The Green Dashboard Syndrome

Published on 18 March 2024
— You do not generate enough leads!
— We generate enough; it’s your sales techniques that need to be improved!
In every B2B company I’ve worked for, either as an employee or a consultant, there has been a visible or hidden confrontation between sales and marketing. Regardless of the market, product, business size, or organizational structure, sales teams were consistently unhappy with the quantity and quality of leads. Even in scenarios without sales personnel, where products were sold through self-service, the CEO questioned the marketers about revenue shortfalls.

Sometimes, marketers respond to these complaints by acknowledging an issue and suggesting collaboration to enhance lead generation. More often, they retorted that lead generation was perfect — “Just look at our all-green marketing dashboard!” The lack of revenue and new clients, they argued, was due to sales teams' lack of skills, laziness, failure to demonstrate the product’s value to customers, or a thousand other reasons why sales were to blame.
I’ve been guilty of this myself during my employment days. Therefore, analyzing the causes of the "green dashboard syndrome" among marketers is a personal story.
Here are six reasons we will explore below:
  1. No marketing plan.
  2. The marketing plan is disconnected from sales.
  3. We don’t understand the customer journey.
  4. Marketers cloud the issue.
  5. We’re not seeing the big picture.
  6. We don’t account for market conditions.

No Marketing Plan

Operating without a marketing plan may work for small teams where everyone is on the same page and decisions are made quickly. However, as the team grows, the lack of a plan can lead to confusion, inefficiency, and dissatisfaction. A comprehensive marketing plan is like a roadmap that guides the team toward its goals and ensures everyone is moving in the same direction.
The wrong approach
There is no plan at all (a plan in the head of the leader does not count), or it exists only within the marketing department, unknown to sales, the product team, and the CEO.
Why this is problematic
Regardless of the reports marketing shows, they are only relevant to sales with a coherent plan. It’s peculiar that there are no reports at all in such cases.
The right approach
Create a marketing plan with clear KPIs and a methodology for calculating them.
Where to stop

Match the plan’s thoroughness and depth with the business’s scale and how accurately you can forecast based on historical data. Don’t detail the marketing plan down to specific advertising campaigns if you haven’t run ads before. Instead, use market benchmarks, increase them by one and a half to two times (this gives the entire company a safety net), and there you have realistic target KPIs.

Marketing Plan Is Disconnected from Sales

Sometimes, the marketing plan exists independently of the sales plan. Perhaps initially, one was derived from the other, but the connection was lost over time.
The wrong approach

The marketing plan is based not on the sales plan but on historical marketing metrics and the mantra of "30% growth."

Why this is problematic

A 30% increase in revenue targets does not necessarily mean lead generation should increase by 30%. Even with an unlimited budget and resources, marketing channels can hit a ceiling. Maintaining their quality and conversion rates becomes challenging as the quantity of leads increases.

The right approach

Decompose the sales plan into qualified leads through average deal size, sales cycle, and win rate. Remember, if the sales cycle is six months, marketing efforts in September might only convert to new clients around March of the following year. You can further decompose the lead plan into traffic and other operational metrics based on past period conversion rates.

Where to stop

When revenue has many variables—different products, segments, territories, new vs. old clients, and industries—meticulous planning to the last detail can be exhausting. Focus on the main categories that collectively account for 70−80% of revenue and plan lead generation and metrics for these areas. Multiply these figures by two for realistic marketing KPIs.

We Don’t Understand the Customer Journey

Suppose you’ve gathered a quality audience and conducted a successful webinar where participants asked many questions. Yet, there are no quality leads.

Your clients' customer journeys most likely consist of dozens of touchpoints. There needs to be more than a single webinar: before initiating a conversation with sales, a client reads articles on your blog, downloads and trials the product, compares it with competitors, and watches video reviews.
The wrong approach

Assuming that the number of leads directly and linearly depends on clicks on an advertisement or website traffic.

Why this is problematic

The B2B customer’s path through the marketing funnel takes weeks to months. During this period, a potential client interacts with your company several dozen times through the website, email, social media, events, media, and other channels. This slow-warming process is crucial before they are ready to engage with sales.

The right approach

Understanding the customer journey is crucial for effective marketing. It’s not just about the number of interactions but also the quality and timing of these interactions. By mapping the customer journey, marketers can identify critical touchpoints, understand customer needs, and tailor their strategies accordingly. This can lead to higher-quality leads and more successful sales.

Where to stop

It may seem initially that all customer journeys are unique. Analyze not only the sequence of channels they use but also the pains potential customers are trying to solve each time they interact with your company. What do they want today? Do they want to learn about product features? Find insights for their work? Get social proof? Instead of pondering each customer’s path, decipher buyers' motives throughout the marketing funnel.

Marketers Cloud the Issue

«The Illusion of Control»
The marketing dashboard may contain dozens of unclear metrics. Marketers, for instance, can report on five new articles they’ve published or on reduced cost per click. But how does this affect lead generation for sales?
The wrong approach
Focusing on results that do not relate to the primary goal of the marketing department—to provide sales with well-nurtured leads while staying within budget.
Why this is problematic
There are countless metrics in marketing—over 500 in Google's advertising cabinet alone—and it can be hard to understand what's significant and what's not.

A marketer with a glib tongue can easily highlight a "green" metric and explain why these numbers are essential. Unfortunately, in reality, these metrics may not relate to sales growth.
The right approach
Focus on the primary operational marketing metrics in B2B—number of qualified leads, pipeline coverage, customer acquisition cost, and overall return on marketing investments. Traffic, web conversion, the number of webinars, and advertising costs are substantial but secondary.

Metrics like cost per click, CTR in mailings, and the number of likes should be analyzed by marketing teams and relevant specialists. The leader can occasionally highlight such numbers to address a problem or give praise, but only as an exception.
Where to stop
Refrain from assigning marketing with unrelated KPIs. The marketing department is responsible for lead and demand generation, market share, and brand identity. Sales teams handle revenues, the product team manages the product, and respective departments take care of implementation and customer success. Let each be accountable for their specific role.

We're Not Seeing the Big Picture

Some leaders consider a particular metric, such as increasing traffic, as the primary criterion for success. They overlook the quality of that traffic. Such a narrow view fails to provide a comprehensive picture and diverts the team from the main objectives.
The wrong approach
Tracking quantity while neglecting to analyze quality. Celebrating an increase in leads despite a declining win rate and growing traffic without regard to conversion. Draining advertising campaigns for high ROMI, forgetting about the contribution of advertising to the customer journey.
Why this is problematic
Good traffic is only part of the success. Its conversion rate is crucial. It’s one thing to write an excellent article for a high-frequency query and attract quality visitors; it’s quite another to launch banner ads and hope that among the thousands who respond, many will be from your target audience and immediately become quality leads.
The right approach
Monitor conversions, such as downloads of a trial version of the product. If you want to dig deeper, figure out which metrics influence target actions.
Where to stop
Do not overcomplicate or introduce metrics that are difficult to measure. Two or three elements in the formula are usually enough. If you have more, developing and testing hypotheses becomes challenging because you cannot avoid the influence of one metric on another.

We Don’t Account for Market Conditions

«Chaos and Curiosity»
Investors may tear me apart for saying this, but there are times when external factors influence buyers more than usual. These cannot be overlooked, neither in planning nor in execution.
The wrong approach
Always assuming that to grow faster than the market, you need to sell 1.5 times more each month than the previous year’s.
Why this is problematic
Faster than the market means faster than the market, not faster than your historical metrics. There will be times when the market declines—remember the dot-com bubble and the global crises of the 2000s and 2010s. In 2020, COVID-19 devastated the tourism and hospitality industry. Economic conditions, competitor actions, and geopolitics can impact your company more than it seems.
The right approach
Marketers should keep track of what is happening worldwide and in the industry. A general downturn is a time for thoughtful analysis of channel effectiveness, enticing competitors' bases, working with existing customers, and preparing the groundwork for the future, planning new products or campaigns. A period of growth is a time for experiments and aggressive expansion. Analyze the situation and periodically review the marketing plan along with the KPIs.
Where to stop
Even under the worst market conditions, shareholders and CEOs expect new customers from the sales team and new quality leads from marketers. Create a new realistic and coordinated sales and marketing plan, keep what works best for generating demand, and continue to work diligently.
The monopoly of marketing departments on supplying sales with leads does not mean marketing is always proper. If sales are falling behind the plan, the problem should be addressed both in sales and in marketing.

The greener the marketing dashboard, the more likely the problem is indeed on the marketing side.
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