Marketing KPIs are changing. Here’s why.

Marketers have spent years making sure they get credit for the leads generated by their hardworking teams. But as B2B sales gets more competitive and complex, simply knowing who sourced a lead may no longer be good enough.

Instead, B2B marketers are turning their attention to key performance indicators that showcase how full-funnel marketing efforts can deliver increased performance.

The result? A more nuanced understanding of marketing’s effect on the sales cycles, a better case for increased budgets, and another step forward in the age-old struggle for better sales and marketing alignment.

Data from Forrester Research shows how rapidly marketing metrics are changing. In 2015, they found that 70% of B2B marketing organizations reported the amount of pipeline they sourced as a KPI. In 2020, that figure was down to 47%. By 2025, Forrester predicts that only 14% of marketing teams will track marketing-sourced pipeline. 

Some of this change is tied to the growth and maturity of companies in B2B marketing. 

“When most businesses start out, they’re heavily focused on bringing in new business,” says Deeksha Taneja, senior director of growth and optimization at ZoomInfo. “But as an organization matures, the focus shifts to expanding existing business, and that’s more about air coverage than sourcing.” 

Alison Rouse, VP of analytics at CS2 Marketing, also sees the shift as part of a broader trend toward more complicated deals.

“Using marketing-sourced pipeline as a KPI oversimplifies the complexity of the B2B buying cycle,” she says. “It assumes a first-touch or last-touch attribution model and doesn’t take into account the multiple buyers and touchpoints involved.”

For example, if a prospect downloads a whitepaper and six months later sales runs an outbound motion to re-engage them — who gets the credit? If it’s marketing, sales may feel disgruntled and vice versa, potentially creating tension between the two teams. 

This misalignment is a big issue facing B2B businesses today. A 2021 Business Wire survey of senior-level B2B sales and marketing leaders revealed that 66% reported suboptimal alignment. 

Rouse comments, “Too often it’s about marketing versus sales rather than one revenue team. The way people buy now, they don’t necessarily want to talk to a salesperson until they’re pretty far down the funnel. So marketing needs to be involved throughout the entire journey, not just at the beginning.”

Taneja adds, “If a prospect goes into a sales meeting and they already know about the product because marketing has done a good job, it makes the sale a lot easier.”

So, what metrics should marketers report on? Experts say performance-based indicators that focus on the lift marketing provides to sales is the place to look. For example, lead-to-close conversion rate measures the average percentage of leads that end up becoming customers. 

As you develop new KPIs, be sure to consider important marketing metrics such as air coverage, volume of MQLs, and ultimately, the correlation between engagement rate and win rate. 

“We encourage our clients to do a lift analysis that compares the average deal size and win rate of closed opportunities that engaged with marketing, versus closed opportunities that didn’t engage with marketing,” says Rouse. 

Tweaking semantics can also help. Using the terms “marketing-influenced” or “marketing-assisted” pipeline implies a multi-touch attribution model and acknowledges that there’s a difference between influencing pipeline and creating pipeline.

However, with less reporting on marketing-sourced pipeline, marketers must continue to prove return on investment if they want to grow their marketing budget. Otherwise, they risk finance cutting their spending.

“The onus is on us to keep proving the value that we’re providing with the dollars that we’re given,” says Taneja.

So, what can we expect from this change in reporting? It opens the door for marketing and sales to work closely together to create a reporting structure that benefits all involved. This may cause a positive culture shift in B2B organizations. 

“Looking at account-based marketing metrics, such as target account progression, is a much more aligned approach,” says Mitchell Hanson, senior director of demand generation at ZoomInfo. “It’s marketing helping sales in the way sales wants to be helped. Everyone’s happy.”