In 2019 RepTrak, a market research agency that helps clients understand their corporate reputation was morphing into a SaaS platform. It hired Ali Jawin as its Director of Global Growth Marketing to help the marketing organization become data-driven, with more governance and fiscal responsibility. Today, Jawin is VP of Global Marketing, and she shared her experience using 6sense to help the company improve pipeline performance at 6sense’s recent Breakthrough 2022 event.
The accidental data marketer
Jawin was an accidental marketer. She graduated during the recession with a Ph.D. in Greek Philosophy and realized it wasn’t really a career path. She “fell into marketing” with the idea that she would love the creative aspects but soon realized that she loved the data side of marketing even more. Initially, she looked at the need to understand data and marketing technology as a way to keep her job. However, one day she realized she was looking at things the wrong way – data and analytics help her do her job better. It shows her what’s working and what’s not, enabling her to prove the need for a marketing budget.
When Jawin joined RepTrak, the goal was to create a data-driven, digital approach to marketing. She calls herself a pipeline marketer, meaning pipeline is the metric to track. Jawin said that at the heart of the lack of alignment between sales and marketing is that they are measured on two fundamentally different metrics – revenue for sales and MQLs [Marketing Qualified Leads] for marketing.
But focus on pipeline and marketing will always stay involved, working alongside sales to engage all the key people in an account. Together, sales and marketing have a shared responsibility to drive pipeline; it won’t grow without that collaboration. She argues:
We’re in a silo, but for sales to open up an opportunity, the odds are that that account that they’re interacting with has already been interacting with marketing. They’ve been seeing our ads, they’ve been on our website, they’ve been engaging with our content. So even though it is the salesperson that has the meetings, does the disco calls, and all of the qualifications, the way I see it is that none of that is going to happen without marketing anyway. So we should both be in the pilot seat of what’s going to happen.
Access to 6sense’s Pipeline Intelligence solution helped RepTrak discover some critical challenges to the sales and marketing relationship and to the accuracy of the existing pipeline itself.
Discovering the gap
In her presentation at the 6sense Breakthrough event, Jawin said that 94% of won opportunities come from strong fit accounts, but she never knew if they were going to hit pipeline or not, and she didn’t think there would ever be a way to know.
Then she heard about 6sense’s acquisition of Fortella, a Pipeline Intelligence solution, and she knew they needed to try it out. She thought it would be simple – find out if there’s a gap and decide what to do. It wasn’t.
She did find out there was a gap and that the company would not meet it. But she also discovered they needed 35% more pipeline than planned – with no additional resources – to meet their targets. Why was there such a significant difference? For sales and marketing to work together on pipeline, they need to use the same numbers as they thought they were. But they found out they weren’t aligned on the right metrics. They missed an important step – they were using a best practice conversion rate given to them by sales and not the actual conversion rate.
Jawin walked the audience through what she called the seven stages of ‘pipeline grief’ that took the combined team from shock and denial to pain and guilt, anger and depression, and then to the upturn where they accepted the truth and started working through it to find the path forward.
A few points that stood out:
- Sales should not have made up a number for conversion rate based on best practice – it should have been the actual conversion rate.
- Marketing should not have just accepted the number without asking and understanding how it was created – especially when they are tied to the same numbers.
- You cannot achieve goals if you aren’t willing to change your actions, and the two teams had to work together to make that happen.
6sense’s Pipeline Intelligence helped RepTrak understand their situation but working through it, they did find some good points, including
- 15% year-over-year pipeline generation increase
- 20% conversion from opportunity to close
- Marketing sourced 82% of pipeline
Throughout this process, Jawin said marketing has shown it is a true strategic partner, and they were now getting invited into every conversation. Also, working with the CFO, marketing has determined all pipeline metrics for 2023 planning:
That is also why something like Pipeline Intelligence really matters because as long as that number is going well and trending up, I will be given the benefit of the doubt. When that number is no longer trending up, then they’re going to start having some more questions. But that’s why the data is so important, where even when we can’t always track it, we can say, no, look, even if we can’t tie it directly there, this is directionally going up. And we know it’s not from these other channels. So I think it’s a very safe bet to assume it’s from here.
RepTrak knew it wasn’t going to hit its new logo numbers for 2022, but with the help of Pipeline Intelligence, Jawin said they knew early on and were able to prepare for it:
And I think especially what we’ve seen with pipeline intelligence is when we started in January, it was a very different world than we are now. No one thought there was going to be a war in Ukraine. Inflation like, it’s wild how much has happened this year. And we can see that reflected in pipeline intelligence, how our conversion rates from opp to closed/won have really fluctuated from month to month. Having that information update daily allows us to make plans. We can still hit our goals.
No longer flying blind
RepTrak has been a 6sense customer for three years. Jawin had heavily researched account-based marketing technologies for a previous employer, and she believed 6sense offered the best capabilities. The RepTrak finance team signed on to the platform during her first 30 days there because they understood how unpredictable pipeline was, and they were having trouble forecasting what was going to happen.
The initial use case wasn’t Pipeline Intelligence, however. Jawin said she was flying blind, not knowing what it was that prospects cared about, where they were in the market, or how to message them as she didn’t have the technology to reach them. But, with 6sense, she could see intent terms and understand the channels they needed to orchestrate:
I was here for three months before COVID hit. But I think one of the main reasons we were so successful is that we were able to rely on 6sense so much. It was such a robust platform, especially with display and re-targeting. We can see what people cared about, tailor that by funnel stage, load them into some display and re-targeting, and then set it and forget it. Load up the emails. It really became sort of like the central nerve of our entire operation, and it’s still to this day. Pipeline Intelligence is just a fantastic addition on top of that.
I asked Jawin what she thought would have happened if they hadn’t used 6sense Pipeline Intelligence. She said they wouldn’t have known their revenue for 2022. They would have been guessing and had less credibility, and 2023 planning would have been very difficult.
I like the idea of marketing on the frontline of pipeline and tying performance to a metric like pipeline, not MQLs. I’m not a fan of the MQL metric because no one seems to agree on what an MQL is. Most companies think someone who downloads an asset is an MQL if they fit the ICP (ideal customer profile), but reading a piece of content is not a clear indication of intent to purchase – especially not with all the content available today.
Working towards a pipeline number sounds much more realistic and brings sales and marketing closer together. Tools like 6sense help these collaborative teams understand what they are working towards better, and it’s nice to see the benefits they bring to a company when used correctly.