Show Me The Money

From Jerry Maguire to today, the revenue return on investment is ultimately what counts – something I was recently reminded of by one of our partners, who made the point that they will support organizations that help them generate revenue.

Measurement of marketing performance underpins this fundamental position and purpose. As Gartners’ Ewan McIntyre reminds us, understanding that connection in tighter economic conditions has never been more important.

He also reminds us, marketing budgets drop like a stone at the first sign of trouble and rise like a feather once the environment is more settled.

This helps to sharpen the role of marketing in any organization.

It starts with understanding how an organization makes its revenues and margin, and how customers in turn make revenues from their customers (for B2B).

Next is to understand where the opportunities are, and to assign priorities to those the organization chooses to pursue.

Finally comes the understanding of how to generate value – including the tactics needed to go after – and land – those opportunities already identified.

Easy to summarize and to understand. So why do we see so many gaps in knowledge and execution?

Where is the money?

We are across a lot of marketing data points. And we see organizations struggling to deliver value.

The explicit link between marketing effort and the need to generate revenue is, too often, broken.

It can lead to challenges when being busy is confused with being effective. It’s what I call the illness of busyness, of feeling productive, getting things done, checking activities off a task list, but not actually tracking towards where the money is to be found. One of my favorite sayings is to watch for the operation being successful, but the patient dying.

One example of getting this right is the design and building of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum in Spain. Architect Frank Gehry understood that the objective was about creating something of value and wonder to attract visitors to the city and region. 

The option of converting existing buildings that had laid abandoned for some years was rejected in favor of something new and spectacular that could fulfill the brief of generating economic growth in Spain’s north (an estimated €500 million in its first three years after it opened). 

Gehry kept his focus on answering the real objective, which was to create something that would attract large numbers of tourists to drive significant economic impact, and not making the mistake of designing a museum at the originally briefed location. 

(Note: this example was referred to in How Big Things Get Done by Professor Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner.)

Closer to home, an Australian financial services institution had the objective of becoming digital-first because it understood that’s where its future customers are to be found, and that’s the fastest way to compete effectively with organizations with larger budgets. 

Yet the organization continued to be busy doing the same thing that it had been doing before. The organization had to transform itself to follow the money. Even though the commitment and lip service to the new strategy was there, the old marketing habits were still in action. The gap between marketing and revenue had to be closed.

I think as a whole, marketers do understand their role: to create demand for products.

However, the best marketers have structured partnerships with their sales organizations and their impact on generating revenue.

The best will not only create demand but also support sales by taking customers along the path to conversion.

Both, though, are different from when everyone in the organization thinks this way. When everyone says “show me the money”, that is indeed when focus of time, resources and energy converts to revenue.

A version of this article also appears at