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Is Your Marketing Measurement Undermining the Buyer's Journey?

October 15, 2014 | By Ross Graber

Attribution approaches tend to ignore the context of a tactic. Here’s how to build a measurement approach that can support the buyer’s journey.

One of the best developments that I’ve witnessed in b-to-b marketing is the number of organizations now planning marketing approaches around their buyers’ journeys. By working to understand the buyer personas they’re targeting and these personas' decisionmaking requirements at different points in the buying process, marketers are more effectively connecting with their prospects.

PersonasJuggling multiple targeted buyers and their varied needs and preferences at all points of the buying process requires nuanced planning. It’s easy to see how a CSO and a head of IT infrastructure have different priorities when selecting a solution to help with sales productivity. They need different information and are unlikely to respond to the same messages – much less go to the same sources. Even when focusing only on the CSO, we may learn that this persona is more receptive to attending a live event while trying to justify a purchase decision than she would be prior to committing to making a change. These choices, while complex, can be managed through purposeful planning.

And Now the Problem...

Buyer-centric planning is often undermined when organizations begin to measure their marketing effectiveness. Most b-to-b organizations don’t structure their tactic measurement to take into account the dimensions of "who," "what for," and "when" that drive well-planned marketing activity. This means that most tactics get evaluated as if they are all supposed to accomplish the same things – and as if those things are equally valuable.

Popular attribution approaches compound the problem. It may be fashionable among technology vendors and pundits to create methods for attributing sales revenue to the tactics that buyers consume, but they’re not helping marketers make better investment choices. For example, high-cost, highly focused tactics (e.g. closing events with executive decisionmakers) can look like losers when compared with inexpensive early-stage tactics like syndicated white papers that attract a big, broad audience. Another likely scenario: Helping purchasers commit to change may be the most difficult part of the buyers’ journey, yet the attribution model does not reflect this reality. Whatever your situation, assigning deal value across a collection of marketing tactics cannot provide solid support when it comes to choosing what gets funded. Although the simplicity of using one comparable number to evaluate each tactic is enticing, I’ve yet to see any attribution model successfully account for the complexity of b-to-b buying.

How to Avoid This Trap

Steer clear of attribution approaches that ignore the context of a tactic. Here’s how to build a measurement approach that can support the buyer’s journey:

  • Start with the plan. To understand if tactics are effective, begin by defining a tactic’s purpose. Articulate the target persona, buying stage and desired outcomes for each tactic. Desired outcomes include setting targets for the volume of response and/or consumption a tactic will receive and the longer-term objective of what the tactic is intended to accomplish. This should all be set as part of the campaign planning process. Compare outcomes from tactics aimed at the same personas and stages of the buyer’s journey.
  • Evaluate against short-term expectations. Once a plan is in place, make short-term evaluations to determine whether the tactic did what was intended. Tactics that aren’t consumed can’t have a longer-term impact. Your webinar that was supposed to draw 300 IT managers shouldn’t be considered a success if only 20 people attended. At the same time, getting 20 CSOs to attend a webinar late in the buying process might be a tremendous achievement.
  • Measure against the bigger picture. Comprehensive views of b-to-b marketing achievement take more time to develop and require the convergence of multiple tactics intended to help buyers along. When building campaign plans, agree on the larger outcomes your marketing tactics will drive, then track these impacts religiously. Whether the desire is to close a higher percentage of sales qualified leads, increase pipeline velocity, or expand your reach into a specific market, set these objectives as part of the planning process. Then tie your tactics to these larger objectives. If the tactics are judged as successful in the short term, but greater objectives aren’t being met, take the opportunity to experiment with different tactical approaches for meeting the same objectives. The key is to associate tactics with their immediate outcomes AND the business change they’re intended to accomplish.

When marketing executes against a persona-based view of the buyer’s journey, its method of measurement must evolve as well. Plan based on what you know about your buyers. Watch for short-term indicators of progress, and correlate these with longer-term achievement. Swap out the tactics that aren’t performing to expectations and continue to test for better alternatives. But don’t allow an overly simplistic view of measurement to undercut the good work being done to understand your buyers and support them in their journeys.

Ross Graber

Ross Graber is a Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. He brings over 15 years of b-to-b marketing experience with focus spanning marketing measurement, demonstrating ROI, data management, process development, marketing technology, customer marketing and sales enablement. Follow Ross on Twitter @rossgraber.

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