I'm writing from a mid-sized PE-owned B2B media company that needs to realize better margins fast. We generate revenue from traditional revenue streams such as digital advertising, print advertising, demand generation, conference sponsorship, and conference ticket sales.
We recently launched a first-party data solution called Pipeline Pal that allows customers to target prospects based on their ideal customer profile, buyer persona, and data enrichment using a combination of first-party purchase intent data that we generate through site visitor behaviors and third-party data from Bombora.
Pipeline Pal is a vital strategic investment for us. It fulfills new customer demands, boosts customer spending, and enhances our competitiveness. Moreover, it will significantly improve our company valuation upon exit.
Here’s the rub.
- Our business and technology systems are geared to support the traditional revenue streams, and we are hacking those systems and processes to support Pipeline Pal.
- Pipeline Pal requires significant data governance, cleansing, and enrichment; it must happen in real-time. Currently, our time from lead initiation to delivery is seven business days. Our competitors are doing this in a matter of minutes.
- 90% of our Pipeline Pal customers also purchase other programs from us, including event sponsorship, digital advertising, and newsletter marketing. They are receiving disconnected reports about each program and we are receiving customer complaints about the workload this puts on them to unify their full scope of leads and investment ROI.
- Our budget cannot support the additional headcount we will need to scale if we continue to hack our way through this.
- And, of course, there are significant data privacy issues and risks when delivering leads to our customers via spreadsheets.
Our current process is the following: Lead data is generated and housed across various systems, including Swoogo, Gleanin, Brella, various lead scanning and location apps, Ad Orbit, Google Ad Manager, GoToWebinar, SailThru, CredSpark, Hubspot, Balluun and Omeda.
We manually export, clean, dedupe, and append the data using Google Sheets and BigQuery before uploading it into Looker Studio, where our clients view program results. Enriched leads are delivered via spreadsheet by our account managers. This requires significant human effort, especially the data cleansing and governance that our customers demand. One headcount can handle about 25 accounts, which is not scalable based on our growth projections and required margins and will lead to customer issues and production constraints.
What do we do?
Flummoxed With Data
Is an Off-the-Shelf Solution the Answer?
Dear Flummoxed With Data,
Congratulations on launching your first-party data solution, Pipeline Pal; it's the right step in future-proofing your media business and improving your company's valuation. However, with most data monetization initiatives, new challenges arise, especially around the tech stack, internal processes, and skill sets. There is a lot to unpack, but thankfully, there are solutions to the multiple issues you describe.
Let’s attack the data problem first.
On the one hand, you have the comfort of the known – your current systems, albeit with their limitations, and because you have a private equity partner, improving margins is top of mind. Investing in new technology is not high on the list of investment priorities.
However, without automating the process, improving data hygiene and governance, and handling data more securely, you are putting Pipeline Pal, your customers, your revenue, and your business at risk.
You also do not have the internal skills to develop a system, nor should you. That's high risk, expensive, and unsustainable for a company your size.
The hard truth is that you cannot scale without investing in an off-the-shelf solution. You need an off-the-shelf solution that:
- Unifies all of your campaign data across all of your marketing channels, including websites, email, newsletters, webinars, and live events
- Automates data hygiene, governance (yours and your customer's), and enrichment across 1st and 3rd party channels
- Provides your customers with seamless access to real-time comprehensive campaign reports and insights
- Delivers cleansed, governed, and enriched leads in real-time, preferably using a secure portal and/or API that connects to Salesforce, HubSpot, and other CRM systems
Now let’s talk ROI.
As with any technology investment, there must be a quick time to pay back and a clear understanding of what success looks like. The ROI and cost-benefit analysis I recommend to justify an investment in an off-the-shelf solution combines top and bottom-line impact.
Impact on Customers & Revenue
This is the top priority when it comes to evaluating ROI. How will this investment help my business grow, gain a competitive advantage, and turn sellers and customer success managers into revenue ninjas and value creators versus report generators?
KPIs You Will Want to Consider
Measure customer satisfaction before launch. Start measuring quarterly, particularly with customers purchasing demand generation, after launch. Customers benefit from faster ROI, reduced lead management and campaign reporting workload, and proactive campaign performance improvement.
Measure average and annual contract values to showcase increased annual spending and contract sizes. Customers who invest across various channels (website, email, newsletters, events, custom/sponsored research) achieve higher returns on investments with your company.
Unified reporting and analytics empower sales and customer delivery teams to provide real-time ROI proof to customers. It covers multi-channel and multiple brands.
Measure win rates and how those increase. Measure win rates in competitive selling environments as well.
A distinct competitive advantage is providing customers with real-time automated lead delivery and a unified view of integrated campaign performance.
Measure churn as well as net revenue retention. Net revenue retention is a clear leading indicator of churn risk.
Offering unified reporting with automated data cleansing, verification, appending, and enrichment in real-time enhances your contract delivery rate. Real-time leads (within 15 minutes) enable clients to act faster, increasing the likelihood of pipeline conversion, customer satisfaction, and improved retention.
Time to Revenue
Measure sales cycles or time to revenue. By empowering salespeople and custom delivery teams with real-time data, sales cycles should contract improving cash flow and quota attainment rates.
When sellers and customer success teams are empowered with real-time program performance data, they can create value for customers better and sell faster.
Costs & Employee Value Creation
A second measure is cost savings and/or resource optimization. With an off-the-shelf solution, you can anticipate needing fewer resources to assemble reports, unify data, cleanse, dedupe, enrich, append, and deliver proof of performance. Those resources can be reallocated to revenue-producing activities and creating customer value.
Employee Headcount in Customer Delivery & Reporting Organizations
How many employees do you have on the customer delivery and data teams to support advertising and demand generation campaigns? How many will you need as you grow and launch Pipeline Pal?
You will need significantly fewer employees to generate and deliver campaign reports to customers by eliminating manual work effort.
Accounts per Customers Delivery FTE
The number of accounts each headcount can handle will increase by automating the full cycle customer delivery journey.
Revenue per Customer Delivery FTE
By transitioning Customer Delivery employees from report generators to value creators and increasing the number of accounts that can be handled per head, revenue per employee will increase.
The Net Net
Once you have considered the off-the-shelf solution, calculated time to payback, and ROI, you will need to evaluate and change internal processes and customer journey mapping and ensure your internal and external stakeholders are not only trained on how to use the platform but also how to optimize and create value through it.
Let me know if you want to discuss specific off-the-shelf solutions we have worked with. I am happy to help with the internal processes and other changes that will be required.
Here to serve,
PS - May I suggest another name other than Pipeline Pal? It makes me giggle every time I say it.
About The Author
Heather Holst-Knudsen has deep roots in the B2B world, growing up in the renowned Thomas Publishing Company. With years of experience and a passion for the industry, she has significantly contributed to digital innovation and monetizing audience engagement. Holst-Knudsen's expertise led her to found H2K Labs, specializing in generating financial returns from data and driving revenue and profitability.
Have a question or want to share your perspective? Want me to answer your data challenge in my next "Dear Heather" column? Email me and let’s set up a time to speak.
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