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Defining and Measuring Buyer Engagement

July 31, 2019

Buyer engagement metrics provide a most powerful way to connect marketing’s buyer interactions with its impact on the business

B-to-b marketing organizations are finding that metrics related to marketing-sourced leads and pipeline are no longer adequate to express marketing’s contribution to the business. Marketing is increasingly focused on supporting multiple members of buying groups across the entire buyer’s journey instead of simply handing off leads to sales and moving on. However, the metrics that marketing uses to help understand and communicate its contributions beyond sourcing leads are still catching up to its new focus. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we define required elements for measuring buyer engagement, introduce a series of engagement metrics and describe how they are calculated.

Required Elements of Engagement

B-to-b buyer engagement metrics quantify the degree to which buyers (individuals and groups) detectably and deliberately interact with a brand. Although various metrics can be used to indicate engagement, all engagement metrics depend on the following foundational elements:

Qualifying interactions. Engagement implies that an individual has done something deliberate for the purpose of soliciting information or a meaningful response from a brand or selling organization. The result of the buyer’s action is an interaction (digital or human-to-human) with a brand. Filling out a form to request information, downloading an e-book and attending a company-sponsored event are common examples of deliberate interactions that qualify as engagement. By contrast, walking past signage posted in an airport does not meet these criteria, because the buyer displays no clear signal of intent to engage. Organizations measuring buyer engagement must specify the actions or responses buyers may take that count as an instance of engagement. To do this, list the most common marketing (and possibly selling) tactics and specify what type of response counts as a qualifying interaction for each tactic and what business systems will detect these interactions.

Qualifying individuals. Technically, companies do not take actions; individuals within companies are the ones who act. Measuring engagement requires that interactions be associated with identifiable individuals (although identification may happen later). Those individuals should meet a minimum level of qualification, such as belonging to companies that operate within a targeted market segment and having a job role or title that indicates they may be a member of targeted buying groups.

Target entity. B-to-b buyer engagement must be understood in relation to its business impact, which is measured in relation to an account (including any roll-ups to parent accounts for divisions and locations), an opportunity or a demand unit. Each of these target entities can be associated with a level of revenue achievement, product purchase and sales cycles of measurable duration. Organizations with strategic objectives related to account growth are likely to choose accounts. Organizations prioritizing new customer acquisition or individual transactions may turn to demand units, if defined or default to opportunities. All individuals must become associated with a target entity for their interactions to count toward engagement.

Qualifying time period. All interactions must be constrained by an applicable time period. Typically, account-level engagement looks at qualifying interactions occurring within a rolling 12-month period, while some analyses may isolate engagement into fiscal quarters. When assessing engagement in relation to demand units and opportunities, establish the qualifying time period by looking at the interactions that take place between the opportunity creation and close dates. Allow an additional period of time ahead of opportunity creation based on observable patterns that indicate when buyer interest typically begins to appear (usually equivalent to half the average length of an opportunity-to-close cycle). In contrast to marketing-sourced demand, which considers only marketing interactions that occur after an inquiry is received and before a lead is handed off to sales, the qualifying time period for measuring buyer engagement spans the entire buyer’s journey, from initial interest to close.

Segment/cohort definition (optional). Although it is possible to look at engagement across all market segments and target entities, the power of analyzing buyer engagement is maximized by isolating and comparing engagement between different segments or groupings of entities. For example, engagement can be compared between accounts selected for an account-based marketing program vs. similar accounts not included in that program. Alternatively, engagement for demand units in North America can be contrasted against engagement for demand units in Europe.

B-to-B Buyer Engagement Metrics 

Buyer engagement metrics come in several variations, each serving a slightly different purpose:

Engagement level. The simplest form of engagement metric, engagement level, totals the number of qualifying interactions that occurred with qualifying individuals at a single target entity within a qualifying time period. Engagement level highlights the volume of interaction that took place, which can be meaningful to sellers and marketers as they assess individual entities and compare engagement levels to similar interactions that have been deemed successful. Engagement level is a foundational concept for all other types of engagement metrics.

Target entities engaged. Within a segment, organizations need to understand the volume of entities that have been engaged. For some businesses, engagement starts with a single interaction. Yet for many organizations, the expectation is that marketing must interact with an entity multiple times to exert a meaningful influence. When this is the case, a minimum engagement level may be set and a volume of interactions exceeding that level must be recorded before that entity is counted as engaged. Arriving at the minimum engagement level necessary for an entity to be counted as engaged is a negotiated outcome, typically agreed upon by marketing, sales and executive leadership.

Percentage engaged. When measuring against a finite number of target entities, percentage engaged describes the percentage of those entities that have achieved the minimum engagement level. For example, organizations with large-account marketing programs may track this metric and strive to have 100 percent of their targeted accounts reach the minimum engagement level.

Average engagement level. Understanding the volume of qualifying interactions provides insight into the level of engagement experienced by a cohort or segment of target entities. Some companies find it useful to monitor how the average engagement level trends over time and relative to movement in primary performance indicators (such as win rate or account growth). To calculate average engagement levels, identify a cohort of engaged target entities (those with an engagement level greater than or equal to one). Add together the engagement levels of each entity and divide that number by the count of engaged target entities.

Average number of individuals engaged. When b-to-b organizations are dedicated to reaching deeply into accounts and buying groups, monitoring the average number of individual stakeholders engaged allows business leaders to see how effectively they are accomplishing that goal. Within an identified cohort of target entities, total the number of qualifying individuals with at least one qualifying interaction within the qualifying time period and divide that number by the number of entities.

The Sirius Decision

As b-to-b marketing functions focus on influencing multiple members of buying groups throughout the buyer’s journey, they need to adapt the way they monitor their efforts and the impact of those efforts. Through the measurement of engagement, the value that marketing creates can be better understood and communicated. Once organizations understand who is being engaged, how often and to what degree, the next challenge is identifying how to create more impactful engagement with target entities. This challenge can be met only through a data-driven understanding of how tactics should be organized and sequenced to drive better results.

The SiriusDecisions Buyer Persona Framework

The SiriusDecisions Buyer Persona Framework

<p>Portfolio marketing leaders must understand buyer audiences and how they buy to inform campaigns, content and i... Access Now
<p>Portfolio marketing leaders must understand buyer audiences and how they buy to inform campaigns, content and innovation strategies. The SiriusDecisions Buyer Persona Framework supports these efforts by providing a structure for building buyer personas based on functional, emotive, decision process and behavioral attributes for a particular job role.</p> Access Now