Why Your Marketing Team Should Focus on Revenue, Not Influence — How One SaaS Company Pulls It Off

Kyle Lacy, CMO of Lessonly, says SaaS marketers need to own a revenue number and get their teams focused on the bottom line if they want a seat at the table.

Key Highlights

Why don’t more SaaS marketing teams focus on revenue?

In short: It isn’t easy. But Kyle Lacy does it anyway. 

Kyle is the Chief Marketing Officer at training software company Lessonly where he’s preparing his 35-person team to focus on the connection between their activities and bottom line. 

“There are brand marketers out there who don’t want to own a revenue number, but you’re only going to get a seat at the board table if you own a revenue number,” Kyle says on an episode of Tech Qualified. “Now, it’s more stressful, but it makes you a hell of a lot better at your job if you’re owning both experience and revenue.”

Kyle’s unique journey over the last few years informs his approach to marketing at Lessonly. He got his first taste of software marketing when he joined email service provider ExactTarget in 2012. It was like catching a ride on a rocketship — ExactTarget had an IPO and was acquired by Salesforce just two years later. “That’s when I fell in love with software marketing,” Kyle says.

Next, he joined VC firm OpenView Venture Partners. The firm invests in expansion stage software companies. Lessonly was one of its portfolio companies, and Kyle joined the company in early 2017.

The Tech Qualified podcast provides B2B technology marketers with access to real world case studies and best practices. We interview industry leaders to uncover what is working in the world of B2B technology marketing.

Marketing as an influence metric is a 'load of b.s.'

Sales and marketing integration isn’t just given lip service at Lessonly. Though Kyle doesn’t manage them directly, the company’s SDRs and BDRs are considered part of the marketing team. 

The inbound team includes people responsible for demand generation, content marketing, marketing technology, as well as inbound SDRs. The outbound team includes enterprise expansion BDRs who focus on upselling the biggest customers. Lessonly has a strategic team focused on customer event marketing as well as a brand design team. 

Including BDRs and SDRs in marketing was a deliberate move to “force alignment,” Kyle says. There’s simply no other way when the marketing team is responsible for direct revenue, he adds.

Kyle also recognizes that this approach to marketing has to start on top. “I have to be aligned with our sales leaders because our team is responsible for producing 70% of net new revenue,” he notes. 

“I think the difference is between how we’ve built the marketing team at Lessonly and how some other marketers go about their business is that some other people are entirely focused on attribution or influence. I focus our team on revenue, and a marketing team should be influencing 100% of revenue.” 

Kyle continues, “If you’re not influencing 100% [of revenue] then you’re not doing marketing correctly in my opinion.”

The Lessonly team isn’t there quite yet, but Kyle is working on getting his marketing fleet pointed in the same direction. For example, they’re working to use metrics that would connect marketing activities to customer churn numbers.

“I think this idea that marketing is an influence metric is just a load of BS because you’re going to be the first one cut, nobody’s ever going to align to you because they don’t need to — you’re just going to be an order-taking team,” he says.

Inbound, outbound and two types of thought leadership

When it comes to marketing activities, Lessonly’s main inbound channels include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google ads and Bing ads. Organic also feeds a chunk of inbound. 

On the outbound side, the marketing team uses Bombora to surface intent accounts for the enterprise BDRs to pursue while they also serve ads to those prospects. Lessonly is mostly doing account-based marketing for outbound.  

Since COVID-19 changed the way we live and work, they’re experimenting with their events budget, which comes from a brand bucket within the budget and amounts to about 25% of overall spend. They are trying unique virtual events like cooking classes and wine tasting. 

“We’re not measuring that cost against ROI,” Kyle notes. “It’s mainly just to make sure we have a brand experience that is meaningful that people enjoy.”

To establish Lessonly as an authority in the frontline training space, Kyle divides thought leadership into two categories: qualitative and quantitative. 

Qualitative thought leadership, in Kyle’s content framework, is the expertise Lessonly can bring with the development of high-level soft skills. And it’s where he thinks their strength lies right now. He points to Lessonly CEO Max Yoder’s book, “Do Better Work,” as an example. 

“Our mission statement is we help people do better work so they can live better lives. [Yoder’s] entire book is written around this idea of team development and leadership development and how you can be a great human while being a great leader.”

They’ve taken a similar approach with Lessonly’s user conference, Yellowship. The focus is on training, collaboration and connection — not product. “We don’t have a product roadmap or anything on the main stage,” Kyle says. 

Quantitative thought leadership, on the other hand, is all about showing the connection between product and business outcomes. Kyle’s plan is to beef up this aspect of Lessonly’s thought leadership. 

This strategy is still in the early stages of development, but Lessonly is working with Frost & Sullivan, a research and consulting firm, to produce “think tank” style content. 

Kyle sees an opportunity to help businesses answer this: How do you measure the value of upskilling and training employees?

“It’s amazing to me that we spend so much time and energy when we’re in school or in sports practicing things … and then we get to the workforce and if you’re not doing something that’s technical, you’re never practicing.”

But practice is critical for better performance. “You go through onboarding at a company and you never touch it again, which is crazy if you think about it,” Kyle says. And that’s where he sees Lessonly adding value — showing how practice and training of employees can influence business outcomes. 

“Everybody’s trying to figure that out right now.”

This is based on an episode of the Tech Qualified podcast, which provides B2B technology marketers with access to real world case studies and best practices. We interview industry leaders to uncover what is working in the world of B2B technology marketing.

Written by Tristan Pelligrino

Tristan Pelligrino is the Co-Founder of Motion. He’s a serial entrepreneur who started his career as a consultant with large IT companies such as PwC, IBM and Oracle. After getting his MBA, he started and grew one of the fastest video production companies in the country – which was listed on the Inc. 5000. Tristan now enjoys leading the content marketing strategies of some of the most innovative B2B technology companies in the country. You can find him on LinkedIn and Facebook.