Originally published in: Sales & Marketing Management
The success of a B2B company once largely depended on the relationships and contacts of its salespeople. Now, B2B companies must implement digital marketing into their sales funnels. Why? Because buyer behaviors are changing.
Just like the average consumer, the buying behaviors of B2B customers have become more complicated over time. Purchase decisions now involve increased touch points through multiple marketing channels, more self-driven research, and less reliance on salespeople. For example, 68% of millennials would rather make a B2B purchase via a website than through a sales representative.
Barriers to Measuring Digital Marketing ROI
Even though B2B marketers have learned fast and implemented nimble approaches, they still struggle to measure and track consumer behavior in our increasingly digital world. As consumer behavior and digital marketing technology evolve, it’s completely natural for B2B marketers to stumble over a few barriers when it comes to measuring ROI. The most prevalent barriers in the B2B space include internal precedents, siloing and incomplete data.
For starters, many B2B companies bring products to market based on internal precedents rather than customer expectations and values. It might make sense for your organization’s hierarchy to have each of your reps specialize in different product lines and services, for example, but that probably isn’t how your customers experience, research and purchase your services. If you haven’t updated your go-to-market and sales strategies in the past several years based on customer experiences and expectations, you’re lagging behind.
Rely on an expert in user experience or marketing who can capture quantitative and qualitative data from customers and internal stakeholders. You need someone who can organize the data to show a fully realized customer journey across every touch point, including any gaps or opportunities.
It’s also common for B2B marketers to struggle with siloing. Marketers need to see and track the entire customer journey to measure ROI, but B2B customer interactions often are split across different departments that don’t communicate with each other. For example, the teams and communications that support trade shows and brand marketing work separately. A marketer might create a campaign to drive traffic to a trade show booth, but those qualified leads would not be entered into the company’s marketing automation platform automatically. These silos make it impossible to track ROI and ruin otherwise smooth customer experiences.
Finally, there’s the issue of incomplete data. When it comes to reports and key performance indicators, many companies turn to their data science, business intelligence or sales analysis departments. Data departments are incredibly valuable to marketers, but you shouldn’t just gather data for data’s sake. Rely on an expert in user experience or digital marketing who can capture quantitative and qualitative data from customers and internal stakeholders. You need someone who can organize the data to show a fully realized customer journey across every touch point — including any gaps or opportunities.
While these barriers might seem difficult to navigate, they aren’t insurmountable. B2B marketers that want to track the ROI of their digital marketing efforts would be wise to consider an attribution model.
Overcoming barriers with an marketing attribution model
Marketing attribution models take the overall value of a sale and give credit back to every marketing interaction that contributed to the end result. This can help you understand which digital marketing tactics contribute to successful sales activities in even the most complex of customer journeys. The following five steps will help you implement a marketing attribution model and begin to make educated decisions regarding the ROI on your B2B marketing channels:
1. Create a B2B marketing attribution model.
Connect customers’ physical interactions to digital ones using tracking methods, and then assign KPIs to each interaction based on where they fall within the customer journey. When building a marketing attribution model, it’s best to start with a level playing field: Give each interaction the same percentage of the profit that resulted from a sale. You’ll start to get a sense of each interaction’s value in relation to one another. I recommend doing this manually from the start, but you can certainly invest in a software platform down the road.
2. Measure success at every step.
Consider the engagement rate of every touch point of your customer’s journey. Engagement rates are indicators of alignment between your content and your audience’s interest. Look at the subject and primary calls-to-action of your most engaging touch points. What does engagement with those specific subjects say about your audience? Where do you see opportunities to take that conversation deeper? Which marketing interactions resulted in the highest rate of people taking the next step toward making a purchase?
3. Assess what your spend gets you.
Evaluate the scalability of successful marketing strategies. Ask yourself how much more you can spend in that marketing channel before you either saturate your audience or reach a negative ROI. Determining the correlation between your marketing spend and your results will show you where to trim unnecessary fat.
4. Assign value to your customers.
Set up a scoring method for leads generated by your marketing automation platforms and CRM so that you can determine which marketing channels facilitate those touch points. All customers are important, but resource allocation boils down to value — and you can’t determine the value of a marketing channel unless you know which customers bring the highest-value accounts.
5. Continue refining.
Scope the project to measure ROI as a continuously evolving process, but start with a minimum viable product (MVP). It will be imperfect, but it will allow you to address blockers and create something functional that helps you make smarter decisions based on feedback from your data and key stakeholders across the organization.
B2B marketers might feel like they’re playing catch-up to digital marketing methods and segmented consumer behaviors, but that won’t be the case for long. Don’t let common barriers like internal guidelines, departmental silos and incomplete data stop you from making better targeting decisions. By setting up a marketing attribution model and paying closer attention to the overall customer journey, you’ll clearly see the ROI of each marketing channel and activity — and build success from there.
Tessa combines her marketing and software product management experience with agile principles to execute Tenlo’s rapid marketing testing, which focuses on identifying and forecasting clients' most effective experiences and sales channels for scaling successful products or launching innovation.
Tessa Burg, VP of UX & Technology Strategy