Marketing Works for Sales

How does marketing best function in an organization?

Marketing works for sales. Marketing works to generate revenue. Marketing is part of the sales engine.

The primary role for marketers is to coordinate with revenue-generators on the required plans, tactics and activities to successfully identify buyers, build pipelines of opportunities, accelerate conversion of new customers and grow existing business.

Marketing must work hand-in-hand with those that have the responsibility for generating revenue to grow and sustain a business. As head of both sales and marketing in my career, I can definitely affirm that success only happens when the two work as one!

Marketing is not a silo and should not operate as one. Marketing must have a symbiotic relationship with those responsible for selling. Unless a business takes on debt to fund operations, there is no revenue in which to function until something is actually sold. The more that is sold, the more operating cash there is to flow into marketing programs and initiatives. If marketing requires a bigger budget, it must facilitate more sales.

Sales is also not a silo and should not be looked upon as a single functional group within an organization. Sales must inform and coordinate with marketing to make this relationship achieve maximum success. The fact is everyone in the company is in sales. Every employee has influence and everyone should directly or indirectly support the selling of an organization’s products and services.

One of the most important steps for sales and marketing leadership, along with the CEO, is to agree upon how the organization will communicate and measure success. The organization needs a common language that everyone understands.

A CMO or head of marketing must ensure the entire marketing function is equally accountable for revenue based on these terms, as are those working in a sales role. Everyone in the marketing organization must be knowledgeable and operating daily to achieve and/or improve upon the identified business performance metrics. The marketing benchmarks must also align to how the entire organization articulates business goals and measures success.

Key Business Metrics for Sales and Marketing

Revenue – Revenue is the amount of money a company takes in over a specific time. It includes deductions and discounts. Most companies will reference this in a P&L as top line and measure it over time as top line growth. Sales and marketing share responsibility in generating revenue for a business.

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) – This is the price paid to acquire a new customer. It is the combination of sales, marketing, research, and product or service related expenses used to bring in a buyer. Businesses can utilize this important value to set budgets for sales and marketing. CAC management ensures the business is putting enough capital toward winning the number of customers it needs each year to achieve the revenue goals. CAC should also be used as a barometer for efficiency and effectiveness, along with a benchmark on how the company performs related to their competition.

Customer Retention Rates – Customer retention rates are the percentage of acquired buyers (customers) who continue to buy services over a certain time period. You will often hear that it costs seven times more to find a new customer than retain an existing one. Retention is an important metric. Existing customers are also a gateway to value-add services. Retention should also be analyzed over time and value.

Customer Attrition Rates (CARs) – Opposite of the retention rate is rate of attrition, also commonly called “churn.” Customer attrition rates is the percentage of customers lost over a defined time period. This metric is also usually a leading indicator for customer satisfaction, efficiency in delivery, product use and product or service value. Sales and marketing strategies to reduce CARs are as important to acquiring new customers.

Lifetime Value (LTV) – This is also sometimes called lifetime customer value (LTCV). It is revenue (value) of a customer over the life of the relationship (time). LTV helps sales and marketers understand the potential impact of growing the value and extending the timeline as a customer. This important data point also helps businesses understand the costs of losing a customer. LTV can be used to measure brand equity.

Overhead – Overhead is all non-labor related costs used to operate the business. It is considered fixed expenses regardless of the number of customers or revenue generated by the business. Overhead is often seen as controlled costs and a topic of discussion during budget reviews. Sales and marketing should combine efforts in overhead management to ensure processes, technology and people are not overlapping or creating extra costs. For example, sales automation and marketing technology should be evaluated together to ensure the business maximizes value and works unilaterally to combine all data inputs and resources to effectively manage the customer journey.

Fixed and Variable Costs – These are the monthly expenses used to operate the business. Variable costs align to the amount of goods or services produced and these will increase or decrease based on the volume of production. Fixed costs are not associated to production volume and include costs such as office space, equipment, advertising and insurance. Businesses will utilize costs as a metric on how much is invested into sales and marketing for production.

Profit Margin – Profit margin is the percentage of revenue above the cost of the product and/or service. Think of it as the mark-up. Profit margin can be evaluated by the overall business revenue, as well as by product and service lines to determine the health and ROI on costs related to sales and marketing. Gross margin is the percentage of difference between revenue and cost of goods sold (COGS), divided by revenue. Net margin is the percentage of revenue after operating expenses, interest, taxes and preferred stock dividends. If you are operating in the black, your profit margin is positive and if you are operating in the red, your costs and expenses are greater than the revenue coming into the company. Profit margins can also be utilized to evaluate the health and sustainability of individual customers or segmented customer profiles. It is an important metric for sales and marketing in strategic account management.

Pipeline – Pipeline is a defined series of steps and stages between starting and completion the sales process. It is often valued by the total dollar amount of all identified sales opportunities. The process can be defined as a variety of sales and marketing actions, most commonly prospecting and buyer identification, qualification, meeting, proposal, close and retention. For evaluation, each step or stage will often be assigned a weighted dollar value (percentage) based on the likelihood to close (win). This calculation is often used in forecasting and predicting sales run-rates.

Pipeline Growth – This is the percentage of growth of the associated dollar value of the sales pipeline over a period of time. Pipeline growth can also be measured by numerous variables such as number of prospect opportunities (deals) in the pipeline, types of opportunities, product or service lines, or by territory. Most organizations evaluate pipeline growth monthly. It is important for sales and marketing to analyze growth over different intervals to determine any seasonal or buying cycle variables that will impact sales. Pipeline is a critical metric to determine the future health of the business. Sales and marketing activities are directly connected throughout the pipeline journey and coordination is critical for supporting growth, conversion and retention.

Sales Forecast – This is an estimate of future sales. Forecast accuracy is often a hot topic within a business, as it enables a business to make operational and investment decisions based on predictive future revenues. The sales forecast, often prepared by sales reps and weighted based on analytics and accuracy, informs the business leadership on how to manage daily cash flow and resources. Ideally, forecasts should be visible to the entire organization in real-time through shared sales automation tools and online pipeline reporting. It helps inform employees how the business is predicting performance. Transparency keeps people accountable.

Conversion Rates – Conversion rates can be applied to multiple marketing and sales tactics within the sales pipeline. It is calculated as a percentage of specific actions. Marketers often use this in the early stages of the sales cycle, as defined by a call-to-actions. It is measuring the rate a person converts to the next stage by taking all types of actions. These can be measured as response rates, volume of calls, incoming emails, online comments, web visits, clicks and purchases. Sales often measures conversion as a percentage of win/loss on proposals or quotes and purchases. This is a valuable metric and it should be combined with the length of the buying cycle to determine where sales and marketing can invest resources to accelerate conversion rates.

Customer Satisfaction – Most businesses utilize a customer satisfaction rating or ranking to measure the health of the customer relationship at a given point in time. A common metric for measuring customer satisfaction is Net Promoter Score®, or NPS®. The NPS rating is derived from participants that are surveyed based on one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?” Those that provide a rating of 9-10 are considered promoters and 0-6 are detractors. NPS is calculated from the percentage of detractors minus the percentage of promoters. Those that score 7-8 are considered passive. Influence is a strong category for marketing initiatives. NPS can help an organization determine the best way to build a strong influencer campaign for existing business referrals and add-on sales, as well as utilize to increase LCV and retention.

One of the common pitfalls that occurs when businesses align sales and marketing metrics is to try to give single credit to one function. Obviously, this happens inherently through commission programs. However, visibility and communication can be universal in a business. It is a shared responsibility that does not have to be solely recognized through compensation. The common language for defining success is the starting place!

Let it be known, when a company surpasses revenue targets, everyone wins. If a company misses their revenue target, everyone is accountable for the performance. That means everyone must answer to the identified measurements the company puts in place to track performance and results.

The purpose of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is to empower the organization to achieve the business goals through a series of strategies and tactics. Marketing is reliant on the sales function to convert identified opportunities into actual dollars. If we all work united in the pursuit of revenue and customers, then together everyone achieves more! Go TEAM!


President + CMO at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Marketing Jargon and Acronym Overload

Let’s face it, every day we are flooded with the latest marketing trends, tips and predictions. Marketers selling to marketers! Much of this is related to the time of year and it’s “trendy” to predict. It is also very opportunistic to describe the latest inventions and offerings with a snappy new acronym or invented word that gets a bit of brand attribution to the promoter.

Admittedly, I love to read these prognosticator’s reports and declarations. I’m a marketing nerd and trend junkie. I’ll often promote these ideas and reports through my various social feeds.

I’m also highly motivated by fear. The fear is of not knowing what all these new terms and acronyms mean. If it is buzzworthy, trending and top-of-mind with all other marketers, I need to know! My personal nightmare scenario is being completely lost by the latest lingo when quizzed by an executive, peer, or worse, a client. “How does NLP help marketers?” What? NLP? Who? Uh. Um.

Yet, three weeks into the new year and reading these predictions and trends, I’m saturated. I’m done. Chats, bots, blockchains, CX, CAC, SERP oh my! This CMO is overloaded! Not by the content and concepts, by the jargon and acronyms. No matter how strong the fear is of not knowing, the fact is I’m at the tipping point, tipping over.

It’s the words and the over-use of something that has caught fire in trending topics which is now dominating everything we discuss online. Basically, we are being over-marketed with complexity and spin mixed with new and old terms, to a point where it doesn’t have meaning.

An example, nearly every marketing solution that lands in my email has some new incredible AI feature. It is as if marketing invented AI. Not true. A machine to perform reasoning was written about in the 1300’s and a calculating machine in the 1600’s. It’s not new, it’s trendy. It makes me question the validity of these offers. Is this hype or reality? Why do I need AI in list segmentation? Are you talking basic algorithms or scientific invention?

As marketers and content producers, I confess that many of us are notorious for over-marketing words. It is inherent in our function to continually create, reinvent, brand, own and define the words used to sell our value. The problem is we are all talking in inflated expressions and a complicated vocabulary that in the end, business owners and CEOs are tuning out. They want us to generate revenue. We are burying the benefits of what we do with jargon.

Here is how leadership thinks about a marketers role: find a customer, support selling goods and services to the customer, retain the customer so they buy more. Find. Sell. Retain. That’s it.

Now put that proposition out to the marketing world and here is what you get.

“Our highly-intuitive marketing campaign targets SMBs using WOM, PR, SMM and DM by BI-based personalized content distribution via our CMS. Through supporting initiatives utilizing MarTech, SEO, PPC, ASO and a new UI, we will generate MQLs with lead scores based on CTRs in a custom digital UX with strong CTAs. All activities will captured in our agile SaaS CRM for immediate follow-up by ISRs. Upon conversion, AI and GA data will be used to create a buyer personas for ABM programs, supported by established BANT criteria and measured through NPS results to increase LCV and renewals. All of which will demonstrate incredible MROI.

Too much? Yes! We have entered jargon and acronym hell. The competition between marketers to have a unique proposition is resulting a language that no one beyond the marketer (and maybe not even the marketer) understands. CEOs don’t want to hear about this word salad that is defining how and what we do. They want results.They want revenue. It’s not complex.

Yes, we need rankings, clicks, eyeballs and earned media. We need to be great at driving awareness, engaging and influencing. It is also easier to use an acronym than spell it out. The problem is that we have so many references to our marketing activities, tools and technologies, it is difficult to have a conversations in the C-Suite that focuses on the value of marketing without an appendix or dictionary.

Maybe we start with the definition of marketing.

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (AMA approved definition July 2013)

It may help get through the swarm of trending hyperbole and phraseology. Perhaps it is time to go back to basics and focus on the value. Saving time, creating new customers, reducing costs, increasing loyalty, generating revenue seem like great trending topics. Boring perhaps and a little old school, yet it is the financial reality of a marketers role. We need to be talking about how we contributing to bottom-line results.

We’ve fought hard to gain the attention of the business leaders and get a seat at the table. How we can help organizations achieve results? How can we contribute to the success of the business? Let’s not bury our message and value in a dictionary of terms that seems to be growing exponentially in size and devaluing our contributions.

Trending now, KISS! Let’s go find some customers, sell them something and make them happy so they buy more.


For those, like me, that need a dictionary to keep up, here are two great references.

75 Marketing & Business Acronyms & Abbreviations Every Industry Pro Should Know

149 Marketing Acronyms that Every Online Marketer Needs to Know