Objectively understanding the effectiveness and ROI of their marketing efforts is a common pain point for B2B leaders. The negative nodes of this challenge surface in a variety of ways, from executives voicing feelings-based qualitative generalizations of “I don’t think that we’re getting all we should be from our marketing” to others deep in data but shallow in confidence as to whether they’re really looking at the right information or asking the right questions.
Executive leaders need data-centered, objective indicators of marketing performance and activity; indicators that enable them to quickly ascertain whether objectives are on target or in danger and if trends are pointed in the right direction. So how do organizations put the right indicators in place and build the right reporting mechanisms and processes to ensure leaders have the right view of marketing? Let’s look at the steps below.
Start with the Right (SMART) Goals
Most are familiar with the concept of structuring SMART goals; those that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-based and time-bound. Marketing goals should typically be structured in this manner as well and link to overarching business objectives. For example, if you have a business goal of 10% YOY revenue growth and know that it will require (at least in part) a 15% lift in marketing qualified leads (MQLs), one goal would be:
Meet or exceed monthly MQL targets and an overall 15% increase in MQLs YOY.
Goals like this enable leaders to efficiently apply initial yes/no filters to results reports to signal whether action or additional information is needed.
Understand ROI and Results Attribution
Calculating a pure ROI for your B2B marketing activities is difficult and, to some extent, impractical. This is because most B2B business models have lengthy sales cycles with multiple marketing touchpoints throughout the buyer journey. Applying an ROI to each touchpoint along the way becomes a challenge of weight; should more weight be given to the PPC campaign that first brought them in, the webinar they attended just before an Opportunity was created or the case study they downloaded prior to the deal closing?
“The average B2B sale takes around seven marketing touches.” – Bizible
There are a number of statistical “marketing attribution” or “touchpoint analytics” tools (e.g. Hive9, Bizible, BrightFunnel) on the market that aim to better inform marketing’s impact on sales. However, most organizations struggling to measure their marketing effectiveness have not yet put the prerequisite reporting and data capture processes in place to really take advantage of such tools.
A good first step is to get the right measures and metrics in place around your key buyer journey stages. This may include Awareness metrics (e.g. site traffic, social following, etc.), Engagement metrics (e.g. leads generated by tactic/region, cost-per-lead, etc.) and Conversion metrics (e.g. % of leads that convert to opportunities/closed business). As your sales and marketing funnel begins to take shape, you’ll then be in a better position to drill down further to identify additional opportunities for improvement and potentially leverage sophisticated attribution tools.
Ensure Understanding and Alignment on What Your Marketing Metrics Mean
Putting the right measures of marketing performance in place won’t be impactful if you and other stakeholders do not share a common understanding of what the respective measures mean. Each measure of performance should be defined and these definitions should be socialized with all sales and marketing performance stakeholders. Dissent over the meaning of these metrics can lead to dissent in general and negatively affect your business.
The most common manifestation of this issue is disagreement between sales and marketing over the quality and/or quantity of leads. It is important to define lead stages clearly. For Marketing Qualified Leads, implement Lead Scoring to reduce ambiguity and ensure objectivity. For Sales Qualified Leads, determine what the right behavioral anchors are, such as “buying need confirmed” or “confirmed their needs can be addressed by our solution/service.”
Construct Role-Focused Marketing Dashboards and Performance Reports
Senior leaders do not typically have time for deep, detailed analysis into every facet of marketing performance. To account for time constraints and still ensure confidence in your ability to assess performance, construct a marketing dashboard that illustrates up-to-date results for the SMART Goals explored above. An effective marketing dashboard, ideally, is a one-page or one-screen view that allows provides to key questions such as “are we generating sufficient leads to meet our goals,” “are we increasing interest and awareness in our services and solutions,” “are we converting marketing qualified leads into opportunities?”
Effective marketing dashboards also trigger questions of “why are we struggling (or succeeding) in this area” or “why did we see a spike (or trough) during this time frame.” Ensure that your teams and technology can drill deeper into your marketing metrics to confidently answer these questions as they arise.
Be Disciplined in Regularly Reviewing Your Marketing Performance Reports
Making the regular review of your marketing results a priority allows leaders to address issues or concerning trends early and shows your marketing team that you believe in the importance of their work. Most importantly, the health of your business depends on it.
Executives should review their primary marketing dashboards at least monthly and some marketing KPIs may warrant more frequent updates. Another good practice to consider is establishing a Marketing KPI Review Calendar that provides you deeper, more insightful looks throughout the year at various aspects of your marketing efforts. See below for a basic example:
Launch Marketing – KPI Review Sequence
Full Steam Ahead
Putting in the required up front and ongoing work to effectively measure the impact of your marketing initiatives can be daunting, but smart leaders will do whatever it takes to get it right. The incremental gains, big breakthroughs and early warnings that stem from effective reporting and related processes produces a sustainable engine for business success.