The rise of revenue-focused marketers

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Ying Yi Wan | 22 February 2019

As regional marketing and communications director at a global corporation, Jean (not her real name) and her team ran many lead generation campaigns all year. Pretty soon, they had more leads than they knew what to do with.

But Jean’s higher ups were not impressed. Did the thousands of marketing-generated leads result in more sales and customers? Unfortunately, this was not the case. They told Jean in no uncertain terms that marketing had to make concrete contributions to revenue growth.

Jean was at a loss.

How was marketing going to be accountable for revenue, when they had so little control over sales outcomes?

There was no way the sales team could follow up with thousands of leads.

There was also no way of knowing whether any of the leads were even sales-ready.

Something had to change about the way they handled marketing and sales operations. But what?

The rise of revenue-focused marketing

According to InsightSquared, there are two kinds of marketers.

There is the first generation of marketers, whose primary responsibility is to deliver leads to sales.

Then there is an emerging second generation of marketers. This new cohort has their eyes on the same prize as sales and business leaders: revenue.

It’s easy to tell which marketer belongs to which camp based on the language they often use.

First generation marketers

At the most basic level, first generation marketers focus on the day-to-day work of marketing across various channels. They create content for blogs, manage social media pages, run ads, organize talks, send email newsletters, etc. Their work may also encompass branding, customer loyalty, and public relations.

Regardless, first generation marketers use a lot of marketing speak. “Impressions”, “engagement”, “return on ad spend”, “conversion rate” … and above all, “leads”. The goal of many first generation marketers is to deliver as many leads as possible to sales. It’s up to sales to turn as many of those leads into customers.

First generation marketers are still a common breed. According to a 2018 CMO survey, at 61.7% of companies surveyed, marketing takes the lead when it comes to lead generation. On the other hand, marketing takes the lead in revenue growth at just 40.1% of companies.

Second generation marketers

But, over the years, a new class of revenue-focused marketers has emerged.

  First generation marketers Second generation marketers
Main focus Lead generation Revenue growth
Key metrics Campaign specific: impressions, engagement, return on ad spend, etc. Revenue specific: pipeline created, bookings influenced, closed revenue attributed to marketing, etc.
Relationship with sales Siloed Close working relationship with sales. May even manage sales development representatives
Perception by executives Cost centre Revenue driver


Second generation marketers do many of the day-to-day work as their first generation peers. But they don’t judge marketing success in terms of how many leads they delivered. Second generation marketers focus on the revenue impact of their marketing.

They make sure the leads they generate don’t just stop at the top of the marketing funnel. They nurture and qualify these leads to the point where sales take over, and they demand visibility into the outcomes of these leads. They don’t speak the language of channels and campaigns, they speak the language of business. How many bookings were influenced? Pipeline created? Things that will make executives sit up and pay attention.

New responsibilities, new pressures

The expectation to contribute to revenue can be incredibly stressful. Many marketers fear being tied to sales and revenue KPIs, especially when they have little control over sales outcomes.

Some marketers try to generate more qualified leads by ramping up their top-of-the-funnel marketing activities. But their efforts are nullified when sales can’t contact every single lead. 44% of salespeople give up on prospects after one follow up,  however, it takes about eight attempts to reach a prospect. Many leads end up neglected as a result.

Other marketers use lead scoring to identify qualified leads. But lead scores are not always indicative of readiness to speak to sales. The scores are best guesses based on the information provided by leads, which may be vague or limited. As a result, marketing automation may miss valid sales opportunities or surface false positives.

No, the key is to be able to suss out a lead’s buying intentions, before handing them over to sales. If you could identify the hottest leads for sales, sales could zoom in on these opportunities and close more deals.

That’s how marketing can influence pipeline created.

How AI sales assistants can help you with revenue-focused marketing

AI sales assistants are a type of conversational marketing software that can help to increase marketing's contributions to growth and revenue.

They work by initiating email conversations with the leads in your database. Through one-on-one conversations, they can differentiate between tire kickers and interested prospects. Then they route leads in the latter group to sales for follow up. Some AI sales assistants go even further, by giving marketers full insight into the outcomes of qualified leads e.g. how many have met with sales.

In Jean's case, she used an AI sales assistant to re-engage the large numbers of cold and untouched leads in her database. The results blew Jean and her team away. They saw a massive boost in meeting conversion rates -- by up to 79%! This was a game-changer for them. Previously, they were resigned to seeing their leads disappear into a black hole without sales follow ups. But with an AI sales assistant, they could reach out to their leads with a specific outcome in mind: find the qualified leads and give them to sales.

Yes, marketing can make concrete contributions to the bottomline

Today, growth-focused executives demand operational effectiveness at every level, including marketing. Marketers like Jean have to demonstrate an impact on revenue growth.

Making the shift to revenue-focused, second generation marketing need not be terribly stressful.

If you’ve already been generating tons of leads, but have trouble pushing them further down the marketing funnel so they are sales-ready, use an AI sales assistant. It will do the heavy lifting of engaging and qualifying your leads. By the time they get routed to sales, your leads will be ready and willing to talk purchase.

Interested in using AI to get more sales-ready leads? Request a demo of our AI sales assistant today!

Originally published on 22 February 2019, updated on 6 January 2020


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Ying Yi Wan

I take difficult and complex B2B tech topics and turn them into crisp, compelling, and creative copy. When I'm not doing content marketing for Saleswhale, I'm blogging or honing my manga drawing skills.

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