The Danger of False Marketing and Sales Statistics

Mark Twain made the following observation, which he attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Let’s talk about the third type of lie, statistics, and how misleading statistics impact B2B marketing and sales.

According to, “an obvious problem with statistics is that they can be simply be fabricated. Of course this could be true with any claim, but because statistics use specific numbers, they have a quality of authority about them, and we may be a little less suspicious than we would be for a more descriptive argument. Saying “83% of high school students admit cheating on tests” just sounds more authoritative than “most high school students admit they cheat on tests.”

Take for instance, the below chart which has been widely disseminated and quoted. It supposedly shows how a seemingly reputable organization called the National Sales Executive Association compiled data on how multiple contacts impacts sales close rates. The first time I saw this chart, I had a feeling that the stats are bogus – the data totally conflicts with our team’s experience with lead-to-revenue programs and metrics.

Misleading Statistics

Let’s dig into one of these statistics – 2% of sales are made on the first contact. Are you kidding me? There are many industries where making the sales on the first call is the norm so where does this 2% figure come from?

Of course it is important to follow-up on sales leads and be persistent, which is the point of this graphic. However, these statistics are made up and not based on any credible study. Adam Honing published a very good article about these false claims on Customer Think and an internet search will quickly show you that the purported organization called National Sales Executives doesn’t even exist. The problem is that people who are basing any of their marketing and sales initiatives on these lies pay a price when the reality turns out to be different than what the so-called stats indicated.

As another example, a business/life coach posted the following on her LinkedIn update: “Nine out of 10 people would rather die than change”. Really? Go ask the next 10 people you meet whether they would rather die than change. But I won’t be surprised to find other people quoting this fabricated statistic.

In regards to B2B sales, I’ve had two senior sales executives tell me that their teams close 50% or more of all qualified leads. Really?  Between my client-side and provider-side experience, I’ve probably run and measured several dozen lead-to-revenue programs and have never seen this level of proficiency. And in both of these instances the actual data showed that the close rate was below 20 percent.

And don’t even get me started on the companies that publish misleading data to sell their products – e.g. “According to an independent study, 92 percent of the people who take our weight-loss supplement lose 20 or more pounds their first month.” These fraudulent marketers know that gullible prospects hear what they want to hear and will discard common sense to buy the magic pill.

The following story, from a blog called Talk Money Café, shows how statistics can be manipulated: A mathematician and an accountant are in the same room for a job interview. The interviewer’s first question to the mathematician is:  “How much is $500 plus $500?” The mathematician replies:  “$1,000, of course.” The interviewer then turns to the accountant and asks the same question: “How much is $500 plus $500?” The accountant replies:  “Whatever you want it to be.” The interviewer then tells the accountant: “You’re hired!”

The moral of this story is to be skeptical of statistics – especially those that defy common sense and make your marketing goals harder to accomplish.

Note: this post first appeared at October 17, 2016.

Key SaaS Metrics for Accelerating Growth

Busiess MetricsExecutives love metrics, especially in the technology/Internet space. Metrics equal transparency and proactive improvement across key business metrics. Companies that set the bar operationally grow more effectively, and that means better shareholder value.

A few critical KPIs are key to measuring the health of the business, setting goals and identifying reprioritization efforts that can address potential issues before they surface. At the C-level, every executive, especially the CEO, continually evaluates how the business is doing on key fronts like sales, customer success, product, etc. With the rise of a more complex buyer’s journey, marketing has a huge impact on growth. Understanding the variables that indicate marketing success is what we will dive into below.

This overview and the examples are meant to give you a baseline understanding of creating a predictable marketing-centric model that helps justify further investment and testing of program-mix spend.

First, evaluate your strategy and your go-to-market model. There are three main variables to consider as inputs for optimizing productive growth:

  1. Average deal size: Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR): Are you living in a fast-moving, low-price, world? $2k ARR deals closing in weeks, not months? Or are you selling $250k ARR deals that take 18 months to close? Maybe you have businesses across multiple types of models. Are your new customers coming from freemium products? Trials? Demos?
  2. Sales cycle (number of days from lead to opportunity to close): Once the sales team accepts a qualified opportunity, they have the hot potato! What’s the Service Level Agreement (SLA) that comes with that company asset? Should the sales person use three or four calls and 30 days to close the deal? How are those efforts tracked, reported and planned for in your metrics and their compensation plans?
  3. Velocity (number of deals/rep/month): How simple or complex is it to sell your products? How many deals can your sales reps manage and close, in parallel?

Having a common understanding of what these mean is critical for your organization. Then you need to summarize and adjust your investment mix each quarter by leveraging solid data that you and your CEO trust.

What generates a fast-moving new pipeline?

In most cases, inbound marketing is the fastest way to generate a new pipeline. Inbound marketing is comprised of two channels:

  1. Organic search: Keyword phrases plus a highly optimized, dedicated landing page (under your URL) with content tuned to that exact search phrase. Every organic search campaign should have a dedicated landing page with a call to action (CTA) that converts the anonymous visitor to a known lead via the form-fill associated with getting the CTA offer.
  2. Paid channels (paid search/PPC, advertising and social): Google AdWords, Bing, Yahoo, LinkedIn, retargeting, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Use common definitions, attribution (I recommend multi-touch) and math to report results across your channels. Here is a useful top-of-funnel (demand generation) reporting template that will clarify which investments are the most valuable.

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Here’s an example of a quarterly marketing report outlining pipeline growth and productivity results to track results and to share with your executive peers.

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This will show the team how you are doing at a high level and will enable you to adjust the marketing plan.

Accelerate revenue growth with content

You don’t need a ton of content to accelerate revenue growth. But, over time, the company with the best content wins because content cuts through all the digital channels’ clutter and noise. Be a thought leader and see where your content stands versus your marketing campaigns and those of your competitors. Why does this matter?

  • Great content engages new (previously anonymous) buyers early in their search to buy the right products.
  • Great content used correctly (marketed to the right personas at the right stage of interest) increases your conversion rates (which improves your cost of acquiring new customers – customer acquisition cost (CAC).
  • Acquisition inefficiency starts at the top of your funnel. Knowing what keywords engage new buyers and what promotions work best means you beat your competition and engage new buyers so they prefer your solution versus your competition. That means faster/higher conversion rates, and you get more value from your nurturing tracks and CRM systems.

The key is your numerator. We all need to convert more previously anonymous people into new, high-quality leads. How does that happen? From engaging new buyers early in their process of looking for your products (non-branded search, advertising and social campaigns coupled with your outbound marketing programs).

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I prefer using the “Magic Number.” Magic Number = (Increase in quarterly recurring revenue4 )/ (prior quarter′ s sales and marketing expenses)

Your magic number should be >1.25 to pour fuel on the fire. If it’s below one, you have a problem to fix; either your average deal size and sales cycle are too inefficient for your sales and marketing model, or your marketing spend mix is way off. Either way, understand the root cause of the issue and fix it before trying to accelerate your revenue growth.

Monthly opportunity reporting

I saved the best for last. Below is my favorite report (simple but brutal) – a monthly opportunity report that is critical for your ability to predict the revenue impact from marketing’s pipeline contribution. The best forecast of future revenue is tracking opportunities that will turn into closed business.

If your opportunity-to-close percentage is 50 percent and your opportunity-to-close time averages 30 days, you can predict September revenue by adding up your total opportunities at the end of August, dividing by two and multiplying them by your average deal size.

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Since you know how many opportunities need to be created from marketing-generated leads, you can also improve your ability to forecast future opportunities based on math and past conversion rates. Over time, your marketing model will be so seamless that your ability to forecast future quarters’ revenues will be better than that of sales leaders … and that will create a trust to invest more in your business.

From the CFO and CEO view, operating expense increases are limitless as long as they trust it turns into faster revenue growth in a predictable way. Review your existing marketing model, generate and utilize reporting tools that track the value of your content and succeed in effectively tracking your marketing efforts and generating new business. You can do it!

Originally posted on

How to Find Your Total Addressable Market

Businesses love talking about total addressable market because it’s exciting for them to see the available opportunity for their product or service. So exciting, in fact, that they often clammer to craft specific campaigns or shift messaging around new potential markets. However, if this is done hastily or without thorough research, it can turn into a waste of time and resources.

Determine Your Ideal Customer Profile

To find your total addressable market, you first need to determine your ideal customer profile, then find look-a-likes that accurately fit the mold.

Determining which data are relevant to your total addressable market is a challenge. With so much data available on both current and prospective customers, it’s hard to distinguish the signal from the noise.

The traditional way of figuring out significant information was to look at the accessible firmographic data. Firmographic data includes basic information such as industry, location, size, and revenue. While this is useful to include in your analysis, this type of data is only the tip of the iceberg. Additional business signals that are harder to obtain, such as web savvy or social presence, may actually be better predictors of success.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a point of sale (POS) system looking to sell your product. Perhaps you target restaurants, because they fit your ideal customer profile. You may have performed well with them in the past, so you continue searching for other look-a-likes in the same industry. But what happens when you throw a new industry in for comparison?

addressable market

On the surface, with solely the firmographic data taken into account, the mechanic appears to have a lower success rate than the restaurants. This is where most marketers end their targeting exercise and launch campaigns targeted solely at restaurants. But look at how the success rates change when you add additional business signals:

addressable market

With the additional signals taken into account, the business in a new and unexpected industry has a significantly higher likelihood of success than a formerly considered look-a-like.

This example reveals that before you deeming a category unfit, make sure you are looking at the best possible predictors of success. This advanced segmentation uncovered a more effective go to market strategy than the original idea to sell to restaurants.

In this case, social media presence was more indicative of success than industry. 

The restaurant segment performed well because restaurants are more likely to be socially savvy than other small business industries. This new perspective with additional business signals revealed almost as high of a success with mechanics that were on Facebook as with restaurants on Facebook.

Discover the Size of the Market Opportunity

Once an ideal customer profile is solidified, the next step is to figure out how large the market opportunity is that fits the description.

Understanding your total addressable market will help you answer 4 key questions:

  • How long will my sales pipeline remain satisfied?
  • What is the real size of the market?
  • How many prospects can I expect?
  • What is the potential revenue for a particular quarter or year?

You can think of your total addressable market as the sum of your ideal buyer profile look-a-likes.

Let’s look at two scenarios to help understand how valuable it is to understand total addressable market for a product or service.

In this first scenario below, you have a segment that has a very high success rate compared to your typical conversion rate. Here is a highly targeted segment with an impressive success rate of 85.7%:
addressable marketsegmentation

It is clear that this segment will perform well. However, the addressable market opportunity – as shown in the number of new and open records – is small. This segment should still be used, but it will soon need expansion to provide a full sales pipeline and fuel sufficient business growth.

Below is another scenario for comparison with one signal removed to widen the net of potential businesses.


In the second scenario, you have a segment that converts at a lower success rate, but with a much larger market opportunity available to target – as shown in the number of new and open records. Even though the success rate is lower in this scenario, it still has a high success rate at 67.7% – and is well worth targeting. The sheer volume of the potential in the new and open records make up for the slightly lower success rate.

The results from the second scenario are more helpful in determining the size and scope of the total addressable market because it is scalable. Continue this analysis process with additional high performing segments that have ample market opportunity to effectively visualize your total addressable market.


Estimating the size of your market used to be a struggle that involved informed guesswork and complex calculations. Now, there are tools available to businesses that automate the total addressable market discovery and execution process. Taking advantage of these tools gives marketing and sales teams confidence that they are focusing on the right market segments and opportunities. Marketing organizations in particular need to be more strategic in their analysis because their efforts span a large scale that requires significant resources. Gaining a realistic understanding of your ideal customer profile and your total addressable market will help your entire organization become more targeted and effective.

The images in this post are of the Radius product. If you would like to learn more about Radius, click here.

To view the original post, click here.

The Must-Know Marketing Metrics for Every Salesperson

Sales and marketing each have distinct metrics that apply to their respective departments. While sales does not necessarily need to know the ins and outs of every marketing metric, there are a few that are particularly beneficial. Understanding four key metrics will help bridge the gap between marketing and sales and keep the two departments aligned.

Keeping sales apprised of the following four marketing metrics will ensure both departments are on the same page with their team goals.

Conversion rate represents the rate at which prospects become customers. Conversion rates reveal the health of your leads coming in at the top of the funnel and the success of your marketing strategies. They can also indicate how smooth the lead handoff is from marketing to sales. Any conversion rates from Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) to Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) to Meeting to Opportunity are critical metrics for sales because they ultimately drive their pipeline. These statistics are important for both sales and marketing teams to follow since marketing is a key driver of the outcome. With both teams monitoring the results, they can work together to find new approaches and tinker with their current methods until they reach their goals.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is the cost associated with convincing a customer to buy your product or service. CAC is important for sales teams to consider because if the cost to acquire a customer is too high, it could erode any sales margin and ROI in the end of the sales cycle. For a sustainable business model, your CAC should be much lower than your customer lifetime value. Though it can be difficult to track end-to-end and do proper attribution of costs from campaigns and sales efforts, CAC can be used as an indicator of how efficient and effective your marketing and sales efforts are overall.

Reach represents the number of prospects you can reach at the top and middle of your funnel through content or marketing messages. Reach is an important metric to sales because it essentially measures the width at the top of the sales and marketing funnel. This can include prospects from your database, social media following, blog subscribers, and website visitors. Keeping track of these areas are significant because they are the prospects that will ultimately convert into marketing qualified and sales accepted leads.

Velocity represents how quickly qualified opportunities turn into closed deals, which allows sales and marketing to forecast pipeline. It represents how fast or slow a lead travels through the funnel to status Opportunity to status Closed-Won. Pipeline velocity helps sales and marketing teams determine at what time revenue will come in, which leads to more accurate predictions of monthly and quarterly targets. This information gives sales a greater understanding of what exactly they need to do to hit their goals.

Transparency between departments surrounding conversion rates, customer acquisition cost, reach, and velocity metrics will help align your sales and marketing efforts. If each salesperson understands the impact these marketing metrics have on their sales strategy, the company as a whole will benefit from the common thread.

Reprinted by permission. View the original post here.
business dashboard

Needle in the Red – Read this Before You Build Another Dashboard

Solid dashboards drive business results and help ensure you’re measuring what matters.

When Ed Powers sat down to write his excellent paper, “Seven Tips for Building a Great Dashboard,” he definitely did his homework. This paper gives you real, scientific insight for how to ensure your dashboards measure what matters.

One of the first times I saw a dashboard was at an agency meeting I attended as the company PR person. This dashboard measured “impressions,” which is the public relations word for estimated media views of a certain piece of PR—earned media, coverage of an event, etc. As I sat on a cool but uncomfortable chair at a Midtown Manhattan boutique agency, the presenter was rhapsodizing about all of the “green lights” on his dashboard. Listen, I’m no scientist. But as he was presenting his dashboard, I realized that the facts he was measuring were completely without statistical value for our project.

I won’t go into detail here, but the gist of the matter was that the numbers looked good; they were measuring real things; but they weren’t linked to the project’s end goals. Or even collateral goals.

I understand that PR puts a dollar value on these “impressions” to justify ROI. They do measure the reach of your messages. I understand that the fully capable, creative and all-around-lovely PR person making the presentation was justifying their agency’s existence to the people who sign the checks. Yet the dashboard was a one-off, unlinked to the true metrics of what would signal our project’s success.

Use Ed Power’s paper to make sure you’re not making the same mistakes. You can learn how to:

  • Ensure your dashboards are linked for operational and strategic benefits
  • Create value from actionable metrics that track technology, quality, customer satisfaction and other key deliverables that drive your business
  • Translate your company’s value proposition into day-to-day operations

When I got back to my office that day, (after drinking way too many lattes out of the agency’s giant, mid-nineties espresso machine) I sat down with my boss to try to figure out what was bugging me about the presentation. She told me, “Patty, we have to make this spend. They have to prove it’s working. Let it go.”

Thankfully, I’ve seen many dashboards since then that truly measure what matters. At their best, they save companies from doing way too much in the wrong direction or getting way too little in return for their measurement efforts. I don’t think smart companies ever “let go” of using metrics that matter.

SaaS Customer Metrics: Why is my SaaS Business Not Making Money?

David Skok’s valuable blog, SaaS Metrics 2.0 – A Guide to Measuring and Improving what Matters – discusses how Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses hone their SaaS customer metrics. The article includes easy-to-use spreadsheets to help these businesses define the cost to acquire their customers (CAC) and how to price effectively and expand intelligently to keep their books in the black.

In my experience, customer relationship management (CRM) activities are usually implemented after the money has been spent to acquire the customer. Moreover, much of CRM activity is limited and short-sighted — tracking leads, follow-up and interactions with each customer – without assigning a dollar value for each step of the customer lifetime. Skok’s exercises allow us to assign costs to each step of the process – from acquisition onward – and truly get a clear view of customer investments. I wish I had had some of these metrics when I was managing the communications projects for a sales force—I could have really put some useful metrics in the representatives’ pockets!

Why is SaaS Different? How is Your Business the Same?

The SaaS business model often requires a high investment in acquiring customers based on its monthly, subscription payment structure. In fact, it often takes up to 13 months after the client signs the contract to experience profit. This causes cash flow problems if it’s not accurately planned for and it’s often unclear as to when to start spending again on new customer acquisitions.

In addition, SaaS companies, in this increasingly commoditized marketplace, need to “grab market share fast” in a “winner takes all” game. You must have solid numbers and know how much it costs to acquire and keep customers to assure investors of the value of your business.

Skok’s in-depth paper also suggests other opportunities for delineating customer value:

  • Skok discusses why sales models with a long sales cycle (consultative sales for extremely complicated offerings) require more resources and better planning to identify CAC and the “profit-point” when that investment pays off. For SaaS, he’s come up with a 3 x CAC ratio to identify the lifetime value of a customer (LTV). Skok also suggests looking at the value of current lead generation activities; customer segmentation for the “quickest return and highest LTV”; and finding out when to push the button to expand.
  • If you haven’t recouped your CAC fast enough, Skok offers some good suggestions. For example, he suggests “variable axis” pricing, up-selling and cross-selling to create more revenue with existing customers. Another way to protect cash flow is to offer discounts for clients who pay in advance or getting paid more up front.
  • A word about customer churn: You need to know when it’s happening, why it’s happening and how to stop or mitigate it. Skok provides excellent, step-by-step instructions to discover why customers are leaving and what it means to your business. Will the expansion revenue from new customers cancel out or exceed lost revenue from churning customers? Skok’s got some excellent SaaS customer metrics and graphs to show you how to find out.

David Skok started his first business when he was 17 and today, he’s one of the most sought-after consultants in the business world. Reading this paper is like having “the smartest guy in the room” deliver all of his hard-earned secrets for free. Find out how much your customers are costing you – and create more value from each and every one.