The most transformative and scary reality facing B2B marketers today is that it is now possible to track marketing’s impact on revenues.

Historically, companies viewed marketing as a cost center because marketers did not have a clear path from intangibles like brand awareness, organic search results, or press release reads to increases in revenue and profits. The rise of marketing analytics and marketing automation software has changed the game. Marketing results can now be tracked and measured.

Now the challenge is figuring out which data to track. We’re all drowning in data points: website visitors, social media followers, LinkedIn group members, webinar viewers, email opens, and click-throughs to name a few. Marketing automation software tools have added to the flood. The volume is growing exponentially, but for the most part, only 20 percent of data is actually used.

You need to figure out your objectives and then determine which metrics best support them. Here are some ideas about how to make the most of all the data that’s available to you.

Consider marketing automation as the marketing system of record.
Marketing automation handles the long middle of the marketing and sales process, filling the chasm between marketing and sales that grew when marketing took credit for generating leads but not the responsibility for nurturing them, and when sales deemed those same leads worthless if they weren’t ready to buy. B2B marketers have only scratched the surface of what marketing automation software can do, with many marketers reporting that they are not using their current systems to their full potential.

Develop and implement a lead-nurturing strategy.
Your marketing automation system has the potential to be a finely tuned machine for responding and reacting to what your leads are telling you through their actions. Marketing automation allows you to make prospects feel like everything they receive from you is a natural progression from what you just sent them, but it’s still in its infancy. You have to consistently examine and refine what the process looks and feels like from the customer standpoint.

Create a weighted model to attribute marketing’s influence on sales.
Automation systems do a good job of tracking marketing sourced leads&mash;those people who respond to an email or register for a webinar&mash;and then track their progress through the system. But marketing isn’t a closed-loop system. Leads can enter your pipeline through a phone call or a referral, and are then influenced by marketing but often don’t get counted as marketing wins. Some systems, like Salesforce, attribute 100% of every marketing opportunity to every touch point. Buyers also might consume several content assets and campaigns in several places, not just one, and those access points need to be measured correctly. With a weighted model, you can see all points of marketing influence, not just a single point, and attribute each touch appropriately.

Use data to test hypotheses.
With automation software, you now have the ability to analyze data in thousands of ways. You can test how a single piece of content performs, see where customers get stuck, and pinpoint where refinements are needed. The reality is that you’ve got more data than you know what to do with. And to be effective, you need to be able to draw insights from that data. So you need to think critically, ask questions about the data, and build a strong relationship with your data analyst so you can pull out needed insights. Don’t let yourself get paralyzed, but embrace this newfound repository.

Practice data-driven optimization. Relentlessly.
Marketing automation isn’t a cure-all for a lack of leads, nor is it a silver bullet that instantly provides feedback about what you need to do to be a better marketer. That hard work comes from your ability to analyze the data and refine your actions toward better results. Only then can you automate your marketing processes.

Create a revenue model that maps to the sales funnel.
The revenue model is the foundation for data analytics. Think of it as a state diagram; no lead can be in two places at any one time. Use the results gleaned from your marketing automation system to measure the process defined in your revenue model. At a very high level, it works like this: Examine how many leads you have at each stage of the marketing process, look at what percentage move from one stage to another, and then multiply by average deal size. These numbers will allow you to begin talking about the marketing pipeline in dollars and cents, the terms your CFO and CEO are looking for.

The foundation for modern marketing isn’t abstract concepts; it’s data. Figure out what you need to accomplish, define how to measure your progress, test your assumptions, and iterate your way to achieving your goals.

This is an excerpt from the B2B Change Agent Handbook. Download it now to get more ideas about how you can improve your B2B marketing.