Revenue operations is the latest solution touted to bridge the yawning chasm between sales and marketing, and enable both to operate more effectively. The hype bandwagon is already rolling, Joel Harrison finds out what’s driving it, and asks why will it succeed where myriad other solutions failed?
About five years ago,
the chief revenue officer (CRO) was the Next Big Thing™
in B2B marketing. This role, we were told, was going to be huge – all B2B organisations were going to need a CRO. They were going to resolve all the issues regarding sales and marketing alignment overnight, drive more revenue, boost profits and allow us all to live happily ever after. Okay, that last one was an exaggeration but there was a lot of hype, and consequently expectation.
So what happened? Well, some companies did employ CROs, and some of those still have them. But more did not, and most of those that did (in B2B at least) were martech or adtech companies, who are typically at the bleeding edge of such things and most able to pivot in response to new thinking. For the rest of the market the reaction was more muted, and actual evidence of CROs on the ground was limited. In the interim, the hype bandwagon moved on, the concept faded into the background,
and sales and marketing remained misaligned
But fashions always recycles themself, and the core of compelling ideas typically doesn’t die. That’s probably why we’re seeing the emergence of revenue operations – or (if you’re in-the-know) ‘revenue ops’. If you’ve not heard the term, it refers to a combined operations function incorporating both marketing and sales elements, and consequently providing a holistic view of
all revenue-related activitie
s, processes, activities and technologies. If it’s done right, it will inevitably help bridge the aforementioned marketing/sales divide.
Revenue operations at the tipping point
Why are we talking about this now? The interest and hype surrounding revenue ops seems to have reached a tipping point. Sirius Decisions was waving the revenue ops flag long and hard at its summit in Las Vegas this year, and closer to home, I went to two events on the topic in the same day last month. Both were very interesting and compelling in their own rights, and both suggesting that we’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic.
The first of these two events was a breakfast briefing at London’s Sky Garden, organised by the UK Sales Operations Network (an emerging group established to bring sales ops people together, and share experiences and best practice). It included a fascinating discussion on the topic led by Sales Hacker founder Max Altschuler. The second was organised by demand gen specialist agency Ledger Bennett at its Kings Cross HQ, where it presented some great case studies and unveiled Cortex: their custom-built revenue insights platform – designed to facilitate revenue ops. Congratulations to Ledger Bennett on stealing a march on many bigger and better established vendors by launching a solution to this category – it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the rest of the market to catch up.
Is revenue ops the right idea for our times?
As the old saying goes, two swallows don’t make a summer – and while these two events on (broadly) the same topic are more than a coincidence, you’d be forgiven for saying they don’t represent at tidal wave of interest in this topic. At least not yet. But I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I think this is just the start of something. We’ll see much more on this topic in the coming months, both originating from the US and (increasingly) driven from much closer to home.
In part that’s what’s likely to mark out the key difference between this topic and the previous hype focused on the chief revenue officer. Building out a combined operations function for both sales and marketing feels like a more intuitive, less combative means of drawing the two functions together. And more importantly, one that it is more likely to be successful. For marketing teams in EMEA in particular, expecting disharmony to be resolved by appointing yet another c-suite figure to sit above both teams, or choosing between either CMO or CSO to fill this combined role, seems naïve, heavy-handed and unnecessary. If the teams can see the advantages of collaborating pragmatically on an operational level, and the means to do so, that makes it far more likely to happen, and much more seamless when it does.
So perhaps revenue operations is the right idea for our times. Be that as it may, it’s likely to be this year’s next big thing. If your martech vendor or agency isn’t talking to you about this now, you can bet they soon will be.
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