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When I joined my first SaaS marketing organization, the winds of Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler were blowing through technology businesses across the country. The safe, black boxes around marketing teams were stripped away as leadership teams realized that with a formula and a repeatable process, Marketing could be measured as a piece of a growth engine.

So, the needle swung. And it swung far. In conference rooms across the country, Marketing became a math formula:

25% of our whitepaper leads become Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs) + Our Sales Development Reps (SDRs) qualify 25% of these MQLs to Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs) + Our Account Exec’s close 10% of these SQLs to revenue = We need 5 deals a month to maintain our growth trajectory.

And that translates to, “Marketing: Go get 800 white paper leads this month — and we’re also hiring 4 new SDRs next month. They’ll need leads, too.”

And it worked — for a while.

In the world of UX, the term banner blindness refers to “a phenomenon in web usability where visitors to a website consciously or unconsciously ignore banner-like information, which can also be called ad blindness or banner noise.” Nine years after the publication of Predictable Revenue, we’re experiencing the same phenomenon albeit mutated. Buyers have been blasted by nurture programs and sales cadences, all designed to wrap them in a neat, measurable funnel.

And they know it. And they aren’t buying in. So, what’s the plan? How do we as direct or indirect marketers appeal to this empowered buyer?

Go Where the Demand Is — And Double Down

Rather than trying to create new high-intent demand from cold leads (with channels that should lean more toward brand), identify where in-market prospects are doing their research and double down on those channels.

Do you have a presence on websites like G2, SoftwareAdvice, and TrustRadius? These sites allow in-market prospects to read reviews, compare solutions, and form opinions about your business; all before ever talking to a sales representative. The real estate on these pages becomes some of the most valuable real estate in your arsenal. Ensure that the information you’re providing clearly addresses the problems and pains your prospects are facing — and clearly positions your solution as the key to addressing these pains.

How about your own high-value web properties, like your demo or contact pages? As marketers, we spend tremendous money driving in-market prospects to these pages. We should be running regular experiments to ensure that the information and value provided on these pages align with prospect expectations — encouraging them to share their incredibly valuable contact information.

Money spent driving high intent traffic to a demo page that’s all but abandoned is wasted money. And unearned or purchased contact information is a commodity. But a prospect willingly providing that same contact information and explicitly asking for sales follow up? That’s a treasure.

Become a Good Citizen of Your Industry

Ask five different members of your company what the most important asset in your company is, and you’ll likely get five different answers.

  • Our direct sales team: They crush it!
  • Our channel partners: They’ve extended the reach of our company by 3X!
  • Our product: It’s leaps and bounds better than our competitors’ solutions!
  • Our direct and channel marketing campaigns: We drive so many leads for our sales teams!
  • Our customers: The feedback they provide is essential!

There’s one asset that wasn’t on that list, and it’s an asset that will accelerate all of the above: Value.

Ungated value. Value that doesn’t have an ask attached to it. Value that doesn’t lead someone to a funnel. Value and information for the sole purpose of giving back to the industry you’re earning a living on.

When you stop creating content for the sole purpose of fulfilling a lead obligation and start creating content with a focus on true prospect value, something magical can happen. Prospects start engaging with your content every day, in an environment that facilitates lively discussion with their peers. They incorporate your strategic guidance into their every day. And they want more because you’ve provided them with knowledge to help them be the hero of their own journey. You’ve positioned yourself as not just a vendor — but a trusted advisor that has earned the right to their attention.

Ask yourself: If you’ve spent six months building a sales enablement strategy and are ready to purchase a solution, are you going to call the company that provided daily strategic sales enablement advice and didn’t ask for a thing in return? Or are you going to call the company that you downloaded a whitepaper from and have been trying to sell to you since?

Measure What Matters Most

Let’s walk through two scenarios.

Scenario 1: Your marketing team is producing 300 whitepaper download MQLs per month, which you’re sending to sales. Given the low intent, sales is only closing 5% of them to new business. At an ACV of $10,000 you’ve generated $150,000 in revenue.

Scenario 2: Your marketing team has ungated all their valuable content, and is amplifying it with no funnel-driven call-to-action (CTA) for your target audience. This month, via their analytics platform they know 150 prospects have not downloaded content — but consumed it. Of those 150 prospects, 50 have explicitly asked to speak to Sales — a true MQL. Given the high intent from the prospect raising their own hand, Sales is closing 30% to new business. At an ACV of $10,000 you’ve generated $150,000 in revenue.

Both scenarios have generated the same exact revenue. But that’s not the whole story. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which scenario had the more valuable MQLs? (Revenue / # of MQLs)
  • Which scenario took more of Sales’ time and therefore incurred a higher CAC?
  • Which scenario had a higher Opportunity Cost?
  • Which scenario fostered a more trusting relationship between Marketing and Sales?
  • Which scenario promoted a more positive brand image?

So what really matters? Not just leads. It’s certainly not just lead volume. And despite it being the north star metric for the large majority of the work we as marketers do, it’s not just pipeline. It’s how we get there, and the resonation from that journey. Whether it’s internal between your own teams or the perception of your brand from the prospects that you ultimately need to grow.

The winds are shifting yet again. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to me talk about these and more best practices for digital marketing on this week’s episode of Channel Chatter LIVE. Take a listen to the podcast and let me know what you think in the comments section below.