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B2B marketing performance, Part II- from zero to a B2B marketing metrics hero.

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

We discussed why data and measurements are critical to marketing in Part I. We also concluded that no one system fits every company and that the key is to design a system that will grow as the team's maturity grows.

Part II is all about implementing such a system.

Time before metrics- preparing for a marketing big bang

There is always time before metrics. Most of us started with reporting and discussing activities and only much later started thinking about goals, proper selection of strategies, and measuring actual performance towards these goals.

At a discussion I had with a technology company CEO and the Director of Sales, we soon started “assessing” their marketing function. As I started asking questions related to marketing goals, their use of technology, and approach to measurement, it made an immediate impact on them. Their marketing department had no clear goals and measurable objectives; when it came to the overall contribution, discussions were based on activities rather than goals and data. While they started complaining about their marketing team, I saw a great opportunity they had- I imagined all the things they could do once they improved the maturity of their team and moved from activities to goals and measurements.

The use of marketing analytics can have quite an impact on how a marketing department is perceived. Today, no excuse is left for not measuring and making data-based marketing decisions. The available technologies and the fact that large parts of the buyer's journey are digital will ensure that the most successful companies of the future will be designed around data and analytics.

Houston, we have a rocket to launch- from basic metrics to leading business conversations.

Suppose you currently do not measure and cannot prove tangible value, but you became a big believer in measuring marketing data and have lots of extra energy for your next project.

You can direct your enthusiasm and start your journey by setting up a 3-4 phases plan that consists of goals and KPIs, basic metrics for the first and second phases, and the ways (data, operations, software) you will manage data and how you will measure. The duration of a complete journey can vary; it is not likely to be shorter than a typical sales cycle (for complex B2B solutions, it can take two years- but be patient, what you just started playing is a long-term hyper-value game.

See “Table X” for an idea of how to outline your path towards measurement and data-backed requests for budget increases.

Phase one - Focus on your digital marketing strategy and metrics for an easy and successful start.

The initial stage of every major initiative is essential to its success. You do not want to fail at the beginning, so start with something that will increase your marketing costs minimally, something that is not difficult to implement, and will have a minimal impact on your existing marketing initiatives.

Setting up a Google Analytics account costs nothing, so there is no excuse for not tracking web analytics. There is some learning, and I suggest you take it seriously; learn everything from setting goals (such as content download and demo requests) to understanding user flows. Also, your main B2B Social platform LinkedIn provides audience analytics and visits to your LinkedIn Company and product pages.

While digital traffic analytics should be a no-brainer for the initial phase, you can step up your game with some more insightful metrics. For example, you can go for tools that will help you understand which companies are visiting your site (such as Snitcher and LeadInfo) to move from just acknowledging that there is traffic, to understand how good it is.

If you are not already into content and SEO, generating organic traffic will take time. Still, you can influence the traffic from Social- ask your colleagues to invite their contacts to follow your LinkedIn profile, and help you promote web content. It costs you nothing but effort.

It is crucial that you start measuring and preparing reports. Assign someone for operational reporting. Check the trends and prepare a monthly report. Along with observations, conclusions, and next steps.

In addition to actual measurement, outline your roadmap. It can be something as simple as Table X below. Communicate clearly to the CEO your intention and how you plan to grow the maturity of KPIs and metrics over time.

Once you outline the plan, ask for some initial funding. Communicate clearly, that the only way to increase organic reach is through content and SEO, but that it will take time. Be clear that until this happens, your best is to buy prospects' attention with Google search Ads linked to proper landing pages and content. Google ads are your shortcut to late-funnel prospects.

Table X - you can structure your marketing data and measurement initiative

into phases that correspond to the maturity of your team.

Content metrics - many brands rely heavily on their B2B content marketing strategy and thought leadership.

Organic traffic depends on the general awareness of your brand and the content-based SEO strategy. To drive organic, every modern B2B marketing strategy includes a strong and comprehensive content marketing plan. Good content comes at a cost, so it makes sense to measure the contribution of each of your content pieces. Do more of what works- for example, sponsor blog posts with a good organic reach.

Include a simple content report in your marketing report. Your content KPI at this stage can be pretty simple and related to driving organic traffic. It can be as simple as some basic metrics for the blog posts: how many impressions have they generated for organic search, what is the click-through rate, and how many web visits have they generated? If you are ready, you can even measure the number of conversions the content contributed to (CTA clicks, downloads, newsletter subscriptions).

Phase two - the great leap from traffic metrics to named prospects and opportunities

While the initial period is more about tech acquisition and tools, your goal for the second phase is to present the jump from web metrics to named prospects and even overall contribution to new business opportunities.

The jump to more mature metrics is a major one. We are talking about conversion. Conversion is about turning anonymous web and even live event visitors into named persons. We are talking the usual entire marketing funnel terms here, such as prospects, marketing and sales qualified leads (MQL, SQL), and even opportunities.

Marketing tools and techniques one can use

  • converting landing pages

  • a monthly newsletter subscription

  • webinar registration

  • blog post subscription

  • 3rd party sources such as your LI followers

  • Contact us and demo forms

The importance of marketing technology - the only way to be efficient and prepared for the future

When it comes to running efficient marketing campaigns that convert to serious nurturing programs and measurement, one of the most important initiatives will be the implementation of a marketing CRM system.

This is the beginning, but if you do it right, it will become your data goldmine that will eventually become a stream of real business opportunities. If you do not get the funding, start with an open-source tool or a commercial freemium version. Getting the most out of data requires maintenance and management, from deduplication to more intelligent use, such as segmentation and data analytics.

There is no phase three without data, and there is no other way to leverage data than via a serious investment into marketing technology. You better prepare well now.

Phase three - crossing the chasm between CRM and actual Contribution to the business

There are two main ways of generating opportunities with marketing. Nurturing the prospects that show a general interest in your topics and catching the late funnel problem search intent.

When starting with lead generation (for complex B2B, lead capture seems to be a more suitable term), It makes sense to start with the late funnel prospects out there. If you have a strong relationship with analysts, partners, and other 3rd parties, and you are a particularly lucky person, all you need is a DEMO request call to action on your landing page. A demo request is likely an MQL that can turn into an SQL and even an opportunity and a deal.

On the other hand, conversion and nurturing address a fairly big market chunk, but it can take time, and most of them will never become their clients. It can take months, even years, but this is the 90% of people that are not yet buying but will likely buy sometime later. If you are in a long sales cycle business, patience will be needed to convert your CRM to opportunities.

Once you can report a conversion, it is time to celebrate; you made the whole circle, you made a home run. Celebrate. Celebrate because the celebration will soon be disrupted by your CFO starting question such as "we think the cost of leads is too high, our competitors run it more efficiently ... and also, we think the type of clients we attract is generating lower value than expected ...". Phase three may be short-lived, so prepare soon for phase four KPIs and metrics.

As you may have figured out by now, bosses are never satisfied. They will soon get used to your performance and require more. If not revenue, then cost optimizations.

Reference metrics

To be able to compete, you also need to have some reference conversation metrics at your disposal. There are different analysts and research companies that can help.

Reference metrics could be internal as well.

For example- cost per opportunity. What is the cost of opportunities brought in by sales channels, and what are the ones from marketing channels? If you show evidence that marketing is close to or even below the sales organization’s cost, you have a value proposition that no sane board can ignore.

If you struggle with no sales metrics, talk to your CFO and propose it. He surely will like it 😊.

Successful B2B content marketing requires more advanced analytics and good Quality content.

Content requires a more holistic approach to metrics and KPIs than tracking views and simple conversion rate measures such as the number of downloads.

There are several types of metrics related to it. It all starts outside your organization with search engines, 3rd parties, and media linking your content. The SEO experience and the flow must be excellent, so spend time on SEO and linking search intent with search results and your content.

While SEO-related metrics are essential to bringing the readers to your site, it is also crucial to what happens when someone comes to it. I am not a big fan of SEO content for the purpose of SEO that most agencies are advocating (well, they must generate revenue). I am all for valuable content, including your unique view on solving clients' problems. Apart from the content quality, the user journey starting with your content piece, is really important. You must understand the positive and negative flows- which content makes them stay and engage and which content does not work.

Phase four - optimizing acquisition cost to improve the profitability

If you passed Phase three and measured contribution, then I do not need to tell you anything anymore; you are already well advanced than the rest, and you know what you have to do in Phase four, or even you can define your own Phase five.

To me, phase four is mostly about marketing attribution. Attribution is about understanding the correlations in your marketing mix, channels, campaigns, and other activities when it comes to customer conversion.

As you go through the journey and start looking at your Dashboards and metrics, you will get a basic understanding of what works and what does not, and you will at least be able to get rid of campaigns that are not working.

Attribution can lead you even further- it is, however, a separate exciting topic that I plan to cover in a separate post once I have more real-life experience with the tools. Attribution in the digital age is all about marketing data, integration of various sales and marketing data sources, and scientific approaches to correlation, including AI/ML tools.

Final thoughts, Part II

I outlined a pragmatic yet systematic path to metrics and measuring performance of a modern marketing B2B department with a focus on Hi-tech early and growing companies. I hope it convinced you that the journey is not necessarily difficult and that you can design it to make several smaller wins to prove your team's work and improve operations.

The outline is just something I would do if starting at Zero. You are welcome to design your way. I am interested in hearing about your personal experience. Ž

As I said before, and what one can never repeat too many times- starting now is more important than trying to design a perfect system that includes metrics that you can maybe not even achieve.

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