Cisco Blogs

Revenue-Generation Marketing: The Proof is in the Pipeline

November 14, 2013 - 6 Comments

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

In a recent blog, I scratched the surface of revenue-generation marketing and how we’re transforming marketing from a cost center to a revenue generating center within Cisco. This week, I want to dig a little deeper.

Marketing that contributes measurable ROI to the bottom line… that sounds great, right? But how do you get there? The core of revenue-generation marketing and what makes it work is the partnership between sales and marketing. And, the first step of revenue-generation marketing is alignment of the revenue-generation marketing plan with the overall business plan for the company. Without that, the whole revenue-generation marketing process, from executing to managing the funnel with account teams and having regular funnel management business reviews, won’t work. You have to execute against the priorities of the business overall.

As marketing organizations transition into a revenue generators, an almost natural shift happens. Marketing begins speaking the language of the business and sales. We talk about planning, forecast, pipeline, bookings and revenue. Marketing hasn’t historically done that, so there’s another evolution occurring in the industry.

From a sales and marketing revenue alignment perspective, you obviously want to align on priorities with sales. But at the end of the day, what makes the marketing plan a revenue-generation marketing plan is the fact that a revenue contribution target is set, either focused on pipeline or bookings and revenue. That target is usually set or communicated as a percentage of sales. According to Sirius Decisions, the industry standard for business to business (B2B), high-tech marketing contribution-to-revenue baselines is that >$5 billion companies source less than 10 percent of sales pipeline, with high of 20 percent and a low of 2 percent of sales pipeline. The industry standard provides a baseline of where you want to be. At that point, you need to realistically evaluate where you are – your run rate and marketing’s current contribution to revenue.

Beyond run rate, there are only three levers for driving this plan: volume, visibility, and conversion rate. What volume of leads are you driving; how much of that is visibly available and reportable in your sales force or customer relationship management systems; and how much of that is being accepted and converted by the sales team into the pipeline or revenue?

Now we’re humming along. We’re aligned. We’re speaking the language. We’ve set our contribution revenue target based on industry standards. The “Rocky” theme song splits the air, and we’re on top of the world. Well, not quite yet. Now that we’ve taken a look at our plan from a top-down perspective, it’s time to reverse engineer the demand waterfall to determine if the revenue contribution target is realistic. By calculating the amount you need in sales all the way back to how many leads you’re going to have to source to reach that number, the bottom-up piece meets the top-down piece, and you can adjust your revenue contribution goal based on if you have the budget and resources to meet that number.

As you know, that number at Cisco is $1 billion worth of qualified leads in midmarket for partners this fiscal year. We’re here to help you position your business for success, and I’d love to hear your perspectives in the comments section or via twitter @sherriliebo.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Really excited about the continued conversation and the energy around our marketing journey to revenue generation.

  2. It’s an exciting and challenging time for marketing at Cisco achieving $1B in revenue mktg! The Cisco and IBM mktg team is working hard to contribute to the $$, and are helping create best practices for the Ecosystem partners to leverage and replicate. We are at over $10M in Opportunity Identified-IBM speak for SQL for FY14!

  3. I think it’s an exciting time for marketing at Cisco. Signing up for a number makes us more relevant and valuable to the business overall. We have a lot to learn and work through as we become a revenue marketing organization, but we’ve started the journey and are on our way!

  4. Very timely confirmation, Sherri. This is our first year tracking leads generated through marketing all the way through the pipeline and tying Marketing Director results/compensation to closed sales. Having Sales work closely with marketing is critical to our success.

    The Sales Director has visibility into the marketing funnel and won/lost deal reports to assist with his team’s professional development needs. The marketing/telesales team is authorized to control their result by having the freedom to assign leads back to any Account rep who they feel collaborates the best from nurture to close, maintains high communication of deal progress and has a high close rate. The Solution Architects on the sales team provide insight from their customer/prospect activities on effective topics for marketing campaigns.

    Measuring marketing results through CRM, compensating Marketing based on measureable results and collaboration with sales is key.

  5. Hey Sherri,
    Amazing post.Thanks for sharing.I appreciate your work.

  6. As former Cisco field sales person, and now working with the Partner Plus partners, I’m really excited about the closer alignment between sales and marketing and the difference it will make to our partners and ultimately, to our revenue in the mid-market. Generating $1B in Sales Qualified Leads is not an easy task. But with a focus on “quality”, and not just quantity that our partners distain, we can start to make a difference to our partners’ abilities to generate bookings. This will be a year of trial and error, but hopefully by the end of this year, we will regain our partners’ trust and they will be willing to put the necessary effort into lead follow-up because they KNOW it is worth it. Thanks for the ongoing efforts.