It’s that time again – end of the month, end of a financial quarter – which means it’s time to justify my B2B marketing ROI, initiatives and spend. For many marketers, this can be a hefty project. With multiple reporting systems and varying success metrics, consolidating these numbers can be a nightmare. Likewise, if you do not have an adequate reporting infrastructure or databases you may not have access to these figures at all.
Having worked at early stage start-ups, large corporations and many organizations in between, I have learned some valuable lessons along the way. In particular, how to not only employ successful tracking systems for marketing channel attribution and ROI, but also how to streamline internal processes to ensure that everyone has an accurate view of the available data.
Here are 10 tips for implementing tracking systems and measuring B2B marketing ROI.
1) Review and know your internal database.
When someone purchases your product or fills out a lead form, where does this data go? Identifying where this information lives and what’s being stored in your company database will enable you to determine what is currently being captured and what is not.
2) Develop reporting requirements.
After you have reviewed what information you’re capturing in your database, determine what additional metrics you would like to report on. For example, you may find that you gather customer and prospect data, but you have no idea where these contacts are coming in from. If this is the case, you may want to start passing information into your database about what marketing channel people originated from.
3) Pass marketing channel information to your database.
This can be done many different ways, but the most popular approach is to create internal tracking URLs. These are hardcoded with information regarding where the customer or prospect came from. Each time one of these URLs is loaded, you can pass specific marketing channel information to your reporting database. Additionally, you may want to leverage analytics data, such as Google Analytics or Omniture, to track events such as purchases or lead form submissions. However, the downside to using analytics data from Google or Omniture is that an increasing number of people are disabling cookies. If someone is surfing the web with their cookies disabled, you will not see data for them and therefore your reporting could be skewed. I personally use both tracking methods to measure our B2B marketing ROI as analytics data often has information such as website visits, time on site etc., which is not collected by tracking URLs or other internal tracking systems.
4) Configure marketing reports.
Now that you have the tracking and database infrastructure in place, it’s time to configure your reports. Before you start building reports, you should ensure that you mirror your B2B marketing ROI success metrics and KPI’s in your report definitions. How is your marketing team measured? Is it on total signups (leads), online purchases or sales pipeline produced? If you start with your end goal, it makes it much easier to examine the finer detail. At Huddle, based on our B2B marketing model, I initially built reports that show total leads, sales opportunities, and bookings produced by marketing for any given time. These reports where then broken down by marketing channel, region, sales team, etc.
5) Run reports and Analyze Data.
Once you have your reports built, it’s time to run them. Be cautious though as it’s very easy to believe data just because it’s in front of you. You should always audit the numbers to ensure you have accurate data to measure your companies B2B marketing ROI. For instance, if there is a report that shows total purchases created in a particular month, you may want to export the report’s underlying data to review the purchase date and confirm that it truly took place during the timeframe you’re reporting on. I’ve now lost count of the times I’ve seen reports built by BI teams, marketers or others where they believe the data is showing one thing but in reality it’s actually showing something completely different. If business decisions, especially spending decisions, are being made based on reports, accuracy is critical and it’s well worth your time to spot check the underlying data.
6) Standardize and collaborate on reports.
Are there others in your organization looking at similar ROI metrics? It’s likely your senior management and finance teams are also looking at reports which show similar ROI metrics. Therefore, it’s imperative that you are all viewing the same data and agree on how these metrics are calculated. Imagine if you went to a company meeting and reported 150 percent ROI on a recent marketing campaign, yet the finance team was using a different model that showed ROI was actually -60 percent.
7) Communicate reports.
Congratulations – the reports are built, audited, consistent and you’re starting to measure your B2B marketing ROI. Do your team members and key stakeholders in your company know about these reports? If not, you need to communicate and sell the reports internally. After all, data is just a bunch of numbers until you provide context and turn it into information. Explain why you have created the reports, what they enable you and others to do, and why they should care.
8) Encourage use of data.
According to Accenture consultant Jeanne Harris, 40 percent of organizations still rely on gut instinct[i], rather than data analytics, to make important business decisions. Often this is not the result of resistance to change, but rather of people not having access to data and reporting systems. If you have databases, why not open them up to employees in your organization? Doing so will give data hungry people a chance to research and discover data to make informed business decisions. Additionally, the more people sifting through your company data, the more likely your company is to discover new trends that may have gone unnoticed had they not been given access.
9) Reporting cleanup.
For mature organizations that have access to a wealth of marketing and business data, it’s easy for people to go report crazy and create new reports by modifying existing ones. If you don’t have a mechanism for archiving historical reports or saving new reports to non-public folders, you may find yourself in a reporting nightmare. You won’t know which report holds the most up to date and accurate information. Creating a process for this will ensure everyone is on the same page.
10) Be agile.
Data collection and reporting is an evolution. As you gather more information about your marketing’s ROI and performance, it will naturally spark new ideas and questions about the data you’re collecting as well as your overall marketing strategy. By having an agile working environment that supports this changing landscape, you will be able to adapt your reporting and strategy so as to drive a sophisticated and ROI positive marketing organization.