Follow the Money: The Primary Responsibility for CMOs

Posted by James Obermayer on Aug 11, 2015 11:05:00 AM

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The term ‘follow the money’ was made famous in the 1976 drama documentary All the Presidents Men, and has been used variously as the basis of journalistic articles ever since. Its purpose is to follow the money trail to get to the root cause of an issue.

It happens also to be one of the four primary duties for Chief Marketing Officers. However, if you have ‘Marketing’ in your title, regardless of what it’s attached to, these are your ultimate responsibilities, and ‘following the money’ is the subsequent proof of your existence. Your duties are:

  1. Establish the Brand
  2. Generate Demand
  3. Manage Demand
  4. Follow the Money

Branding has gotten a lot of attention in B2B over the last ten years or so, as traditional agencies, to generate more revenue, jumped on the band wagon of brand measurement and improvement for B2B. And yet, without ‘following the money’ and reporting on the results, what has Marketing achieved? Maybe the brand is being established, but what does it mean if you can’t point to related financial results?

Generating demand (the easiest chore) can be a money pit, if the results are not guiding the 2-15% of a company’s yearly revenue spend (on marketing).

Managing demand – lead management is getting more attention because of the explosion of vendors now saying they’re in the business of lead management. But we all know that the granddaddy of modern lead management originated with CRM and all other programs and services can be attributed to the CRM family tree.

Following the money can be the focus of both the sales and marketing departments. In this case I make an argument that without following the money, Marketing acts with good intention, but can’t prove that its actions have measureable results for every dollar spent on lead generation. 

Since the 2007 recession there have many articles, white papers, e-books, blog entries and traditional books written on Marketing ROI (see the bibliography at the end). The discussion has not been about the need to measure, but on how to go about it, and will anybody do it.

I assume that anyone who wants to measure marketing will find the tools and the wherewithal to do it. It isn’t that difficult anymore. It all comes down to the ‘wanna factor.’ Does Marketing wanna follow the money?

If Marketing wants to measure lead generation programs, it starts with:

  1. WhyItMatters-FollowTheMoney_2Isolating lead generation into campaigns.

  2. Closing the leads out with results (75-80% of leads can be followed-up and reported; at any given time 20-25% can be unresolved in the pipeline).

  3. Reporting on lead disposition and running the numbers; it’s just an exercise. James Lenskold’s book Marketing ROI will give you the simple formulas.

If you cannot rely on salespeople to close out the leads, close them out yourself. If begging and pleading doesn’t work, look at sales results to see if there is a match between the lead and a recent purchase. You can use an inside marketer (or salesperson) to call the unclosed leads. You can give the leads to an outside service. If you ‘wanna,’ you will find a way to get the campaign measured.

HughMcFarlaneQuote-FollowTheMoney_2In the final analysis, before you lose your job because you can’t measure marketing’s contributions to sales, ‘following the money’ is your only choice as a marketer going forward.


Alexis de Tocqueville said,
“If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse.”

Excuses abound for managers who are afraid of ‘following the money.’ I find that there are two reasons why people don’t do something:

  1. They don’t know how.
  2. They don’t want to.

If we can help marketing managers learn how to ‘follow the money,’ most will do it because we normally do those things that are in our own best interest.

This ‘follow the money’ subject has been addressed in an SLMA radio program with a guest appearance by Paul Petersen, the GM/VP of Goldmine. Titled "Marketing’s Role is to 'Follow the Money,'" the program aired August 6th, 2015 as an unscripted live program. Podcasts will be available the following week.


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Topics: Marketing & Sales Alignment, Marketing ROI


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