Demonstrating the revenue return on marketing investment is the No. 1 issue for B2B marketing executives. In Forrester’s Q4 2011 B2B Marketing Organizations And Investments Survey, when we asked marketing execs to identify the most important metrics for their marketing organization, 56% identified a revenue-related metric — compared with 44% for customer satisfaction and 40% for brand awareness. So, it’s no wonder that marketing automation solution vendors vociferously tout the ability of their solutions to track the revenue performance of marketing campaigns and programs.

But, looking at marketing automation solutions solely through the value lens of revenue performance management masks a more fundamental benefit. Marketing automation can transform a company’s marketing operations. These solutions deliver scalability, root out excess cost, improve marketing execution, and provide the basis for continuous incremental process improvement.

Still many marketing execs hold back on investing in marketing automation. They fear the concurrent assimilation of new tactics, processes, and automation will unduly stress their marketing organization. But the transformation is necessary, and the stress unavoidable. Marketing execs need to proactively address the “people part” of their lead-to-revenue transformation.

I addressed these challenges in this recent webinar, which is available on-demand.

In summary, here is what I suggest to clients in inquires about how to lead the overall transition to L2RM:

  • Set the stage for a phased approach. With the pressure to deliver more high-quality leads, it’s easy to fall into the trap of moving too fast. L2RM transformation should be a “crawl, walk, run” endeavor. Envisage and evangelize the ultimate goal, but take a realistic assessment of your current marketing maturity and create an L2RM road map to communicate the incremental plan that drives to that vision.
  • Maintain a balanced, business systems perspective. Your success will come from the synchronized execution of people, using new technology to execute transformed processes. Over time your marketing team will need to develop new skills or onboard new talent. New technologies will replace older ones. And your processes will evolve from simplistic to systematic. Despite the constant change, don’t let any of these three driving elements get too far in front of any of the others.
  • Invest in change management. L2RM is not about giving an existing team some new tools to go about the business of marketing. Lead-to-revenue management is a strategic initiative that will disrupt, and then transform, your current marketing processes. Your marketing team will be stressed to define new processes, learn new technology, and rethink their role in the company. Keep a constant program of communication and engagement in play to facilitate the change.
  • Engage the entire senior management team. The biggest organizational adjustments will happen between the sales and marketing organizations. So don’t underestimate the impact of this change on other organizations. You’ll be making different demands on product management, changing your marketing service procurement model, and consuming capital that could go elsewhere. Make sure to share both the long-term vision and quarterly progress toward your goals.

One of the lasting legacies of the “Great Recession” will be the mandate to prove that marketing activities and spend have a measurable impact on profitable revenue growth. That’s a good thing. Calibrating sales and marketing around a shared revenue goal is the basis for true alignment between sales and marketing, helping strengthen a weak critical link in most B2B companies.