What is a marketing qualified lead in SaaS? It's one of the most important questions your marketing and sales teams can answer as you ramp up your...
The metrics you report on as a B2B SaaS marketing leader depends on your company’s goals and the maturity of your sales and marketing functions.
While there are plenty of sales and marketing metrics you should keep tabs on, there is one dashboard that every B2B SaaS marketer should build first – a high-level overview of the B2B marketing funnel that benchmarks the following:
- Objectives and Key Results
- Performance by channel (i.e. breakdown by inbound vs. outbound efforts)
- Funnel volume and conversion rates (Leads > MQLs > SQLs > Opportunities > Wins)
What's a B2B marketing dashboard for?
The primary goal of this B2B marketing dashboard is to provide you (and the leadership team) with a quick view of the impact marketing has on the funnel.
As the marketing leader, you should know how many leads, MQLs and opportunities marketing has directly added to the pipeline (and where they’re coming from). If some data points aren’t performing as well as planned, you can look to more low-level, detailed metrics and indicators to diagnose funnel performance issues.
Focus on core SaaS marketing metrics
If you’re developing your marketing function from scratch, you may only need to report out on channels at the highest level – inbound vs. outbound. This level of detail is perfect for showing progress against OKRs to the leadership team.
In the beginning, you need to get basic visibility into your funnel metrics. As your marketing function becomes more complex over time (or the number of leads you create increases drastically), you can begin segmenting your reporting into more specific channels to give you a closer look into each – i.e. Google Ads, Trade Shows, Webinars, Organic Search, Referrals, etc.
When you first get going, your reporting doesn’t need to be complex. You can track most metrics with a simple Excel document or Google Sheet. If your team doesn’t have robust reporting tools yet, that’s ok. At some point, tools will help you scale your reporting but you shouldn’t let your tech stack stop you from measuring the most important metrics.
How it works and why it helps
I report based on contact-create dates. I like this because it shows an “apples to apples” comparison as you make your way down the funnel. This view is not great for showing the length of your sales cycle.
It’s also dynamic, which means the numbers in previous months will change as contacts created in those months move down the funnel. You may be in January 2020 and have a new opportunity appear back in the July 2019 column, and the numbers could shift again in February 2020. It’s helpful to run a monthly report on the numbers to time-stamp them.
When you look at the entire marketing dashboard, you can look all the way down the funnel to see which months you were most effective in generating leads that convert to MQLs and opportunities. This makes it easy to ask questions about the initiatives you activated in your higher (and lower) performance months – so you can do more of what worked well, and less of what didn’t. Other questions this dashboard can help answer are:
- Is there seasonality to the buying cycle in your ICP?
- What’s your average conversion rate? Are there certain channels that convert better than others?
- How does it compare to previous years, what can you attribute the differences to?
- What’s the conversion rate by lifecycle stage, compared with previous quarters? If the conversion rate increased, what could explain the delta between the two? For example, if the conversion from MQL > opportunity dropped this quarter, was it because the quality of leads you delivered was lower, or something else?
- Are there spikes in the data around industry events or marketing milestone-based initiatives, such as webinars? How can you capitalize even more on those milestones in the future?
- Is your inbound function growing? This is difficult to read when you’re getting started with an inbound flywheel – you may need a solid 6–8 months of data before you get overly critical about this data point. In general, it should be on an upward trend.
Potential B2B SaaS dashboard metrics
Below is an example of a dashboard I use to report on the marketing funnel for one of our clients, along with some of the lifecycle stage definitions we’ve used. I’ve added OKR figures to the last two graphs so I can quickly benchmark progress against quarterly goals. The average sales cycle for this client is roughly six months, so I expect the numbers on these graphs to continue shifting through March of 2020.
These are my equivalent to “suspects” – they’re worth keeping in our database and nurturing. They may have signed up to your blog or newsletter but haven’t expressed much – or any – intent. Some may be ABM contacts you’ve identified as being good candidates and are segmenting for further outbound prospecting – maybe through future LinkedIn outreach or cold email campaigns.
These are contacts who have shown low-level intent but aren’t ready for a sales conversation. In the instance of inbound, they may have downloaded a case study or a white paper and are in a marketing nurture stream. For outbound, these contacts may have connected with one of your salespeople on LinkedIn through an outreach campaign or replied to a cold email campaign by saying they’d review your materials and contact you if interested.
3. MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads)
These are contacts that you’ve qualified as being ready for a sales touch. This stage is where you work with your sales team to transfer ownership for developing contacts further down the funnel into the opportunity and customer stages. The definition of Marketing Qualified Leads varies widely from company to company and can be a bit more nuanced than the other lifecycle stages, depending on the complexity of your sales function. Here's how we define it.
These are contacts that have passed sales qualifiers and have been determined to be real sales opportunities. Generally, sales have used a framework such as BANT or GPCT to transition the contact into an opportunity.