That’s it. I would love to get to that number. You only get four categories and we’ll decide what those are. We’ve talked around a lot of these things but on a broad basis. You get to come into the board with eight metrics and you have to decide—are these past-looking, forward-leaning? Let’s help this audience create a perfect dashboard. I’m going to ask Rebecca to start. Give me one somewhere, perhaps with acquisition.

Rebecca Stone: I think the first one is the one that I talked about from the beginning, which is net new pipeline generated.

Drew Neisser: Net new pipeline under acquisition.

Rebecca Stone: New logo and new business, just to be as clear as possible.

Drew Neisser: New logo. Everybody, you guys buying into that one? Let’s say we’re only going two get acquisition metrics.

Chandar Pattabhiram: I think I would put that as sales accepted pipeline as much as stage one pipeline, which is stage two pipeline. That’s the way I would think of it.

Katie Risch: Yes, it’s almost two metrics because I would breakout pipeline from revenue or new logos.

Drew Neisser: All right. We’re simplifying here. Revenue versus new logos. We haven’t quite done it. Let’s talk about retention. You guys have been talking about that. What do we put down? What are two metrics for retention?

Katie Risch: I would look at revenue from returning, marketing-generated customers. That would be one, so not only measuring marketing’s contribution from new logos acquired this year, but then if you pull in returning customers, what does that look like?

Drew Neisser: And that’s going to be a lagging indicator, right? Because we have to wait for a year. Is there any sort of retention metric that isn’t tremendously lagging that you can think of that would help here?

Rebecca Stone: Well, I guess it depends on retention. We have, for renewals, pipeline, so we would look at renewal pipeline if you’re looking at a leading indicator as far as that measurement.

Drew Neisser: And renewal pipeline is sort of an estimate of what you expect, right? This is where you think these folks are going to renew?

Rebecca Stone: It’s when a salesperson is in active conversation or—I said sales, I should have said CS—when a CS person is in active conversation for renewal business after the first year, they have to open an opportunity for that renewal business.

Chandar Pattabhiram: I would say one thing. Even before going into the post-sale, I think there are a few other important board metrics in the pre-sale, in the acquisition stage. Maybe the eight is only five. We can say, “Hey, you can give back three metrics,” right? We don’t need eight. Going back to that, I think an interesting metric. I learned at Vista, for example, when Marketo was acquired by Vista, it was an interesting thing they always asked for and I understood why—the year-over-year growth in sales accepted pipeline. That trend. As much as have you hit your new business goal of saying, “I’m supposed to generate 100 new opportunities at this pipeline, I’ll hit.” That’s one thing.

The second one is that if your sales in a high growth environment is expected to grow 30 percent, is your pipeline also relatively going in the same amount of 30, 40 percent to show that it’s a leading indicator? That was another metric that was important at the board level the first time I started doing it at Vista, and I think it’s been useful for us just to understand that. I would add that perspective.

Drew Neisser: Year-over-year. So we’ve talked a little—we’ve got acquisition metrics and retention metrics. We might have five already. What about brand? Is there brand health? Let’s assume for a moment that we all agree that brand matters in this formula and there are ways of measuring brand. Are we going to put something there and if so, what is that brand health metric?

Katie Risch: Drew, I already report on this to our board and it’s something that they’re really interested in, which is just looking at overall press mentions. So number of times we’ve been in mentions, number of bylines published, like there are different KPIs you can pull into that, but just looking at overall earned media I think is an important one.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. So that’s sort of somewhat of a reach metric. Just pure reach in terms of that,

Chandar Pattabhiram: But not necessarily—yeah, pure reach. But I think a lot of companies have the scorecard where you say, “I’m going to have a target of three to five tier-one earned media hits every quarter. And how am I performing relative to that and how am I score-carding relative to that?” It’d be interesting to showcase that at that level. It’s just not brand. It’s a combination of different things.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it feels a little, I mean, if we could have a broader reach number, like an awareness study if you’re doing a brand health and we’d have the broader—because we’d not only know not just that placement, but the result of that placement that you’d have this unaided and awareness score. So it feels like that might be a place. We’ve got reach. Is there anything else in terms of brand health that we’re looking at? Have you identified an attribute about your brand that when you improve that things are good? And there are some companies that have been able to do that.

Chandar Pattabhiram: So the brand is a manifestation of your community, too. So if you can look at it just as it’s the manifestation of externally how much is your community activation—if you’re having metrics around advocacy and how many net new whatever advocacy program you’ve created in these different tiers are you generating would be another interesting thing from both perspectives. Are you activating your community as much as you’re acquiring new prospects?

Drew Neisser: So the last area that I want to ask about. Go ahead, Rebecca.

Rebecca Stone: I agree with the advocacy one. The last one would be, for us, showing up in some of the Gartner Wave Reports is really important, so we track on analyst mentions and wave reports, things like that.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I think you could create this sort of combo reach of PR mentions, analyst mentions, maybe weight it somehow like advocacy because it really is—you’ve acquired the right customers, you’ve engaged them in the right way.

[43:46] Why Employer Brand Metrics Matter

“If you look at having one voice externally that represents the company, it makes sense to include that employer brand into your overall marketing strategy.” —@Katie_Risch @Centro Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: One thing that did not come up when we had this discussion at the Super Huddle is the CMO’s role in employer brand. We don’t talk about that at all and I’m just curious if that should be on the CMO dashboard as far as you’re concerned in terms of likelihood, as someone from the outside looking in on the company, whether or not this is a company I want to work for.

Katie Risch: I have an opinion around that, and I think it should be on the marketing dashboard simply because, especially if you look at it from an earned media standpoint, from my standpoint, having all of that under one roof and approached holistically makes the most sense.

There’s a lot that we do from a marketing perspective that is really designed to help support our employer brand and our recruiting efforts. A lot of that is tied to earned media, so when I’m reporting on the earned media metrics, I’m including the employer brand metrics within that. I think we’re lucky that we’ve got really tight alignment with our head of talent and development, so we’re aligned on some of those things.

I think the other ways we really support them are through blog posts, running different blog series that are more focused on culture versus on the business or the industry, and then also ensuring we’re incorporating that into our social media. From my standpoint, if you look at having one voice externally that represents the company, it makes sense to include that employer brand into your overall marketing strategy.

Chandar Pattabhiram: That’s a good point. The initiative we have is called Brand Culture. How a great brand is built inside out, happy employees to successful customers. I think having employee advocacy as part of the marketing team is a very critical hire. From a board perspective, at least one person’s point of view is that it still isn’t the top seven metrics.

Drew Neisser: Too fuzzy, right? Yes, it’s too fuzzy. Oh, I just got a note from Julie Kaplan who is listening. She’s saying she’s separating brand health from performance metrics. Instead, she’s tying operational excellence. So question, how does transaction and product satisfaction impact your brand? Interesting. I don’t know. I don’t know that I read that correctly. Anybody have an answer for that?

Katie Risch: I think it impacts our brand dramatically. I mean, one of the things that we look at is our CSAT score, our NPS. To me, our NPS can be seen as a leading or lagging indicator depending upon the way you look at it. But we also look at things like G2 Crowd, so how are customers and industry experts talking about our platform, how are they ranking us? From my standpoint, it’s a big deal and it can be a tool that you can really leverage to help build your brand or it can work the other way, to your detriment, depending upon what that feedback looks like, especially if it’s in a public forum.

Drew Neisser: Julie, thank you for that question. Of course, this is just the time that it’s time for me to ask, what would Ben Franklin say? I know it’s a random part of the show, but it’s in every show. This is what I think you might say. He would say, “The things that hurt, instruct.” And it’s really true with metrics. If you get them wrong, you will never forget that lesson.

Well, we’re getting near the end of this show. It’s interesting, we keep adding. This is the hard part with metrics. We keep adding to these metrics. And ultimately, your job as the leader in marketing is to pick the few and negotiate because it is a negotiation. As you said, Chandar, even though you know THE employee measurements are really important, the board may not be with you, so this is an interesting moment.

[47:58] Looking Ahead: Navigating Data Security Changes

“People are used to measuring, so they're going to require some sort of measurement in the future. I think it's going to continue and we're going to have more visibility.” —@rlstone33 @Meraki Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: As you look ahead, do you see privacy changes making it harder or easier to measure the things that you’re doing? Also, are tools like AI going to make it harder or easier? So here’s the question. Three years, will there be anything you want to measure that you can’t? Anyone want to make a bet?

Chandar Pattabhiram: Well, I think with the privacy changes, one of the interesting things is as we talked about brand-quisition, customer experience is the sum total of every touch. It’s that continuous context, the connected context between engagement one, engagement two, engagement three, engagement four, engagement five, etc.

Ultimately, from starting with the first step to ultimately lifetime value—it’s a very difficult thing to measure today if we only measure parts of it. The challenge is going to be, with what Google is doing, and Apple, how do we continue to do that, especially with cookies and stuff like that? It reinforces the importance of first-party data and reinforces content marketing as a field. But that’s going to be one big challenge as we go through all these privacies. Can we connect the context with the same person across these different touchpoints in the different channels? That’s going to be the challenge.

Drew Neisser: It’s going to be. It’s interesting. I mean, the technology keeps getting better and better and we have more and more data, but there’s this looming issue out there like if cookies go away. Imagine for a moment EU isn’t that far away from banning email? Pretty much. So then what happens? We have no email and we have no cookies. All right. So, Rebecca and Katie, not going to let you off the hook. Are you going to be closer in three years to measuring everything you want to or kind of where we are today?

Rebecca Stone: I think we’ll probably be closer, and the reason why I say that is I used to work in the ad tech industry before my current company, and I see the amount of money that flows into the industry. That money is not going to go away. It’s going to have to find a place to go and people are used to measuring, so they’re going to require some sort of measurement in the future. I think it’s going to continue and we’re going to have more visibility.

Drew Neisser: There you go. And Katie?

Katie Risch: Yeah, I mean, as someone who works in ad tech now, I can tell you we’re really close to this. I think marketers who are prepared and who are starting to rely less on third-party cookies for targeting and starting to utilize things like semantic targeting and first-party data, I think they are going to be set up well to actually probably measure more. Then the question is just going to be, how do we actually drill down to what the most important data is? There’s probably going to be, instead of eight on that list, Drew, I think three years from now, is probably going to be like 30. So how do we narrow that down and not get stuck in analysis paralysis land?

Drew Neisser: Exactly. God forbid. There’s no doubt we’re going to have more data. In order to be smart, we’re going to have to keep it simple. Anyway, keeping it simple, lots of discussion, I hope you enjoyed the show. Thank you, Chandar, Rebecca, Katie, you’re all wonderful sports and brilliant.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Live is produced by Melissa Caffrey. Our Duke intern is Charlotte McEvoy. Our botanical expert is Nicole Hernandez. For show notes and past episodes, please visit renegade.com, home of quite possibly the savviest B2B marketing agency in New York City. I’m your host Drew Neisser And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

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