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Planning Assumptions for 2018

September 28, 2017

 As SiriusDecisions looks toward the year ahead, we have identified critical planning assumptions for sales, marketing and product functions

SiriusDecisions has released more than 75 planning assumptions for B2B organizations seeking to maximize their performance in 2018. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we excerpt several of these planning assumptions, including their implications for sales, marketing and product leaders. To explore more planning assumptions for each B2B function, visit our Planning Assumptions resource center.

Marketing Data Management: It’s Time to Act

As of May 25, 2018, all organizations conducting business with EU citizens must comply with the strict personal data privacy regulations of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or risk fines of up to 20 million euros or 4 percent of worldwide revenue (whichever is greater). This law, along with other privacy regulations (e.g. the Canadian anti-spam law), requires clear and affirmative consent to receive marketing communication.

With regulatory deadlines looming, it’s now urgent that marketing functions ensure compliance. Marketing operations teams must assess their current state of data readiness for GDPR. If they find any gaps, they must drive the implementation of organization-wide policies for permission-based data management. The legal requirement to comply is real, and fines for lack of compliance may pale in comparison to whatever damage occurs to the brand.

SiriusAction: Audit the organization’s current data intake, storage and maintenance practices, including data disposal, to ensure cross-functional data compliance. Conduct a port-of-entry analysis to determine where and how data enters the organization. Review all cookie and opt-in wording to check for appropriate and approved legal language. Implement and adopt policies that offer a high degree of certainty that marketing data will remain compliant and that new data is clean and compliant upon arrival.

Chief Sales Officers: Develop a Demand Sourcing Plan to Identify and Engage Buyers


SiriusDecisions research shows that sales leaders rely on multiple sources of demand to build their pipeline, with sales (33 percent), marketing (22 percent) and telesales (19 percent) being the top three sources. Sales leaders in companies that grew 20 percent or more during the last fiscal year reported that they rely less on their own sales organization to generate pipeline and received 16 percent more of their pipeline from demand sources other than sales.

CSOs should ensure that their demand sourcing strategy outlines the amount of demand required to achieve 2018 revenue objectives and enables broad-based rep quota attainment. This means building a demand creation plan that specifies the pipeline and revenue contribution that sales, marketing and partners should each make for every sales rep to hit quota. It also means ensuring tight integration of key sales and marketing technologies (e.g. marketing automation platforms, sales force automation systems) to track and measure contribution vs. goals.

SiriusAction: Develop a sourcing strategy and ask sales operations to build a demand creation plan with contribution expectations from sales, marketing and partners. Hold sales operations accountable for working with marketing operations to define the demand management process for marketing generated demand. Engage with the marketing leader to agree on the demand management plan and process and joint reporting procedures.

Product Management: Implement Concept Reviews and Evaluation

In the past, many organizations implemented complex and lengthy decision gate processes to control the innovation process and reduce risk. These heavy-handed processes can stifle the ability to quickly innovate, necessitating the creation of lean techniques such as minimum viable products (MVPs). Unfortunately, misunderstandings about MVPs have led some product teams to believe they can simply release a bare-bones product for the market to evaluate – without the research or justification to determine whether the product should be built.

Balancing the need to innovate quickly with the need for process oversight is tricky but achievable. Rather than jumping directly from an idea to a detailed business case – or from idea to MVP in the market – a concept review can help bridge this divide. The business case concept is a key deliverable created by product teams during the discovery stage of the innovation and go-to-market cycle for potential new products, services or solutions. A decision gate review that evaluates the business case concept using a consistent, objective evaluation scorecard can help determine which opportunities are worth developing into MVPs to ensure proper use of resources.

SiriusAction: Implement a standard decision gate to review and evaluate business case concepts. Additionally, leverage a consistent, best-in-class approach to objectively evaluate business case concepts.

Demand Creation: Revisit Assumptions for Demand Management

For B2B organizations, neither individual people nor entire corporations are the ultimate target of marketing and sales tactics. Instead, marketers and sales reps target demand units, which are defined as groups of individuals tasked by their organizations to solve a business need addressed by the seller’s offerings. Whether demand units consist of one person or more than a dozen individuals, they are the targets that marketing (and product and sales) should have in mind when planning buyer interactions and measuring their effectiveness. New technology capabilities and access to broader data sets can improve the organization’s ability to understand the needs that demand units need to solve, identify early intent and engage the right personas at the right time throughout the decisionmaking process.

SiriusDecisions’ Demand Unit Waterfall™ brings three innovations to the demand management process. It supports the need to focus on demand units for better program planning and accurate performance measurement. It also expands beyond known demand to define and measure potential demand units in the addressable market, which helps align sales, marketing and product teams earlier in the demand modeling process. Finally, focusing on demand units and their progression toward closed/won deals gives sales and marketing functions greater flexibility to define their roles in identifying and progressing demand for various demand scenarios. For example, marketing may source and influence all demand in a transactional or e-commerce scenario; however, in a named-account scenario, sales may source demand while marketing works to influence that demand.

SiriusAction: Look for signs that the organization is ready to implement the Demand Unit Waterfall: a strong focus on pipeline, a struggle to connect inquiry counts and pipeline, adoption of account-based marketing or a focus on target accounts, and the use of predictive analytics and intent monitoring data. Whether or not the organization is ready to implement the Demand Unit Waterfall, assess how effectively current demand management processes yield insights into how demand can be cultivated more holistically and effectively.

Chief Marketing Officers: Establish a Learning Culture

B2B companies are experiencing a growing marketing skills gap and an urgent need to address it. SiriusDecisions’ 2017 CMO Study indicated that 75 percent of marketing leaders have identified a need for new or enhanced marketing skills to support the execution of their marketing strategies. For example, an organization pursuing growth through new buyers would have difficulty achieving its objectives if the competencies to develop buyer personas were not in place. The urgency to address skill gaps has risen with the recognition that, as the study indicated, the fastest-growing companies (i.e. those with annual revenue growing by more than 50 percent) are more likely to offer marketing enablement. Yet, while the gap in necessary skills and the correlation between growth and marketing enablement are recognized, less than 32 percent of B2B marketing organizations have established a marketing enablement role.

A structured focus on marketing enablement improves time to productivity, decreases turnover and improves the organization’s ability to achieve its growth objectives. A marketing enablement role or function is responsible for systematically identifying what it will take to equip marketing staff members with the competencies (e.g. skills, knowledge, process, tools) they need to succeed in their current roles and advance in their field. It focuses on three disciplines: enablement strategy, talent development, and the development and execution of training and enablement programs. The enablement role or function should exist within the marketing organization, because the deep domain expertise required for improving marketing competencies exists mostly within marketing.

SiriusAction: Establish and define a marketing enablement role or function. Upskill an existing team member or hire someone new to run marketing enablement. Establish consistent definitions for marketing concepts and processes to facilitate improvements in competencies and execution.