Measure and make measurable
The 16th-century astronomer Galileo said, “Measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so”. Galileo’s proclamation, as he unraveled the mysteries of the Cosmos, is good advice for today’s B2B marketers; how can we measure the impact of dollars spent over a lengthy period? How do we account for what is immeasurable and untangle contributions across multi-stakeholders? And, with such a wide variety of campaigns and competing KPIs, what does success look like?
These are the fundamental questions that B2B marketers are grappling with, and whilst the tools and methodologies keep proliferating, there is no single approach. To ‘measure and make measurable’ requires creativity and flexibility, built on a clear definition of success, a commitment to data orchestration and visibility, and a thorough understanding of the B2B buyer journey.
Here are the first 3 steps of your B2B measurement journey
1. Accept the Multiplicity, and the Challenge
The opportunity for the modern B2B marketer is as vast as Galileo’s universe; B2B ad spending is increasing, in US touching $35Bn in 2023, an audience of digital-first buyers are projected to make B2B ecommerce worth $18.6 trillion by 2026, with 27 touchpoints to convert a single account.
But with scale comes complexity. B2B campaigns include ‘ingredient’ brands, B2B2C, B2C2B, in addition to the standard B2B campaigns, which can be focused on leads, engagement, awareness or ABM. Costs (and the need for understanding) increase as audiences become more specific and senior. Yet ‘conversions’ occur in multiple places (sales calls, events, online), and often long after the message lands. Further clouding the ROI view are privacy laws, cookie deprecation, dark funnel, and walled gardens.
Given this complexity, the temptation is to keep ‘measuring what is measurable’, stay in the old marketing lane of clicks, visits and leads. But understanding the ‘hard’ ROI is essential, not only because marketing is competing with sales for budgets, but because only by understanding the incrementality of marketing through the whole journey can we invest where it matters.
"Understanding the 'hard' ROI is essential, not only because marketing is competing with sales for budgets, but because only by understanding the incrementality of marketing throught the whole journey can we invest where it matters."
Sam Fox, Partner, Global B2B Director of Analytlics, EssenceMediacom
A recent study found that companies that gather intelligence on their B2B marketing efforts are 1.5 times more likely to have above-average growth, which is reflected in the growing spend on marketing data, expected to touch $3.77 Bn in 2023, just in the US. Making an intentional , holistic and well-executed B2B measurement framework more than a nice-to-have. It’s an existential need.
2. Utilize the tools, make ‘what is not’, measurable
There are many tools and analytics solutions, from attribution and brand lift to ABM and lead measurement. All have value and can offer a view on some aspects, but none are able to provide the full answer. Whether because of restrictions, inaccurate 3P data, or only addressing one funnel stage or channel, using a single tool gives an incomplete view. Paradoxically, utilizing a single tool may actually weaken your understanding, by defining a campaign by what can be measured, not what ‘should’ be measured. “We can do a brand uplift study on Campaign X; the objectives of Campaign X are brand uplift.” The role of Campaign X in driving sales was left unanswered, and when the cuts come, it will be to those departments and campaigns that are unable to connect to the revenue.
Measuring creativity is also important. LinkedIn’s recent study found B2B creative confidence is growing, with 60% understanding that creativity as a valuable competitive advantage. The increase in creative options is paralleled by the evolution in creative measurement, away from focus groups to data and AI driven tools that can optimise performance in real time.
3. Tailored creativity, and staying the course
Galileo again; “All truths are easy to discover once they are discovered; the point is to discover them”, and discovery requires creative problem-solving.
Ironically, given that B2C is considered more ‘creative’, B2B marketers don’t have the luxury of B2C one-and-done measurement solutions. Each brand or campaign requires a bespoke solution built on a deep understanding of unique KPIs, customers, and business realities, and employing the just-right combination of tech and data. The imperfect nature of B2B data necessitates a creative and flexible approach, utilizing 3P data, industry research, and tools that can capture accurate proxies.
The mid-funnel can be the most difficult to assess, illustrating the need for a custom approach. One successful approach, employed by this author, is to leverage machine learning to build a mid-funnel KPI, identifying the optimal engagement signals that will increase pipeline/sales.
Measuring the impact of brand building and demand generation across long, convoluted B2B journeys, connecting disparate data, and applying predictive analysis requires not only technical expertise and creativity, but also patience. A recent study found most B2B marketers believe campaigns are effective in 2 weeks, with few measuring beyond 6 months. Yet 6 months is reportedly the beginning of brand effectiveness.
Like much in B2B, measurement can be a complex and long-term undertaking. Those able to both dig deep into the data and to think creatively about the possibilities will discover the truths that provide a competitive advantage and drive incremental growth.
Explore more about successful B2B marketing measurement by connecting with Sam Fox or Shameer Aerkulangara!
*LinkedIn commissioned YouGov to survey 1,600 senior B2B marketing decision makers in the US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, UAE, KSA, Brazil, Australia, India and Singapore during April 28 to May 25, 2022. The research was conducted online.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse March 29 2023