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Without a doubt, one of the most exciting new products I’ve seen come on the market in the last few years is Proof—the brainchild of Mark Stouse, a longtime colleague and friend. When Mark first talked to me about the idea, my initial thought was: the last thing we need is another piece of technology that promises to be the Holy Grail.

However, when I actually got to try the software this summer, I had to admit that it’s damn close to the Holy Grail.

Proof takes whatever data you have and combines it to automatically find correlations. Say you want to understand if there is a relationship between the quality of your media coverage and conversions on your website. You could probably figure that out in Excel, but Proof’s magic sauce is the ability to take lots of other data—quantity of social engagements, share of voice, you name it—and see which is most closely correlated across time.

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While most marketing teams could get serious benefit from Proof, the software was designed with complex, long-cycle organizations in mind. “The time lag is one of the reasons why B2B marketing is so very hard to understand,” Mark said. “Awareness and lead generation are fairly straightforward because they occur in a shorter period of time. But 65-70 percent of the sales process happens after sales accepts the marketing-qualified lead.”

Mark continued: “When we begin working with a customer, the first step is to develop a landscape of all the data they have on hand. This can be communications data, marketing data, market data, audience data, sales data—whatever is relevant. We then talk with them about the questions they would like to have answers to, essentially: ‘What do you want to know?’”

The final step in this part of the process is mapping data to questions. This gap analysis identifies what questions the customer has data to support, and what data they might need to begin to collect or in some cases purchase. Proof also has a partnership with Berlin, Germany-based Statista that allows them to provide a library of third-party data to their customers.

Mark’s background is as a large company CMO and CCO, mostly in the technology and B2B space, so he’s accustomed to tough questions from skeptical finance-types questioning the value of communications. He knows how hard it is to convince them of the value of marketing, particularly in the B2B space.

“One of the key differentiators for Proof is that we built the system, and later the software product, in collaboration with more than 600 Fortune 1000 business leaders over a ten-year period,” Mark said. “We did this because if whatever we created didn’t work for them, or wasn’t credible to them, then it wasn’t worth doing. Over the years, we proved out the system at companies like HP, BMC Software, and Honeywell.

Never doubt that Mark is passionate about measurement. Here are some comments from a recent conversation with him:

  • “We created Proof to give B2B business people, marketers, and communicators the tools necessary to discover and ultimately prove the connections between marketing, communications, sales, and any other areas of business performance that they care about.”
  • “For years companies have had no way to see what they would lose or gain if they changed their marketing spend. In the absence of a computed answer, the only way a business knows how to control its opportunity cost and its risk of capital is to regularly reduce marketing spend until something breaks. It also often takes a couple of quarters for everyone to realize that something has broken and begin to correct the problem. This inconsistent, oscillating approach to marketing and communications investment creates a powerful and deeply negative correlation with shareholder value and market growth. It’s bad for business, and it creates a lot of risk to market share and sales productivity.”
  • “Marketing and communications professionals do great work in companies around the globe, but they’ve always struggled to mount a credible case for business impact except in short-cycle companies selling low-cost, low-risk products. I’ve led global marketing and communications teams in long-cycle, complex businesses, and I know what it’s like to do great work and then see budgets cut over and over again. The reality is that most marketing and communications teams generate a lot of business value, and there’s a lot of evidence that communications teams are disproportionately impactful in B2B. That’s not only encouraging for those teams, but it also suggests that CMOs should be allocating more budget to PR, AR, and other ‘earned’ activity.”
  • “Our economic buyers are mostly CMOs, CCOs, agencies, and other consultancies.  But the circle of interest is wide and deep, including sales leaders, CEOs, CFOs, HR leaders, boards of directors, procurement teams, and anyone interested in understanding the contributions made by individuals and teams to other areas of company performance.”

Proof is offered both as a SaaS tool that teams can operate themselves, and as a Software-Enabled Service (SeS) where the company does most of the work for you. For more information, visit www.proofanalytics.ai. ∞

Note: This piece originally appeared as a free article in the late November 2016 edition of The Measurement Advisor newsletter. For complete access to all articles, click here for a free 30-day trial.

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