The measures and methods most effective for showing that value vary by industry, revenue model, and target customer. In B2B complex sale environments, a helpful model for developing business level metrics can be created by turning the traditional sales funnel on its side and combining it with the paid-owned shared-earned (POSE) model for content marketing.
Part one of Proving Value for B2B CMOs focused on key marketing metrics in the “pre-CRM” stage, tracking the level and quality of anonymous website visitor traffic. This post will detail post-CRM metrics.
Middle of the Funnel Metrics: Turning Prospects into Leads
When an anonymous website visitor first converts into a “known” prospect (for example, by downloading a whitepaper or ebook), you as a marketer usually know very little about that person other than name, email address, and perhaps company. So the focus of marketing efforts here is to learn more and move the prospect forward. At the very least, determine if each prospect is a short-term sales lead or a longer-term lead to be nurtured.
From a metrics standpoint, it’s essential to track and report the trends in terms of 1) the number of prospects moving through the funnel from prospect to lead, and 2) the percentage of prospects being converted to leads. The first is a measure of targeting precision in the pre-CRM stage. The second shows the success (or not) of mid-funnel lead nurturing programs.
Breaking down the results by channel answers questions at another level of detail. What are the trends in effectiveness of email sequences? What impact are retargeting (online advertising targeted to prospects based on their previous online actions) and remarketing (displaying targeted ads to prospects or previous visitors to your website as they browse websites that are part of the Google Display Network, or as they search for terms related to your products or services on Google) efforts? What are the trends in terms of generating webinar registrations and live demo/meeting requests from new prospects?
Bottom of the Funnel Metrics: Turning Leads into Customers
In complex sales environments—where big ticket items are sold to teams of buyers in a sales cycle typically lasting several months—these metrics can be the most fraught with danger for marketers. Many critical variables (e.g., sales effectiveness, competitor discounting, industry relationships among buying team members) are simply outside the control of marketing. Nevertheless, it’s essential to track and report on measures like win rate and margin trends.
One metric of great importance to marketers is content utilization: to what extent are sales reps using and prospects engaging with specific pieces of marketing content? Sales enablement tools that measure content engagement (such as App Data Room, LiveHive, Highspot, and ClearSlde) help chief marketers, from an operational standpoint, understand what type of content provides the most value in the sales cycle. But they can also help demonstrate the value of content marketing efforts at the crucial bottom-of-the-funnel stage.
Post-Funnel Metrics: Turning Customers into Advocates
As with the bottom of the funnel, there are many factors impacting customer satisfaction (product quality/reliability, support responsiveness, product recalls, etc.) that lie outside the control of the marketing function. Nonetheless, as Daniel Newman points out in Forbes, in an increasing number of companies “CMOs will be held accountable for revenue, digital transformations, and…end-to-end customer experience.”
Even if CMOs can’t control every touchpoint relating to customer satisfaction, they do need to be tracking advocacy metrics. Among the key measures:
Net Promoter Score (NPS): Your NPS indicates how likely your customers are to recommend your product or service to others. Feedback for NPS calculations can be gathered in a variety of ways, from automated customer service phone followup to specialized software to simple online survey tools.
Customer Stories: The number of case studies or published customer stories developed over time is an operational marketing metric. But the quantifiable results they report can be useful both for marketing and broader business-level purposes.
The Four Rs: Depending on the type of product or service you sell and customers you sell to, each of the “four Rs”—references, referrals, reviews, and retention rate—will vary in their specific importance. In complex B2B product environments, retention rate (combined with customer lifetime value) and references (trends in the number of and share of customers willing to serve as sales references) are key business-level metrics.
Customer Data Value: In simplest terms, do you know how customers are using your products, and does your organization act on that data? Usage information can be collected directly through customer surveys. Increasingly, it can also (or alternatively) be collected indirectly, by monitoring usage and activity of mobile or SaaS apps, or of hardware and equipment through Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) capabilities.
This isn’t, strictly speaking, a marketing performance metric. But it does tie back to customer experience and retention. And marketing has a key role to play in bringing together internal technical team members (who understand how to collect customer data) with product, marketing, and customer-facing team members (who understand what data to collect); making use of product usage information; and reporting to the business on how that data is being used to optimize the customer experience.
Pulling It All Together: Performance and Reporting Dashboards
Obviously, reporting on all of these marketing performance metrics across the funnel requires consolidating and making sense of data from a wide range of sources: website analytics, social media monitoring tools, competitive intelligence apps, email or marketing automation systems, internal company databases, and other places. Most of these will be sources for both business-level reporting information and operation-level metrics.
Bringing this information together in a coherent fashion isn’t easy. In fact, recent research shows “connecting data across tools” is one of the top challenges faced by marketing professionals.
To address this, a growing number of custom dashboard and business intelligence (BI) tools—among them Cyfe, Chartio, Klipfolio, Sisense, and, for larger enterprises, Tableau—are touting their ability to integrate with a wide variety of data sources, combine and manipulate data, and present actionable charts and analyses.
Illustrating the value of cross-funnel marketing activities and investments to the business isn’t easy, but it’s also not optional. Without both an operational and strategic understanding of marketing performance, business leaders are likely to mis-allocate or under-allocate funds, hampering marketing effectiveness.
But with accurate and actionable measurement systems, CMOs and marketing directors can more efficiently maximize both ROI and the quality of end-to-end customer experience.