B2B marketing has a vanity problem.
Too often, marketers go after the C-suite when it’s really a developer or marketing manager making the buying decisions. Marketers enumerate cumulative leads but forget to track how many actually brought in revenue. They become enamored with data without checking its validity and don’t push to understand the “why” behind the numbers.
On this episode of the B2B Revealed Podcast, Cascade Insights CEO Sean Campbell discusses measuring marketing ROI with Samantha Stone, author of Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook That Drives B2B Sales. Stone founded The Marketing Advisory Network and serves as the chief marketing officer.
Remember, marketing goals should also further the broader goals of the company. “A lot of the ways that marketers measure ourselves today really are not measurements of the business overall,” Stone said. “We do things like measure the number of leads that we create. But what really matters is whether those leads are converting to opportunities, revenue, and business and in the strategic markets that we want to go after.”
Find Out How Long Buyers Linger In The Sales Funnel
Since B2B buying is a group decision, Stone argues that B2B buyers are unlikely to skip stages in their buying process no matter how good your content or messaging is.
“One of the things that we need to start measuring is the impact of our programs on the amount of time that people spend in each of those stages- because we can influence that,” Stone said. “If we can break down and measure on average where different market segments are spending their time, we can start to create programs to help them move faster through that.”
These measurements can identify areas where potential buyers turn into “no’s.”
“A lot of companies that I work with find that they have a lot of people who see and trial their software and then they get stuck. They never move beyond that stage,” Stone said. “But there are things that marketing can do to help make that process different, so that we can make that trial efficiency better. We can make sure the right people are going into a trial. We can help them design a test during the trial period that’s actually going to surface our value in the right way.”
Check On How Adoption Went Post-Purchase
According to Stone, marketers should adopt accountability metrics around the adoption of technology.
“We want our customers to be customers for a long time,” Stone said. “And the only way they’re going to renew their contracts with us or buy additional products and services is if they use what they purchased the first time. Yet marketing tends to say, “The sale is closed, we’re not responsible for that anymore.””
Stone suggests measuring how long it takes the customer to go from purchase to adoption. Marketers should also devote some resources to making sure that customers are able to adopt the product or service quickly and easily.
Turn Your Customers Into Advocates
Marketing, Stone explains, has a role to play in getting happy customers to spread the word.
Stone urges marketers to consider, “Once somebody has adopted our product or service, how do we make sure they’re going out to market and are writing reviews about us? Or sharing positive content with their networks? Or giving us referrals?”
Beware Of Overemphasizing Cumulative Lead Scoring
Conversion, adoption, and advocacy metrics give a much fuller picture of marketing success than looking at lead gen alone.
Content consumption does not necessarily lead to a sale, Stone warns.
“Oftentimes, a person who will come to your every educational web seminar and they will read all your blog posts and download all your white papers. But they may just be interested in the topic. They may have a competitive product that they’re already satisfied with, but your content is good. Or they may, in fact, have a need for your product but no budget to support it,” she said.
Look beyond the number of hits and examine the buyers’ behavior for clues of their intentions.
Stone offers this example:
“In a B2B environment, we’re selling to an organization, not just an individual person. We need to think about what activity across multiple people might signal.
So, I may have a single person who is doing a lot of work at a company and attends every web seminar and downloads every whitepaper. But maybe no one else at the company has ever participated in anything we’ve done.
If all of a sudden, I see four additional people’s activity spike at that same organization, this might tell me something. I might surmise that the person who had been doing that research all along slowly and quietly has finally got the attention of other people in the company and maybe there’s a real project happening.”
Know Who Is Really Making The Buying Decision
Many marketers get sidetracked by the executive who signs the check. They misguidedly throw the bulk of their resources to trying to woo the C-Suite when it’s actually quite rare for C-level executives to be the most influential in the decision to buy. Key buyer personas often have lower titles.
“The reality is it takes an incredible amount of effort to get the attention of a C-level executive. It’s a very expensive marketing and sales proposition. We have to be really measured about when we try and go after those folks… and make sure that there’s a real opportunity and a real influence that they need to have on the buying process,” Stone said. “Our resources are much better used towards other folks when the C-level executive is really not involved.”
Drama With Data
While marketing metrics mishaps often involve a fair amount of hubris, sometimes the data simply leads marketers astray. Stone cautioned against relying on incomplete or bad data.
As more and more data becomes available to marketers, Stone advises balancing quantitative research with qualitative ones. “Quantitative research is very valuable. I do a lot of that work for clients and for my own practice and my own learning. But it doesn’t explain why something is happening. We have to take the time to learn that. Sometimes that means we have to apply qualitative processes to the hypothesis we’ve gained from the data,” Stone said.
Behavioral habits don’t always fit neatly into a spreadsheet. Don’t allow your data to reduce people to algorithms that erase their flawed humanity.
“When I look at a spreadsheet or I see a chart, I don’t see the person anymore. I don’t see the individual anymore. I only see the summary of the data about that individual,” Stone said. “There’s a risk in losing sight of the fact that people are emotional and don’t always make rational decisions. We need to make sure that we… really understand what’s underlying.”
Metrics That Matter
While in times past, the primary function of marketing may have been to raise awareness and literally get customers in the door, marketing is responsible for much more of the sales funnel in the Internet age.
“We have the opportunity to change what we measure to actually influence the entire purchase process by which [customers] adopt our solutions or services. And then, hopefully, we help them become advocates,” Stone said. “Marketing has a responsibility to be able to do that. But the only way that marketing can take that responsibility is if we stop holding them accountable to vanity metrics that are not actually driving the business.”
Listen to the full episode for more insight on flawed data sets, company leaders’ responsibility to content creation, and good measurements of marketing success.