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What is Revenue Operations? Why Does It Matter to You?

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What is Revenue Operations? Why Does It Matter to You?

It’s no secret that most businesses have been feeling intense economic pressure ever since the pandemic began. From rapid shifts to ecommerce and remote work, to tightening supply chains, to increased competition for consumer attention, making an honest dollar is harder than it’s ever been.

To make matters worse, although there are an abundance of agencies and SaaS solutions available to improve business performance, the tools and processes for achieving proven and reliable growth in unstable markets are few and far between. And, despite our tremendous capacity for technological innovation, many companies still struggle with employee engagement, company culture, and cross-functional collaboration, let alone orienting multiple business functions to push for growth in competitive markets.

What business leaders need is a proven approach to gaining market share in the face of stiff competition and established market players. We know this because we’ve been working for over a decade to help our B2B clients revolutionize their market approaches in precisely these scenarios, and have spent years improving it in response to incredible advances in marketing and sales technology. With this blueprint in hand, you will be able to leverage technology to drive sales, work smarter, not harder, and support deeper collaboration between marketing, sales, and service.

Rethinking Our Relationship to Technology

At the core of the Revenue Operations philosophy is the idea that technology can extend or enhance our natural human capabilities, something first proposed by media theorists like Marshall McLuhan. For example, a celebrity sending out a Tweet that appears as a notification on thousands of phones at once essentially has the superpower of yelling “Hey! Listen!” and having large sections of the world listen at once. Although marketers and salespeople use technology every day, it’s likely that most of us think of them as mere tools, not powerful extensions of our body and mind.

The implications of this perspective are profound. Given the vast power of customer relationship management software, marketing automation software, and now artificial intelligence, there are many tasks and processes that can be augmented or automated, leaving your marketing, sales, and service employees free to tackle higher-value work – like account-based marketing, which requires unprecedented collaboration between marketing and sales to accomplish successfully.

Table of Contents

  • Part I: We Have the Technology
  • Part II: Maximum Leverage
  • Part III:  Revenue Operations

Part I: We Have the Technology

In much the same way as industrial technology facilitated the development of Henry Ford’s assembly line, technologies such as marketing automation and customer relationship management systems enable entirely new ways of communicating with customers throughout their progression from prospect to positive reference. We’ll begin with a quick examination of the three technologies that are most relevant for sales and marketing in 2023 and the ways that they help businesses be more and do more.

Customer Relationship Management

CRM technologies, first invented in 1987 and popularized by Salesforce throughout the 2000s, are software systems that store customer information, track the history of the relationship, and provide reporting on things like sales forecasts, customer lifetime value, and funnel health. By augmenting certain sales processes and automating others, CRMs allow your front-line employees to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time driving revenue.

For businesses with complex sales cycles, CRMs are your best way to track customer engagement across their entire buying journey, especially since modern systems can provide salespeople with automated reminders and notifications about possible buying signals. Given that sales roles often have high turnover, having all of your customer data in a centralized place makes it much easier to maintain contact with prospects in the event of a termination or resignation, and protects you against a salesperson taking your company’s Rolodex with them.

Key Advantages of a CRM:

  • Businesses implementing CRM can see an ROI of up to 8:1
  • CRM applications can improve sales performance by almost 30%
  • Salesperson productivity improves by over 25% when they use a CRM

Source: Nutshell

Marketing Automation

While CRM systems allow you to track customer data over time, marketing automation systems leverage that data to create personalized customer touchpoints and nurture leads without the direct involvement of your marketing or sales staff. Although it can take many forms, most people are familiar with marketing automation through email workflows which segment subscribers according to their open and click activity. Marketing automation can do much more, however – serving content to prospects based on buying triggers, making a chatbot available on your website, and even using programs to control PPC ad buys are all examples of ways marketing tasks can be automated.

Key Advantages of Marketing Automation:

  • Most businesses using marketing automation see an ROI of around 5:1
  • Marketing automation can increase the size of your sales pipeline by 10%
  • Chatbots pre-programmed with answers to common questions can reduce service loads by 30%

Source: Moosend

Artificial Intelligence

As transformative as CRM and marketing automation have already been, and will be, when artificial intelligence is part of the solution, the potential becomes mind-bending. Consider, for example, that artificial intelligence can already access, process, and draw insights from vast amounts of data – even from real-time sources like social media feeds. Recent developments in natural language processing, or NLP, mean that AIs are learning to write articles, create artwork, compose music, and play complex games. They are developing an understanding of language so deep it sometimes seems they’re speaking with a human accent. Trained on the writings of masters like Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, they’re able to generate great prose and poetry given the proper direction.

You will notice that much of the previous paragraph is italicized – this is because it was written by an AI, based on instructions and contextual cues from the writing that came before it. This means that it is already possible for AIs to read human language, understand the meaning and intent of that language, and then modify or build on it in ways that are contextually appropriate. The possibilities for such technology are profound, and could include completely personalized communications for every single prospect, AI salespeople closing deals with no supervision, and other applications that could transform what marketing and sales employees actually do with their day.

What is Your Technology’s Job Description?

Although many businesses spend a lot of time thinking about their organizational chart and defining roles for their team members, given these incredible possibilities it is time to start thinking about technology as a kind of employee. This means giving it a rough job description, defining what tasks it will and will not be responsible for, and designating people to supervise its performance. Approaching your marketing and sales technology in this way will allow you to think holistically about your business, giving you the perspective you need to make sure everyone in your company, including your technology, is empowered to do their best work.

Part II: Maximum Leverage

Now that we’ve established what CRM, marketing automation, and artificial intelligence can offer your business, let’s examine how you can deploy them to drive revenue while supporting more efficient processes.

Who Does What?

Although this may sound tedious, it’s important for you to get clarity within your marketing and sales functions regarding who is responsible for each customer touchpoint, as well as a rough measure of time that they spend on each of those tasks. If your organization already uses time tracking processes or software, this should be relatively easy to do.

Now, compare those figures – and the dollar value of the time spent – to the capabilities of established technologies. Are there things your employees are doing, even time spent compiling reports, that could be done by a machine? What is the ROI from a process efficiency standpoint? And, most importantly, what could your marketing and sales employees be doing instead?

Account-Based Marketing

One of the biggest opportunities for businesses today, especially for marketers and salespeople trying to grow revenue in competitive markets, is called Account-Based Marketing, or ABM. A term used to describe highly targeted efforts that are a combination of marketing and sales tactics, ABM has become popular over the last five years as organizations leverage technology to get more sophisticated about how they generate revenue.

In general, ABM involves the identification of high-value accounts, targeted marketing and sales engagement with stakeholders within those accounts, and even the creation of custom marketing and sales material to support those stakeholders throughout their purchase lifecycle. Thanks to sophisticated targeting capabilities of digital channels like Google Ads and LinkedIn, as well as CRM and marketing automation technology, these kinds of hyper-targeted campaigns are now feasible – and even more cost-effective than more traditional methods of client acquisition!

A Simple Example of ABM

Imagine you are a boutique consulting firm, doing a million and a half in revenue, with one salesperson and one person managing the marketing department. The more traditional way of growing your revenue digitally would include a blog, likely PPC ads targeted around your service keywords, and a general social media push to grow awareness.

An ABM approach would be very different, and would involve the identification of a highly specific group of potential buyers using a process like our Customer Scorecard. For this boutique consultancy, it may be the case that they are able to add a lot of value to insurance defense lawyers, which means they would make a list of every relevant firm in their region – or even the country – and figure out who they could target.

Further analysis of that list reveals that most of the insurance defense lawyers are located in a certain city, which allows them to develop a whitepaper and PPC ads specifically for that demographic. Working together on some targeted materials, the marketing and sales duo send out personalized packages to the likely economic buyer in the ten highest-value firms in that city, purchase booth space in an upcoming trade convention for insurance lawyers, and plan to further align their efforts to solely focus on acquiring insurance defense practices as accounts.

What This Means for You

In terms of your own business, how quickly or easily you can transition to higher-value ABM tactics is a matter your ability to shift your strategic posture, as well as your ability to implement the necessary CRM and marketing automation technology. We have been helping B2B organizations do this since before Justin Bieber was discovered, and have a Quick Start Plan to help you achieve both quick wins and sustainable growth.

Marketers and salespeople who try ABM almost unanimously agree that it is a superior method to more traditional ways of handling marketing and sales, with higher ROI, higher contract size, and improved customer lifetime value. However, as we’ve been discovering in our work, the level of collaboration between marketing and sales can go even deeper.

Part III: Revenue Operations

The general framework for restructuring your organization that we are proposing, and the one that we believe will become commonplace in the near future, is called “Revenue Operations”. By thinking about your technology as a member of your team and being open-minded about redefining the roles of your human team members, it is possible to achieve total alignment of sales, marketing and customer support operations across the full customer life cycle. Essentially, we advocate for using CRM, marketing automation, and artificial intelligence to drive process and labor efficiencies so that teams can better serve customers and drive revenue.

Although this may seem a little woo-woo and abstract, there is a great deal of value in thinking in very general terms about our technology and how we use it. Consider, for example, the automation tools offered to small businesses and entrepreneurs by Mailchimp. Among other things, the very basic functionalities include:

  • Seeing if someone opened an email
  • Seeing if someone clicked something inside the email
  • Using tags to segment subscribers based on their behavior
  • Using if/then decision trees to further segment subscribers
  • Sending emails to the segments developed

What we are looking at, in general terms, is not necessarily a “marketing automation system”. Rather, it is a system for interpreting customer behaviour within a limited scope of ways, segmenting them based on that behaviour, and then sending emails to those segments. Such a platform could easily be used to create everything from a choose-your-own-adventure novel, to a multi-layered research project collecting interaction and input data, to a sophisticated marketing funnel.

Let’s deploy this same kind of abstract thinking to things like CRM, marketing automation, and artificial intelligence. What businesses now have access to, in metaphorical terms, is the ability to look deeply into the soul of customers, to see what they are really interested in, what moves them, and what they value. In addition to this incredible capacity for insight, businesses can also use these new technologies to give each customer completely personalized attention throughout their entire life cycle.

This means that in general, marketing and sales roles will change, moving away from an emphasis on selling products and services and instead to a focus on identifying and offering exactly what people want. Research, synthesis, insight, and strategy will become the dominant skills in this new workforce, with marketers generating sophisticated sets of parameters and instructions for the sophisticated intelligences nurturing the funnel and sales engaging warm leads with a seamless handoff.

Deploying Revenue Operations in Your Business

One of the things we do with almost all of our clients is help them develop buyer personas that focus on needs and path to purchase. We’ve noticed that historically, such efforts are completed by the marketing team with limited input by sales and service – if this is the case for your business, inviting key stakeholders from these other functions to the table will unlock new insights about how customers move through the later stages of your funnel as well as how they interact with your business after the sale. This is a quick win that any business can implement with a simple series of meetings.

For businesses ready to take the next step, we have a Quick Start Plan that helps teams reorient, strategize, develop unique and valuable content, and re-enter the market within 90 days. We also support your transition to a more robust technology stack which supports marketing, sales, and service activity within a unified framework.

For years, Marketing CoPilot has worked with businesses, particularly in the B2B sector, to transform their approach to digital marketing using technology. We offer a suite of marketing services, live coaching programs, and have published a book on digital marketing strategy for marketing leaders.