I regularly speak with the CEOs of Media and Event companies about their pain points with revenue growth. Inevitably, quota attainment, forecasting, and managing revenue waterfall come up. The wild world of revenue data strategy is even harder when you have to navigate a labyrinth of acquisitions, diverse brand portfolios, and enterprise-wide data asset roadblocks.
Here are some observations about the challenges and steps to overcome them.
1. Embrace CRM Compliance. Let's eradicate CRM sandbagging once and for all. Encourage your sales team to enter all deals, not just the ones they deem "likely to close." This will prevent valuable data from slipping through the cracks and paves the way for more accurate forecasting. Fundamentals like this also forge an easier path for predictive analytics – anticipating revenue risks and opportunities and acting on them proactively. In order to do that, however, you need to follow the Golden Rule of Data: what you put in is what you get out.
- Tip 1: Stop CRM sandbagging by utilizing CRM compliance scorecards that are visible to everyone.
- Tip 2: Use a revenue intelligence platform that can pick up deal conversation clues in email and map to customers in the CRM. Emails that include words such as “proposal,” “pricing,” “discount,” and names of products you are selling can raise alerts when the customer recipient of those emails does not have a corresponding deal in the CRM.
- Tip 3: Create pipelines for inbound leads and renewals. When inbound leads are generated by marketing, a “lead opportunity” can be created and go through lead stages including Qualified, Intent, Pitch Call Scheduled, Pitch Call Conducted, and if the prospect converts into a sales opportunity it moves into the sales pipeline.
2. Look Beyond the CRM. When most leaders think about “revenue data”, CRM comes to mind, but leading indicators that truly move businesses forward also come from other data sources. When aggregating data across the enterprise, expand your data sources to include customer emails, conversational intelligence, audience engagement, input from customer success teams, and product performance. By leveraging this data, you can move towards the 3Ps of forecasting: Precise, Predictive, and Prescriptive.
- Tip 1: Understand what’s possible with predictive analytics given advances in technology platforms that unify data across silos and turn it into fuel for decision making. We’ll be happy to share possibilities with Insightify, our own platform, which was built specifically for senior leaders at business information, media and event companies.
- Tip 2: Make “what happens outside the CRM" a big priority for data capture across your organization, since it will be increasingly important in predictive analytics and more accurate forecasting going forward.
- Tip 3: Identify potential sources for insights and decisions, and where the underlying data lives. Consider insights on account risks and opportunities, gaining pricing power, improving product performance and more. Setting up a strong foundation won’t happen unless you identify which specific data sources matter.
3. Ditch Excel and Level Up. Excel is a time-wasting vortex that is holding back your organization. Hours, days, and weeks are spent pulling data from it, and much of this work consists of one-off efforts to chase down data for lagging indicators. What’s worse, it doesn’t add value to the enterprise or scale well. There are alternatives to break free from Excel…more efficient, scalable solutions to manage your data across the enterprise and empower your teams to add more value (with surprisingly fast ramp up times). If you’re at a private equity backed company, pay particular attention because value creation drives the PE world.
- Tip 1: Do an audit of your organization’s current practices with Excel and quantify the time spent, and how much of it is wasted. Then put it into dollar terms.
- Tip 2: Beyond Excel, think broadly about how much time and money is spent chasing data from disparate sources.
- Tip 3: Explore business intelligence solutions that offer quick wins. We’ve all been down the rabbit hole of vendor RFPs, over engineered platforms, and systems that are hard to implement. (At H2K Labs, delivering quick wins with Insightify is part of our deliverables and processes). Consider longer term factors too, such as needs for data visualization, analysis, predictive analytics, alerts, and collaboration. We believe in phased approaches, and delivering fast time to value is part of our DNA. It should be part of yours too, regardless of which vendor you work with.
- Tip 4: Automate manual pulls from Excel and repetitive (or periodic) tasks that can be done more efficiently with tools or scripts, freeing up time for more strategic and valuable work, particularly for senior leaders.
4. Assemble A Revenue Team. In a world where revenue drivers are hidden in marketing data, customer success data, product data, and beyond, think about how to bring your people in these functions together so they have a seat at the revenue table. And give them a voice. Create a cross-functional revenue team, consisting of business development representatives, account executives, customer service managers, account managers, marketers, content creators, audience specialists, and operations experts. This team should work together to achieve unified company-wide revenue goals. That’s when the magic happens: true alignment. What a concept.
The concept of a revenue team is very nascent, but I am seeing some movement with more progressive revenue leaders.
- Tip 1: Start Small. Transforming a traditional “sales floor” environment into a high performing revenue team has big implications on people, skills, processes, platforms, and culture. Find an easy win that allows revenue critical teams to work together and collaborate without rocking the boat. Once that proves successful, keep evolving and scaling.
- Tip 2: Align KPIs and Incentives. Every function in the organization that impacts revenue (whether it is marketing, sales, customer success, product, or operations) should have an incentive and rewards system tied to some element of the revenue chain. An easy one is tying customer success to renewal rates as well as number of expansion leads generated that result in closed/won deals.
5. Recognize that Revenue Data Requires Strategy. Most information and event companies have made major investments in audience data: the lifeblood of the business. But more leaders are starting to connect the dots with a broader view of business drivers from their data, and how they tie together. A solid revenue data strategy can improve pricing, reduce “rogue discounting” of sales teams, understand audience value and ROI, and understand the profitability of products, customers, contracts, and sales representatives.
- Tip 1: Articulate your goals clearly, including what decisions you want to make in an ideal world, before you begin any processes to unify data.
- Tip 2: Identify the blockers. What’s getting in the way? Silos? Tools? Processes?
- Tip 3: Make enterprise data strategy, broadly conceived, a strategic initiative for revenue growth. Leadership starts from the top.
- Tip 4: Establish a data governance framework. Define data ownership, roles, and responsibilities to ensure data quality, consistency, and compliance across the organization.
Enterprise data strategy has caught the attention of leaders, particularly CFOs. A true data-fueled revenue strategy can improve customer acquisition, retention, expansion, pricing, and unit-level profitability. Not to mention fewer surprises with forecasts. When that happens, your investors will thank you.
Bottom line, these five steps are fundamental to unlocking the true power of data-driven revenue growth. We’re here to help, no matter where you are in the journey.