If you follow marketing and digital related blogs and news sites, then it won’t come as a surprise to you that marketing professionals and CMOs are expected to show how activity achieves business results.
As marketing professionals, we need to have an in-depth and real time understanding of how we contribute to our organizations’ or clients’ revenue. In addition, we must also be able to have an ongoing conversation with our sales teams that is revenue focused, far away from “the feeling” that our campaigns are generating good results and increasing brand awareness.
As spending on digital takes a greater share of the overall marketing budget, greater scrutiny is being brought to bear upon the CMO to justify these investments. Attributing revenue to a specific channel or combination of channels, rather than just attaching it to the “last click” is a challenge that is beyond the capabilities of most.
A good approach to doing this is to create your own marketing dashboard.
The example here is based on what I would suggest that you cover, if you are a B2B organization with a fairly complicated marketing and sales cycle that is influenced by many decision makers. The vision is to get an instant view of how our online channels and marketing mix is performing.
But this is also a key step in getting to the point of being able to work with predictive analytics, to ensure that marketing can contribute to the future development of the organization by making the right choices when it comes to allocating the marketing budget.
When creating this dashboard, I went to our customers and also to communities such as LinkedIn for collaboration support.
In an international environment, you will gain most benefit by personalizing the dashboard so that it becomes relevant for each regional market. If that is too big of a task to do immediately, start with the global numbers and then create a cascading dashboard.
Never shy away from the big numbers that will resonate with your peers. What are the objectives and have they been achieved?
Then get into “How did you achieve it?” utilizing your metrics from the various sources. It may also be worth doing a quick analysis of your pipeline to define a sweet-spot (be it company size, industry size, job function) to aid future activity.
Now, what should you put in there to make sure that you immediately get the real time view of how your marketing organization contributes?
I have broken it down into five major areas – inbound marketing, content performance, generated business opportunities, costs and ROI for the leads for the sales organization.
I have included general traffic stats, conversions by campaigns, conversions by demographics, conversions by social or mobile channels (inbound source).
I picked these data points, because the metrics gauge engagement. These metrics are easy to set up (never underestimate how important it is to be able to get started quickly, to get the rest of your team to understand where you are heading) and are the baseline for understanding which content is working for you and for which target audience.
By building an understanding of how the visitor behaves, and how they engage with your organization early on in the funnel, you will be able to use the insight to improve your communication and personalize how you present content.
I would recommend those settings as the basics. Once you have that up and running then you can move to the next step, which is to start to measure cost by conversion and by channel.
I would strongly recommend that you use the conversion based on won business to review the varying success levels of the channels / campaigns, e.g. cost of conversions through a mobile landing page using social media as the origin versus a direct email campaign.
I usually want to make sure that my highly complex campaign brings in the business, at a reasonable cost. And that I don’t want to waste time and money on a convoluted strategy while something else would be just as successful, for less effort. To make this more valuable information, use the budgeting cycle as your time period.
Content marketing is what most businesses use today as a strategic component in their marketing communication to engage with their audience. It is about educating, not selling (and if you have not started with this, then here is a good place to get strategic about content marketing).
But once you have made the investment, then you need to get a real time understanding of how your content is performing for you. What is your top performing content?
In this sector of the dashboard, you can get more in depth in understanding the impact the content has on your business. Display your top performing campaigns and content pieces and make sure that the view can also display demographics so that you can get an instant snapshot of who is engaging with your content, and which content generates the highest number of marketing qualified leads (MQL).
I would recommend that you try to gain insight into whether your content actually reaches the target audience that you had in mind. You may be surprised to see that your content actually is engaging potential buyer groups that you had not thought about.
Understanding how the buyer interacts with your content along their buyer journey is key in getting closer to being able to predict marketing´s impact on the business.
Are anonymous leads engaging with certain pieces and are known leads displaying a different pattern? Can you identify key pieces of content that are signaling strong buyer propensity? This will ensure that you can turn over MQL leads at the right time to the sales organization and not waste time on leads that are too early in the buyer cycle.
An added benefit here is that you will be able to share information about what the interest area is of a potential customer, which will make you a hero in your discussions with the sales team.
So what do you specifically put on your dashboard here? It could look like below and the data will most likely be generated from your CMS or ecommerce platform, your marketing automation or CRM solution.
Generated business opportunities
How long does it take to move a conversion to revenue? And how many of the conversions are really becoming a business opportunity?
Those are the questions that we are trying to answer in this stage, and this is also the point that in all honesty will generate interest from sales. This section can also be broken down into an instep segment to get you started and give you a more advanced dashboard setup.
The basic instep covers the following metrics: total number of leads, total number of anonymous and known leads and total number of marketing qualified leads.
Make sure that you can slice these by region and/or industry, all depending on how your sales organization is set up. The metrics should match the interest of the person looking at the dashboard.
An important point here is that you are in agreement on what a lead and a marketing qualified lead is. If you have not done that yet, then do invest some time with sales to come to an agreement on how you define a lead (target market, company size, solution interest area and so on) to make sure that you are only including leads that are relevant.
A lead scoring system will also help you in improving the quality of the leads (good information on this can be found in the big list of lead scoring rules and Advanced Lead scoring secrets – moving from good to great as a B2B marketer) .
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is when we have moved the lead to a stage where we think it is ready to get passed over to your sales team, a hugely important metric to be tracking, since this is the value where you will clearly start showing the value that you contribute to sales.
A MQL should at a minimum match the BANT scoring model (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timing). Again, take the chance to involve sales here in the scoring criteria. It will give you valuable insight into the criteria that the buyers are using and ensure that you are aligned with your sales team.
In many organizations that I talk to, this is as far as marketing goes in terms of being in control of the process.
The next step is qualification, so the data might not be ‘owned’ by you anymore, but you will still benefit from being able to show how many of your MQL leads became Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).
This number will provide actionable insight for you, as you can then identify where improvements can be made. For you to be able to have value based discussions with sales, you also need to include marketing contribution to pipeline revenue.
The final graph that I would add to this segment of the dashboard is marketing’s contribution to pipeline revenue and display this alongside total pipeline.
Now, when you have the basics available and you are ready to get more advanced, which will also give you further actionable insights, then you can add velocity.
How long does it take for the whole process from lead to SQL? Can you see any differences depending on geography, lead source, industry or customer segment? You can also gain valuable insights by splitting between time prior to MQL stage and when it becomes an opportunity. If you track both, then you can understand how the marketing and sales cycles compare.
In terms of splitting time, you might want to start by taking a step back to the customer journey. I would strongly recommend that you take some MQLs that converted and get your online team to trace them back to first contact.
Then you might be able to profile the levels of contact and content, from contact to lead qualification, to close, with average timescales. If successful, it will make your customer journey more transparent, could shape future approaches to outreach and should help justify any marketing spend.