What can field marketing realistically be accountable for? Is it too broad of a function to own a number?

Pick five non-marketing employees at random, and ask them what value your field marketing team brings to your organization.


If you’re reluctant to do this exercise, it’s likely because you want to avoid blank stares and wild guesses that humble you as a marketing leader.


If you’re willing to try it, the responses will give you valuable insight. After all, you are ultimately responsible for how your organization perceives your team, and that is no small task:


  • Marketing is on display for every single function to see, yet no other function truly understands marketing. Misperception comes with the territory.
  • You must be able to speak the language of other departments to communicate the value of marketing in their terms.
  • The risk of not educating the organization is high, as marketing budgets are often the first on the chopping block.
  • Meanwhile, marketing roles evolve notoriously quickly — which means you need to re-educate on an ongoing basis.


In other words, the bad news is marketers tend to have a blind spot to how they’re perceived in the organization. The good news is marketers are well-equipped to solve this branding challenge.


Field Marketing – The Red-Headed Stepchild


Of the myriad marketing roles in today’s workforce, none is more widely misunderstood than field marketing.


Field marketing is one of the most challenging roles sitting between two different departments, serving two masters,” explains John Staples, Partner at SBI. “Time is often the primary pressure from sales, focused on what can be done fast, because they’re responding in real time to market conditions. Corporate marketing, in contrast, is planning larger scale initiatives. Both sides are absolutely looking for results, but the drivers behind them are different. The objectives need to be agreed upon by both sales and marketing so that the field marketer knows how to be successful.”


Further muddying the waters, departments outside of marketing and sales typically view field marketing as — you guessed it — “the events people.” As a result, human resources will tap field marketing for help with internal events and initiatives.


Finally, geography adds another layer of complexity. The differences between field marketing in the US and in Europe, for example, make it particularly difficult for international organizations to agree on appropriate expectations for field marketing.


Given the disparate demands on field marketing, does it make sense for the team to own a number? Is field marketing more valuable to the organization as a multi-purpose, fluid function or as a focused, KPI-driven function?



Yes, Best-in-Class Field Marketers Own a Number



Owning a number is exactly what field marketing needs to bring clarity and focus to their role.


A quantifiable KPI is the clearest job description possible:


  • When your team is being pulled in multiple directions, a KPI is a North Star guiding them back to their top priority. It also helps them push back on low-value tasks that stand in the way of making the number.
  • Owning a number helps field marketing speak the same language as sales and align to the same goals.
  • The KPI will help other departments understand what exactly field marketing is accountable for and the value your team brings. With this comes respect and support.


The question is not whether your field marketing team should own a number. Rather, it’s what number they should own.


Choose the Wrong Performance Metrics, and You’ll Set Your Team Up for Failure


Does it need to be a revenue number? Not necessarily. The KPI you choose should fit the maturity stage of your marketing organization. If your team operates within a traditional marketing environment where success is measured by volume of activity, jumping straight to a revenue KPI is a recipe for disaster.


First, evaluate your team’s maturity stage using the Field Marketing Maturity Model. This tool provides guidance for selecting appropriate KPIs. What KPIs make sense for your current maturity stage, and what KPIs would help you advance to the next stage?


Take a crawl-walk-run approach. Remember — not only will you have to get your team on board with accepting more accountability, but you will need to gain buy-in outside of marketing for true change to take hold. It’s better to gain credibility with incremental wins than to overcommit and fall short.


If you are prepared to take on a revenue number, learn how field marketers have successfully navigated this journey.


Second, audit your field marketing strategy. Do you have the following pieces in place? What tactics will drive the most impact?


  • Field marketing plan
    • Role definition
    • Objectives
  • Localized campaign execution plan
  • Geo/industry specific content plan
  • Local/regional event and conference plan
  • Local/regional association plan
  • Local sales enablement plan
  • Field marketing scorecard


Next, determine specific and clear KPIs for your team by matching up the highest priorities in your field marketing strategy with KPIs that your team can feasibly deliver on.


Is Owning a Number Worth the Effort and Risk?


The hardest part is what comes next: selling your vision to your team and to stakeholders. Marketers are perfectly comfortable selling a company’s vision. But as a leader of internal change, taking a leap and accepting more accountability is a personal risk.


If the risks ahead are deterring you, consider the risks of being left behind.


A 2018 research report by Heinz Marketing surveyed B2B marketing leaders and identified three benchmarked levels of marketers:


  • Activity Marketers (33% of respondents) – Not accountable for revenue, focused almost purely on activity and lead generation
  • Pipeline Marketers (45% of respondents) – Accountable for pipeline or sourced revenue, but lacking confidence in their abilities to achieve the goal
  • Revenue Marketers (22% of respondents) – Accountable for 30% or more of actual revenue bookings and are highly confident in hitting their goal


What does this mean? You may be able to safely wait a year or two before your organization requires you to advance a level. Or, you can leverage the emerging best practices of accountable marketers — and you can proactively take yourself, your team, and your organization to greater heights.


Download the Field Marketing Maturity Model to start your journey today.



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Yasmin Morrison

Brings together marketing and sales teams to achieve growth goals

Yasmin is a B2B marketing and business development leader with over 10 years of corporate and agency experience. Her track record of building profitable marketing programs spans a variety of industries, from professional services to healthcare, advertising, and energy. Prior to SBI, she served as the VP of Marketing for US-Analytics Solutions Group.


Yasmin applies a data-driven approach and wide breadth of knowledge across marketing disciplines. She believes there is no magic tool, trend, or tactic — but there is an optimal mix for every situation. It’s her job to find it. Yasmin is passionate about breaking down silos and leading teams to do their best work.

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