B2B marketing is hard, especially in 2020. You’re competing with a trifecta of black swans (pandemic, recession, and election) for attention, physical events evaporated, and every digital advertising platform seems to have changed their algorithms. You need to be where your audience is, and it takes twenty tools to be there.
Now the executive team is asking you to prove everything is working despite many data gaps inherent in B2B marketing analytics.
Don’t let marketing analytics platforms make your job even harder. Here are the key features you should demand from any solution.
Direct Data Connectivity
We love Salesforce.
Okay, sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship, but it’s still the best CRM on the market. They have demonstrated some impressive staying power in a digital landscape that is continuously evolving.
If you don’t have integrated tools to help you constantly deduplicate, verify, and refresh information, your Salesforce instance is slowly morphing into a data nightmare. End users are not known for being diligent about checking for existing records and are in a hurry--which means they miss a lot of key data marketers use for targeting.
This is obvious, but if you purchase a bolt-in tool to Salesforce, you’re only going to have access to the data in Salesforce. No direct connectivity to ad platforms. No website traffic information that isn’t ported into your marketing automation platform.
You miss out on a good chunk of the buyer journey without digital interactions.
If you’re relying on a tool that plugs directly into your marketing automation platform, you’re in even more trouble. Most of those platforms don’t sync Salesforce opportunity data out of the box, so unless you’re populating custom objects, you can’t assign pipeline and revenue to campaign activity (which is kind of the point).
While Salesforce throws a wrench by splitting people between lead and contact data, marketing automation platforms take it a step further. Most don’t even have an account object, and you’ll rely on Salesforce integrations to indicate any link between people.
Find a tool that directly pulls from all your data sources.
Access to Advertising Cost Data
Even if you integrate paid search conversions with your marketing automation platform, you may not be getting lead and spend data. If you do get lead data, it may look nothing like your marketing automation platform is able to make sense of (in other words, listed by email address).
You need "investment" data in spend and impressions to get to ROI. Good reporting platforms need to pull all cost data, which means partner API access to platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Low User Impact
Anyone sitting at a marketing operations desk will dread the words, “I had a call with a vendor today, and I think their tool is perfect for a campaign I’ve been wanting to do.” These niche solution curveballs are a time-suck, distracting you from fixing the systems you already have. These experiences make evaluating any tool (even if you really want it) painful.
Honestly assessing how much time you’ll need to dedicate to implementing a marketing analytics platform can make you abandon a purchase before it’s finalized.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Marketing analytics platforms are charging a premium, and with that cost should come best practice recommendations and help every step of the way. If they do the data cleanup and set you up for automated data management going forward, you’ve found a keeper.
Beware of companies that insist you change your existing systems to fit their reporting model. There’s a good reason you strayed from the standard configuration, and your users shouldn’t have to change their workflows to get decent reports.
If the analytics system you’re evaluating isn’t robust enough to make your systems more streamlined than when you started, keep looking.
We touched on this earlier, but it’s a critical issue for B2B Marketers.
B2B sales cycles see multiple contacts from a single account actively interacting with marketing and sales prior to a sale. The buyer committee is tough to navigate when your marketing automation platform insists on pretending companies aren’t a thing, and your CRM splits your account data across multiple objects (Accounts, Contacts, and Leads).
No wonder sales complains about marketing sending campaigns to sales-engaged prospects and we see internal employees calling into the same account. Orphan records unleash mayhem on human processes and your analytics.
B2B analytics are incomplete without full account visibility. Make sure your new platform maps orphan records and continues to cleanse your data after implementation.
Imagine getting a new tool, spending weeks implementing it, and then being told that you can’t use it for at least a couple of months.
This is what happens if you can’t use the data you already have because of formatting, missing tags, or lack of integration.
Save yourself some heartache and find a vendor who will work with you to get value out of the data you already have.
“Garbage in. Garbage out.”
If your end users have problems figuring out who’s calling which target, your data isn’t clean enough to plug in an analytics tool and get decent reports.
If you can’t figure out which campaign belonged to which program, you can’t plug in an analytics tool and get the full picture.
Your choices are hiring an intern to manually clean data, leverage a database admin to write SQL to clean up your information or find an analytics platform that will do it all for you.
A quick side note: Expecting employees to spend weeks using salesforce exports and Excel sheets trying to find duplicates is cruel and unusual punishment. Spring for either someone with SQL skills or a tool to automate clean up.
The only constant in life is change.
Businesses evolve. The tools they use should also be able to adapt to those changes. New digital marketing techniques will be invented, your marketing team will purchase different tools to market across new platforms, and you’ll need an analytics tool that can support new integrations and data schemas.
You may also need to change how you look at your business. Initially, the C-Suite may be content with attribution reporting that is specific to marketing efforts. In all likelihood, they'll want you to broaden the lens and try to calculate ROI by incorporating other departments' activity.
Don’t paint yourself into a corner with an inflexible tool.
Website Journey Tracking
We used to say 60-80% of the buyer journey took place online. Now that most of us in B2B are working from home, take a guess at how much of the buyer journey takes place online. I would wager we’ve expedited the digital trend.
Content marketing has been a bit of a black box in the past. We can measure web visits, time on page, and bounce rates, but we couldn’t tie the activity directly to a sale. We didn’t know which awareness level content was driving actual interest in the product versus attracting non-buyer personas if the content was ungated.
With a dynamic marketing analytics solution, you can track information without detracting from the user experience. Keep a log of web content interactions so that the early, anonymous activity evolves into a person’s buyer journey once more details are collected. You may start out with an IP address, but a good marketing analytics tool will backfill identifiers on historical website transactions when a form fill takes place.
With attribution, marketing can prove that although a given campaign may not look impressive when using traditional lead generation metrics (names acquired, MQL, etc.), it may be pushing opportunities that are already in-flight over the finish line. For example, an ROI calculator may be a great asset for your champion toward the end of the deal, or a user group may give your prospective client the final reassurance they need that your company is the right business partner.
B2B companies with a six-month sales cycle and expensive products should invest in solutions that incorporate data beyond traditional Salesforce campaigns (web activity, paid search visits without a form fill, etc.). They should also ideally include activity logged by your channel and sales, and consider interactions across the account (including leads).
We recommend using chain-based attribution to eliminate human bias, which you can read about more here.
There are many flavors of engagement scoring, but the most useful scoring models we’ve seen for B2B marketers aggregate the data at both the person and account levels. Aggregating the engagement score at the account level allows you to flag sales when multiple people are engaging with your company (digitally and in-person). In B2B, this is a huge benefit because of the impact buyer committees have on a sale.
While the number of engaged accounts and people can be interesting to the executive team and gauge brand awareness, the real value in engagement is in shortening the opportunity life cycle. Make sure the scoring model looks at your buyers the same way your company does.
Last but far from least, find a vendor who is just as dedicated to your success as you are. You deserve a partner who will help your company move toward a best-in-class organization with the right practices, processes, and insights to efficiently scale your business.
We hope this article has been helpful! Please let us know if we can help in any way.
Eric Westerkamp Eric is a highly experienced executive, sales leader, and entrepreneur with 20 years of success helping companies realize high growth for their business.
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