Introduction to Funnel Cohort Reporting

Cohort reporting in marketing is one of the least understood and underutilized aspects of marketing reporting, yet it is extremely valuable to make the right decisions about spending, headcount, and resource allocation.

What is a cohort? Basically it is watching what happens to a group of leads, opportunities or accounts that are defined by time frame, offer, action or other criteria. A cohort of leads, for example, could be all the leads that came in during a particular. Perhaps you are looking at the cohort of the leads that came in from a particular trade show, or maybe leads that took a particular action. In cohort based reporting, you following this group through the entire funnel process from start to finish, always reporting out how this particular cohort did through the process.

Figure 1 – In cohort reporting, the 1,000 leads dumped into the sales funnel in March are tracked as they go through the sales process. Each month, the opportunities from these leads are recorded. When all the leads are through the funnel, the yield is calculated. In this case, the 1,000 leads took until June to get processed, with each month yielding fewer and fewer opportunities. The overall result was 176 opportunites from the 1,000 leads or 17.6% yield

But isn’t this what we always do? For leads, in some cases, yes. If you assign a campaign to a group of leads, you have tagged them as a cohort and you can measure what happens to them. Trade show leads are good examples. Things get dicier with ongoing campaigns like Adwords. Unless you are creating new campaigns each month, using campaigns doesn’t work. In addition, leads aren’t the only items to report in the sales funnel. Opportunity creation and deal closure, for example, are all key items to cohort that don’t lend themselves to campaigns.

When working with the sales team, it is classic to not use cohorts, and to therefore stop using cohort reporting all together. A typical marketing and sales report will list for example, leads and opportunities created in a given month. From this, you will conclude that the opportunity creation rate for a given month is simply opportunities created divided by leads provided.

Figure 2 – Same example as above, except this time a non-cohort report. One thousand leads in March are dumped into the funnel, and it is assumed that all the opps created, came from these leads. In fact they didn’t, because as we saw above, it takes time for the leads to get processed. Many of the opportunities are coming from leads created in prior months, which actually have a lower conversion rate. By assuming in March that the opps created in March came from March leads, you are artificially lowering the actual yield of the March leads to 12.7%.

This type of analysis, however is super sloppy and can hide all kinds of complexities and issues in you funnel. What if the opportunities created didn’t even come from your leads? Or, if the opportunities created are actually from leads 3 – 6 months old? Let’s assume you dumped 1,000 leads into the business development team’s queue. What happened to them? Have they even been touched? With a cohort view of the world, marketers maniacally track what happens to the groups of things they provide. The result is a level of analysis an order of magnitude greater than what typical non-cohort reporting allows.

But doesn’t cohort reporting level eventually equal non-cohort reporting? Maybe is the answer. As the time frame for reporting opportunity creation increases, the “rate” of opportunity creation from leads to opps should normalize around a number. But unless you are looking at the opportunity creation from leads provided, you are making a false assumption that there is causation and not correlation between the two. Cohort reporting is caustion reporting, non-cohort reporting is correlation. In marketing, you want to be in causation reporting as much as possible.

Cohort reporting will help you detect:

  • Changes in specific programs – bad Adwords campaigns that come on line, georgraphic changes in lead sources
  • Changes in sales pipeline efficiency caused by new hires, reduction in headcount, or other distractions
  • Changes in actual close rates
  • Poor data quality and hygiene

Cohort reporting done correctly can also help directly drive lead, opportunity and revenue forecasting.

In the next blog post, we will talk about the five key cohorts in the sales pipeline.

Success! You're on the list.

No More PowerPoint – Sketching My Way to Marketing Profs B2B Presentation

I had a great opportunity to present at the Marketing Profs B2B conference this past week in San Francisco on building an operational analytics model that can scale. The presentation drew from my experience running high volume inbound models at several companies.

Since I completely dislike PowerPoint decks, I thought I would try sketching the entire presentation from story board. Using my iPAD PRO with GoodNotes application, I sketched out my presentation story board.  You can see it below.  What I found interesting is that I kept improving the story board up to the morning of the presentation.  It was just so easy to reorganize, build more visuals and improve the presentation. Since I was working on the entire story on a single page, the story just flowed so much better.

My original plan was to draw this presentation during the speech.  What I found while practicing, is that this was just not practical  – way too much to draw in too short a period of time.   For the presentation, I ended up drawing small pieces and had a bunch of the presentation pre-drawn.

Next time I do this, I will probably story board it up until the morning of the presentation, then I will copy out sections and place on a PPT slide or other image viewer and flip through small sections at  a time.  It seems as though the best benefit of all this is the way it frees the mind to really build out a great story board.


Setting up a Podcasting Studio in Goto Meeting – Part 3 – Microphones

In the prior two posts, we walked through much of the set up of the computers for a podcasting/webinar studio.  In this post, we will walk through how to do the microphones.

Audio is easy, right?  Just put on a USB headset and you are all set? Yes?

Sort of – for a studio where just one person presents, the easiest audio solution is a high quality USB headset plugged into the presentation computer. In this set up, GotoMeeting is likely to easily recognize the headset, the presenter can hear anyone else on the webinar if it is a joint webinar with someone else dialing in from a remote location, and the boom microphone on a headset provides high quality audio content.

The challenge starts when you want multiple people in the same room to participate on a webinar.  One terrible solution that many people use is the speakerphone. Nothing gets me down more than to walk by a conference room and see a bunch of people presenting around a speaker phone to an audience of 100’s or 1000’s of people.  The room acoustics are terrible giving the call an echo, and the sound quality of using an analog phone line when a pure digital solution is available (connect audio through the computer) makes a huge difference to anyone listening on the webinar.  Said another way, when most of your listeners will dial in through their computers,  using an analog audio source just doesn’t cut it.

So how do you connect multiple people in the same room to the same computer through a high quality microphone?

If you look at the design of a traditional radio station, you see each person has their own microphone, on a boom and it is generally right in front of their mouth.  This design has more to the do with microphone acoustics than anything to do with the mode of transporting that signal, FM, to listeners.  Hence a podcasting studio uses a similar set up.  Each speaker should have their own condenser microphone on a boom, in front of them. A quick google search for a podcasting microphone with a brand name like Shure will get you to the right microphones.


But a couple of caveats here.  First, you want to connect multiple microphones into your broadcast computer.  To do this, you will need to connect multiple microphones to a mixer, then connect the mixer to the computer.

We played around with USB mixers that use USB microphones as their source.  For whatever reason, these were hard to find AND, most importantly, GotoWebinar didn’t always recognize a USB mixer when we plugged it into our broadcast computer.

For this reason, among others, we use analog microphones in our studio that we connect into an analog microphone mixer.  Since these are analog microphones, they are connected with XLR cabling which is a three conductor audio cable. The microphones are connected with XLR cables to our mixer that has XLR inputs for each microphone

41uWsbKFZPL._SL500_AC_SS350_Here is an example of a microphone mixer from Shure.  It has four microphone  “Mic Level Inputs” on the back with these funky looking XLR inputs. If you buy the right microphones, they will connecting using XLR cables like the one pictured.  These are the standard for professional audio recording.  We buy colored cables so we can more easily trace the wires.


We originally used traditional audio mixers, but they were just too complicated to use.  These types of microphone mixers are nice and easy to use with just a couple of switches.  Look at traditional audio mixers and your head will hurt with all the switches, sliders, overrides etc.

On the back of our PA mixer, notice the “12V PHANTOM” power button.  High quality microphones are actually powered.  They need power to work.  This button allows you to turn on power for these microphones.

Now how do you get this mixer to connect to your PC or MAC?  On the OUTPUTS part of the panel, you will see there is MIC/LINE outputs and a variety of cable connections.  PCs will have both microphone inputs, where the PC is expecting microphone like audio signals to more LINE IN connections, where the PC is expecting a higher voltage. You can read about the differences here.  On  some PCs, the input port can be changed in software.  What is key here, is that if you use a MIC output from the MIXER, then you need to connect to a MIC input on the PC.  Conversely a LINE output should connect to a LINE INPUT on the computer.  Again, check your PC to see what ports you have and whether they can be software configured.

Once you figure out how you will connect the mixer to the PC then you will need to order the right cable.  Cables come in various sizes from 3.5mm connectors for the PC end of connection, to XLR size cables for the output of the mixer, or even 1/4″.  For the mixer above, you would need either an XLR female connector that goes to a 3.5mm male connector  for the PC, or a 1/4″ male to 3.5mm male connector depending on how you connect the mixer to the PC.

WOW – that was a lot for a single post.  Follow these instructions, order the parts above, and you will have a podcasting studio almost complete.

Next up – how to connect the headphones.

Setting Up a Podcasting Studio for #GotoMeeting – Part 2

With the requirements from Part I spelled out, we started to take a look at the people and system requirements needed to run a webinar, specifically, what it would take to build a podcasting studio.

Podcasting Organizer

First, it was pretty obvious that someone needed to have the role of webinar organizer.  This would be the person whose only job was to get the podcast/webinar going, get everyone logged into it, monitor the chat window, make sure the audio was OK, monitor the video output, manage shifting presentation control from one presenter to the next and answer attendee questions about audio and video quality. We called this person the organizer.

System requirements for the organizer were pretty  easy — a single computer on a wired network connection with a monitor and keyboard.  This would be the machine we would use to start up the webinar and broadcast the audio and video. A desktop system seemed the logical alternative here as most of these systems had dedicated microphone/line in ports and speaker output.  More on the port requirements later.

So, the first step in creating your studio is to put in an organizer computer that will be used to run the webinar, AND is your studio’s audio and video connection to the goto webinar cloud.

Monitoring the Podcast or Webinar

While a dedicated computer for broadcasting makes sense,   one of the main issues with a webinar or live podcast is monitoring exactly what your audience is listening to. On numerous occasions prior to us setting up the podcasting studio, a webinar producer would be running the webinar not realizing that their screen was not being shared and the audience could not see slides.  Or perhaps, despite their best efforts, the audio was muted.  Or worse, an audience attendee starts chatting that they can’t hear the audio.  Is the problem local to that attendee or is there a broader problem with the audio?

To solve this problem,  we added a second computer to the studio as an audience monitor.  The computer shared nothing with any other components in the studio except the network connection.  To operate the audience monitor, we would log into the webinar exactly as an attendee was required to log in.  Since this computer shared nothing with any of the components in the room except the network connection,  as long as the network was operating between our office and the cloud service at GotoWebinar,  the audience monitor provided the actual experience of the audience.

If you could see/hear the webinar on the audience computer, then the audience could also see and hear the webinar.

Inside the studio, we also found that the presenters also wanted to see what the audience could see.  Presenters want to make sure the audience could see them. To accomplish this, we cloned the video monitor on the audience machine so the presenters could also look up and see what the audience could see. This is really important as many times there is a delay when sharing a desktop machine over GOTO MEETING/WEBINAR when a speaker advances a PPT slide.  By looking at the audience monitor, presenters have absolute confidence their slide has advanced and the audience can see it.  In addition, in some of the webinar setups,  the presenters hang out in a room prior to going live.  By projecting the audience view of the webinar,  everyone in the podcasting studio knows when they are live and when they are not.

Presenting the Podcast or Webinar

Now we had our audience computer to monitor the broadcast, an organizer to broadcast the webinar, but what about the actual person presenting?

For most webinars, the presenters would show up with their own laptops and log into the webinar as a panel member.  To support this scenario, our studio has a broadcasting table from Ikea which is literally a wooden kitchen table that we have drilled holes in for routing cables.  The organizer sits at the head of the table, the presenter sits along one of the sides.  Since we didn’t want people on the WIFI during a webinar,  we have wired network connections available for the presenter to plug into.  A separate monitor with both VGA and HDMI cables is also available for presenters to use if they want to extend their laptop for presenting.

Since some presenters, occasionally, would show up with a memory stick and not bring their laptop, we also have a third machine in the studio called the optional presenter desktop.  This desktop has a dedicated monitor and seating position on the table.  To use this system, we simply logged in as a panel member from this machine and administrator transferred presentation rights to this computer.

For the network connections, to simplify everything, we ran all the cables for all the systems to a gigabit network switch we mounted in a rack in the room.  This way we only had one connection going into the network connection in the wall. We also made sure the network wall connection was also a gigbit port.

This is all you need to wire up the computers and network. But what about audio and video? Next posting we will cover what is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the studio.

Parts List

  • 3 computers
  • 42″ audience monitor for the wall
  • 1 monitor for the organizer
  • 1 monitor for presenter desktop
  • 1 spare monitor for presenter who brings their own laptop
  • HDMI and VGA cables
  • 1 Gigabit ethernet switch
  • Rackmount Network-Grade PDU Power Strip, 12 Right Angle Outlets Wide-Spaced, 15A
  • Server rack that can hold three desktops, network switch, mixer switch, power switch


How to Set Up a Podcast Studio for Goto Webinar/Meeting


studioWith the prevalence of webinars, podcasts and live streaming as a key staple of marketing communications, every company needs the capability to professionally run these types of events.  For large companies,  it is not uncommon to find a dedicated team and studio set up for this using professional equipment.  But for small to midsize companies, without the budget and personnel, how do you run live events professionally using existing off the shelf inexpensive equipment you can find on and create a podcasting studio?

I set out to solve this problem when the frequency of webinars my team was doing started to increase dramatically.  Before we decided to invest the time to figure this out,  I would find my team huddled in a conference room, stressed out half an hour before a webinar struggling to get everything working between the audio connection, internet connection, and the various people required to present, monitor and host the event. Ultimately, once the webinar was running I would see them hunched around a speaker phone talking.  It seemed less than ideal and very inefficient.I knew we were sub optimal on audio quality and production value.

There had to be a better way. But what?

Why You Need a Podcast Studio for GotoMeeting

The answer was to build out a dedicated studio for all our webcasting needs.  The “studio” would just be a conference room we set up for dedicated webcasting.  But how to do it? What equipment?  How do you handle the audio? The video?  What people would be required to run the webinar?

For our use case, we selected GotoWebinar and GotoMeeting from Citrix.  Others using other services would have similar challenges and opportunities. We did some research and studied our habits and found the following characteristics of our online sessions:

  • Presenters generally liked to use their own machine to present. They were familiar with their machine, and like the control. The system implemented needed to support people bringing their own laptop to present.
  • For companies like ours that demonstrate software, the demo person was typically a sales engineer who also liked to use their own machine. The system needed to support people bringing their own laptops for demonstrations.
  • Not only do people want to present on their own, they also wanted some of the dual monitor set ups they have at their desks to present since that is what they know. In fact, some speakers required a dual screen display. So dual monitors was a requirement for anyone presenting or demonstrating.  Of course different laptops have different ports, so the ability for a monitor to support these configurations was important.
  • Presenting powerpoint was tricky — you want to be in SLIDE SHOW mode, but if you are not careful and aren’t familiar with how it worked, you end up not showing what you think you are showing. GOTO WEBINAR and GOTO MEETING doesn’t allow uploading of documents. Presenters are always sharing their desktop. This is good and bad.  The system needed to be able to handle the manner in which Powerpoint presented.
  • Many times, we would have third parties on the webinar who were remote and would also present. The system needed to take this into account from both an audio and visual standpoint.
  • Despite most people wanting to bring their own laptop, some people would show up with a memory stick and want to use the studio system. The system needed to support this configuration for presenters who wanted to use their own laptop.
  • Sitting around talking into a speaker phone is less than ideal from an audio quality standpoint. The system needed to have high quality audio where each person had their own microphone. With presenters sometimes outside the main studio, all the webinar presenters needed the ability to hear each other, yet not generate audio feedback.
  • Presenters generally didn’t like to be interrupted with watching or responding to chat. They liked to be able to scan the chat window to see what people were asking, but couldn’t invest the focus to respond. Someone would be required to manage the chat during a webinar. This person needed to be able to participate in the webinar and not get in the middle of the organizer or the presenter.
  • Just like chat, twitter during a webinar needed to be managed and it couldn’t be done by the presenters.
  • Many times audience members would say “We can’t see the slides” in chat or “we can’t hear you”.Most often, this was a problem on an audience members machine, not the webinar as a whole. Setting up an independent audience monitor machine seemed important to actually see what the audience was seeing.  GOTO MEETING added an Audience View to the console which is nice, but we made it a requirement to have an independent path to verify audience views and audio quality using an independent log in and computer.
  • Conference rooms are less than ideal for sound isolation so we needed a quiet room, generally isolated from other activity, and without fan noise blowing from HVAC.
  • Webinars are events. We wanted the entire company to know they were going on. Providing a way for other people to see the webinar studio seemed important.
  • Adding a video stream of the people presenting seemed to be important to increase people’s connection with the presenters.

So those are the requirements. It was a long list, but we met them.  Next post – setting it up.



Let the Sales Team Set Your Scoring – Beyond Basic Lead Scoring

Sketch35121221At my most recent talk at MarketingNation,  I asked the audience how many people used lead scoring.  Nearly the entire audience raised their hand. Then I asked how many people allowed sales to set the scores, just a few hands shot up. This was surprising since marketers that don’t allow sales to set scoring are missing a key method of aligning the two organizations.  Here is why.

Scoring is an objective way to declare that a lead is reading for a human (sales) to attempt contact with it.  There are two main elements to lead scoring – the total score of a lead, and the number of points each particular response gets.   For example, you might arbitrarily decide that 100 points is the level at which leads pass to sales.  If you decide on 100, then you should start looking at the various activities that someone does that would appear to qualify someone to get passed to sales. If someone fills out a contact me form asking for a sales rep to call, for example, that is probably worth 100 points.  If someone reads a product web page,  that is probably worth just a few points.

The challenge in setting scores comes with all the little activities in between that are neither dramatic enough to warrant passing to sales, yet still seem significant. For example, a prospect who looks at several product pages, including pricing, then attends a webinar for the entire time and asks questions might ready for sales to engage.  The key to scoring then becomes how to make sure these smaller activities add up to your pass to sales threshold score in a meaningful way.

Here is where sales comes into the picture.  Sales  teams want to talk to people who are at a particular point in the buyers journey.  There are two levers to determine this point in the journey. The first is the number of points given to each activity.  The second is the threshold score where items are passed to sales. Lowering the threshold score and reps receive leads earlier in the journey. Changing the scoring of individual items and reps receive leads with a different activity make up.  The key is that the sales team has to agree with your recommendations on both the threshold and the score composition.

Why?   If sales isn’t following up on your leads it is because they have determined they can make their quota easier by some other method.  Hence they don’t bother with marketing leads since they just want to hit quota and your leads, well, effectively stink in their mind.  This might not be true, and in fact probably isn’t. With each rep getting a small amount of leads from a particular program they lack the bigger picture analysis of whether a program is generating 1% lead to opportunity conversion or 20%.  But it doesn’t matter, since your leads now stink in their mind.  You can  implement all the SLAs, MQLS, SALs  criteria you want, it won’t matter and these types of policies just makes the relationship with sales acrimonious.

Now bring sales into the scoring discussion and you change the game.  You are now letting sales determine what they should follow up on and help them be part of the solution which is making sure the optimal leads get to them.  If you let them set scores, there is no “those leads stink” conversations since the sales team asked for the leads.  Instead, the conversation turns to “how did those leads convert and should we adjust scores?”.  This is exactly where you want to be.  Sales doesn’t want to waste time on junk and you don’t want to waste time providing leads that go nowhere.  Sales and marketing goals are actually 100% aligned provided the marketing team can think like a sales person and use mutually agreed up criteria for makes sense to follow up on.  By starting this way, you also provide a baseline of conversion rates that allow you to experiment in the future by changing scoring levels  with sales agreement and watching the results.  Lead scoring is the friend of any marketer when you let the sales team set the numbers.

Other Topics Related:

Marketing Nation Presentation – 15 Things Not To Tell Your CMO #MKTGNATION

mtngNationI presented at my third Marketing Nation yesterday. First year was on metrics, last year on sales and marketing alignment, this year it was on “15 Things Never to Tell Your CMO”.  I think I got the title wrong, as a better title would have been “How to Get Those Terrible Marketing Meetings Back on Track”.  Think about all the marketing strategy meetings, campaign sessions, sales interlocks, and global marketing meetings where the meeting is just off track because of some basic fundamental misunderstandings of how marketing works.

People use the word “market” and “messaging” without really knowing what they are saying.  Marketing programs are pitched without any real goals and the results are cooked to look great.  Marketing teams get pushed to hire regional marketing groups to do work easily done in a central team yet can’t find the people needed to do the local work that can’t be centralized.  The presentation walks through a series of these meetings and provides some strategies for how to handle the situation.

Once the video is posted, I will link to it, but until there, the PDF of the deck is attached.




Cannolis are Good Eats, Not Good Leads

img_0086-1Last post we talked about the customer journey and its importance to marketers.  One problem if you fail to follow the journey is your marketing tactics just don’t work.  Simple analogy – if you walk into a car dealership to look at a car, and the salesman walks up to you and asks “Do you want to buy?”,  it is unlikely you will respond. You might even leave. There is a mismatch between where you are in the journey and where the salesperson thinks you are.

Now enter the cannoli.  I like a good cannoli — a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry in the North End is the best (some might claim Modern is better).  Today a box of Cannolis showed up in the office courtesy of a vendor.  They were hand delivered by the sales rep.  The sales rep actually tweeted to the person in our office he wanted to meet that a box of pastry was on its way.

So we had some great afternoon snacks.

Each time a marketing program gets run against us, as a marketing team I like to see what people think.

Fundamentally, the problem with this program is the mismatch in the journey.  We are only vaguely aware of what this vendor did, and now that we had some cannoli we at least understand what they do.  So if the goal was awareness,  then yes they hit their awareness target.  But if the goal was for us to have a meeting with the sales team or even take a phone call,  the program failed.  Given the sales rep delivered these, and wanted to hand deliver them to the prospect in our office, that was the goal.

The issue here is we aren’t in the market for what this vendor is offering, and even if we were, we wouldn’t just take a call with a vendor since they bought us something.  Maybe we are weird or odd, I don’t know.  In the past year we received:

  • chocolate
  • champagne
  • miniature shopping carts
  • fruit

Among other items.  Nothing resulted in a meeting or even a phone call.

The buyer’s journey needs to match.  If it doesn’t,  the odds of success are low.

Off to eat some free food.





Customer Journey – The Real Process That Matters


Everyone has their funnel sales steps, their sales process, their lead follow up system.  If you have read my book on marketing metrics,  you get an outline for how to measure the marketing process from driving traffic, converting the traffic, nurturing, passing leads to sales and into the sales funnel.

But what all these processes and metrics system miss is the actual view of what the customer is doing as they consider your product. The customer is going through their own journey that may or may not include you.  The customer is deciding which brands they even want to engage with, is evaluating multiple products and is ultimately purchasing only one.When viewed from a customer centric journey perspective,  marketing and the company starts to shift the metrics and processes used to determine how well they are doing with the customer.

This customer centric orientation also means that the journey doesn’t end with purchase, but rather continues on to successful product adoption and ultimately advocacy for your brand.

Let’s take a consumer example.  I want to purchase a smart watch.  Why? I read about them in the press since some marketer is out trying to engage with me with really early stage content. A smart marketer is measuring the amount of this content and early journey material they are mentioned in.

Next, I decide to evaluate.  There are multiple brands of watches. Off the top of my head – Apple, Samsung, Fitbit. I can name three without searching.  I know there are more, I just can’t recall.  I am likely to restrict my evaluation to these three.  I am now also likely to do high level passes through each company’s website to learn the basics about each product to evaluate. A marketer should be measuring this mid-level evaluation traffic to try to measure their effectiveness  getting customers to actually evaluate the product.

Now I am getting serious about purchasing and I have narrowed my choice down to one.  At this point, I start  to spend more time looking at pricing, configuration, how to buy, and maybe even support.  Let’s say I am looking at the Apple Watch, a smart marketer will notice that my conversion from one type of content to lower stage content is high.  The marketer at Samsung should notice I have gone away and am no longer returning.  An analysis of conversions from one stage to the next for Samsung should yield a TO DO list of what to do different.  Customers are considering the brand, but dropping. Why?

Right now today at SmartBear, I have an issue with one of our products. Compared to other products, the conversion to trial rate based on traffic hitting the product section of the website if way lower than other products.   There are a bunch of possible issues here, but the net of it is that customers are relating to our brand, researching the product, but not committing to evaluate it in the customer journey.

Don’t have a defined customer journey?  Probably time to get one. Viewing the world through the customer’s journey changes much of what is required in marketing and sales.

Below are some links on customer journey from HBR that I recommend: