Traditionally, marketing forecasts haven’t held as much weight as sales forecasts in the eyes of the CEO. This is beginning to change as more companies are looking beyond the traditional sales cycle and more at an overall revenue cycle.
However, to stand out and catch the eye of executives, marketing must rely on a forecast that uses analytical rigor and a deep understanding of how prospects move through the revenue cycle.
To provide consistent and relevant forecasts to company stakeholders, marketers must look at tools that excel at meeting the needs of marketing and the company. When trying to understand what features are required for optimal marketing forecasting, consider the following:
Ease of Use and Robustness
Marketing forecasts require an ample amount of time for research, analysis and knowing how to navigate the system to produce detailed reports.
For most CMOs, and their key staff members, having a dedicated marketing analyst to accomplish this workload is not always possible with factors such as budget constraints. Ease of use is critical so that anyone, familiar or not, is able to use it without a major learning curve or large time investment.
Along with ease of use, an effective marketing forecast tool should be robust enough to handle the complexities of today’s sophisticated revenue cycles. After all, if a tool is simple to navigate, but lacks power to handle tasks, the tool doesn’t hold true to the needs of the CMO and other key stakeholders in the company.
Integration With Automation Systems
Most B2B marketing teams may already have their own marketing automation or sales force automation solutions in place. This may pose a larger challenge when the CMO looks for a tool to accomplish marketing forecasting tasks.
To minimize duplicate work as well as duplicate data, it’s imperative to scope out and question vendors for a forecasting tool that integrates seamlessly with existing systems. Some things to consider might include:
- Does this tool use existing data or require additional entry of marketing data?
- Will this tool integrate with our existing system while minimizing duplicate data and effort?
- Does this forecasting tool allow multiple sources of data entry?
- Does this tool support trending and historical views over time, not just current data?
Support for Executive Dashboards
To obtain sign-off from key stakeholders, marketers must ensure their forecasting tool is able to integrate or easily export data into executive dashboards. This data must include projections, actual results and the impact to the entire revenue cycle.
As executives see and understand the contribution from the marketing team from their dashboard, they can see how and if marketing is contributing to lead generation and company revenues. This ties into justification for budgeting, approval on future campaigns and other requests by the marketing team.
For many CMOs, marketing forecasting goes far beyond basic accountability; it’s an essential key to building marketing credibility. As that credibility grows within the organization, additional benefits surface including: justification for marketing budgets, greater influence for marketing and higher compensation.
With a full-featured marketing forecasting tool-set, these benefits and others for the company will begin to resonate the importance of giving marketing a seat at the revenue table.