Implementing a revenue marketing strategy at your company is no easy feat. Depending on your current situation, it can be a whole multi-phased evolution to go through. And each phase comes with its own set of revenue marketing challenges. 

There are, we believe, five stages to the evolution of revenue marketing in a company. Not all companies will progress all the way to stage 5. How and when you evolve will depend on your company’s goals and leadership decisions. 

But if you want to make sure your marketing efforts help drive revenue in a predictable and repeatable way, then this guide will come in handy. It will help you figure out where you are today—and where you’re headed.

So, which stage of the evolution are you at? Read on to find out.

Stage 1: the “make it pretty” department

In the earliest stage of the evolution, marketing is mainly focused on brand building and impressions. Most likely, your company thinks of marketing as the “make it pretty” department.

Your biggest struggle is in getting leads. You execute campaigns and maybe use some basic lead collection forms, but the numbers don’t look that great. At night, you dream about having some form of awareness for your company.

Key KPIs you’re tracking: impressions, traffic

Yearning to grow from this stage? Switch away from vanity metrics and start looking for goals that help the customer. What collateral could you be creating that would be super useful to your potential customers? And how does your product or service fit into the picture? Use these questions as guiding lights for your marketing stategy.

Stage 2: supporting sales

In the second stage, the focus is on lead generation and enabling sales. Marketing is more or less like a support system to sales, providing them with tools and knowledge to close deals. The work is mostly tactical. It’s not great, but it’s definitely progress from stage 1.

What are the most common challenges in stage 2? You do too much manual work or you do not create enough leads. You’re likely getting some results but it’s so time-consuming you don’t have time to think. 

Note that in some cases, it’s actually wise to first go through the manual work, because you’ll learn a lot in the process. However, in order to evolve to the next stage, don’t get stuck doing the manual work and automate what you can after you’ve learned your lessons.

Key KPIs you’re tracking: time saved and time spent per lead or per campaign

Are you stuck in stage 2 and looking to evolve? Look at where you spend (well, waste) too much time on manual work. Consider how different marketing automation strategies can help you move forward.

Stage 3: sales and marketing silos

This stage is often called “demand generation”. The intent is to create additional opportunities for sales to drive growth. The concept of a qualified lead (QL) has been introduced. Marketing passes the leads they generate on to sales. 

The main challenges are that you see a lot of bad quality leads or the ROI of your campaigns is low. There’s no visibility into results, and sales and marketing work in silos.

Many B2B companies get stuck in this phase, with sales and marketing at loggerheads. As Yaagneshwaran Ganesh describes this stage in the The Revenue Marketing Book:

“Sales teams don’t see value in the leads shared by the marketing teams. Marketing teams feel that sales teams don’t give a damn about the leads shared with them.”

Key KPIs you’re tracking: ROI for each campaign and activity, lead scoring, MQL and SQL definitions and feedback mechanisms, SLA between sales and marketing. 

How can you improve? Look into ways you can integrate sales and marketing, as alignment will help break the silos.

Stage 4: scaling struggles

In stage 4, things are mostly working. Marketing has established viable ways of generating high quality leads and the focus is on delivering these at increasing scale. This includes making sure all of the activities are efficient and effective.

However, your results are not always repeatable or predictable. Every now and then, there are unpleasant surprises. You may miss monthly and quarterly goals. Or you may realize you’re not on the right track when you’re already half-way through the period, and then it’s too late to correct the course.  

Key KPIs you’re tracking: leading metrics that will help you see into the future and correct course 

What could be done better? Aim higher (or rather, better). Pipeline-related goals are good, but revenue goals get you from good to great, and will help with revenue predictability.

Stage 5: the Holy Grail

At stage 5, the business is hitting hard goals. Revenue impact from marketing is repeatable, predictable and scalable. Finally, marketing has established itself as a core business function and works in close alignment with sales.

The processes and costs of marketing and sales are well understood, which allows for maximizing profitability and projecting future revenue.

Key KPIs you’re tracking: revenue projections, employee NPS in sales and marketing, retention 

The biggest potential pitfall? Your people getting burned out as a result of attrition in either sales or marketing, or both. That’s right, the toughest of the revenue marketing challenges is potential burnout. 

A side note: moving between these stages is not always linear. You can even skip stages, if your management is supportive and your team motivated to make progress. For example, you can anticipate that there will be manual work that you can automate.

Conclusion

According to a recent study, most B2B marketers are “activity marketers” or “pipeline marketers”, which means they are in stages 1-4 of the evolution. 

However, as revenue accountability continues to grow, more and more marketers will need to evolve to stage 5, put effective marketing into practice and face the revenue marketing challenges.

Regardless of where you are today, the real question is: which stage of the evolution would you like to be at?