This could be a BIG moment of opportunity for B2B marketing measurement

The latest Demand Gen Report on Measurement and Attribution shows why B2B marketers still struggle to show ROI – but also why this is changing

August 15, 2018

This could be a BIG moment of opportunity for B2B marketing measurement

On the face of it, the 2018 Marketing Measurement and Attribution Survey from Demand Gen Report doesn’t make massively positive reading. B2B marketers might be forgiven a resigned shrug of the shoulders at the news that over half of their peers aren’t happy with the state of their marketing measurement and analysis. In fact, 40% of their peers say their ability to measure marketing performance needs improvement, 14% describe it as poor, and 5% aren’t measuring at all. They might sigh knowingly at the finding that 48% struggle to track the impact and influence of marketing between different buyer stages and that 47% struggle to track across channels. These are battles that have been ongoing for a while – and the numbers show how far there still is to go.

But that’s not the only way to read the results of this survey. There are lots of indicators in here that significant things are starting to change when it comes to B2B marketing measurement – and that change could happen quickly.

The key challenges for B2B marketing measurement and attribution

First though, let’s take a slightly deeper look at those topline findings and the types of measurement challenge that B2B marketers are struggling with. The upshot is that roughly half of B2B marketers in this survey can’t effectively report on whether the people they are engaging in the upper funnel are going on to become leads, and whether the leads they are giving to sales are going on to convert to revenue. About the same proportion don’t know whether the people they’re engaging on one channel are the same they are engaging on another – and whether the engagement and leads from one channel have the same value as engagement and leads from another.

A lot of B2B marketing measurement can feel like the experience of a tourist following a pod of whales from a boat. The vast majority of your targets’ journey is frustratingly invisible to you. There are occasional great views when they break the surface, but you’re not able to put that behaviour in context. And you’ve got little chance of figuring out whether the subject you’re watching in one moment is the same as the subject you were watching in another. We try to get as much value as we can from the moments of visibility we get, figuring out what they signify about the overall direction and speed of the journey. But what we really need is a way to connect everything together.

The hidden sections of the buyer journey

Other findings in the Marketing measurement and attribution survey help to explain why so much of the journey remains under the surface, from our point of view. The most obvious is the fact that roughly 70% of marketers do no marketing attribution analysis at all. A further 45% say they aren’t measuring marketing initiatives in the middle of the funnel. That means they’re generating no real insight on whether and at what rate MQLs become SQLs and sales opportunities. They don’t know how quickly their pipeline is moving, and which channels and activity are actually contributing to it. Even more surprisingly, 34% aren’t measuring what happens late in the funnel. That means an awful lot of businesses don’t know how marketing contributes to deals that are closed and won, or how much eventual revenue can be attributed to it.

As a LinkedIn marketer the fact that so many B2B marketers struggle to join the dots on measurement is an issue very close to my heart. The value that marketers get from LinkedIn looks stronger and stronger with a more connected view of the buyer journey. That’s because LinkedIn helps marketers to reach a higher value and more relevant audience that aligns with the most likely buyers that marketers have identified. Leads from the platform convert to sales faster and at a higher rate – and they’re often worth more in terms of revenue. However, if you’re only looking at the number of leads and the marketing cost associated with them, you tend to miss this extra value.

How LinkedIn contributes more to B2B measurement

Partly because of this, we’ve always made it a priority to help marketers connect their view of the buyer journey, and increase visibility on how demand generation activity at different stages of the funnel flows through into revenue. The LinkedIn Insight Tag is the key to this. Anybody who opens an account in LinkedIn Campaign Managers is able to add our Insight Tag to their website and access in-depth demographic information on their visitors, drawn from anonymised LinkedIn data. When you combine this with LinkedIn conversion tracking, you can see how engagement on LinkedIn leads to specific actions on your website, which types of audience members are engaging, and what they go on to do next.

This enhanced visibility of the buyer journey becomes even more valuable when combined with Matched Audience targeting options. These enable marketers to create their own bespoke segments for LinkedIn targeting based on their own data. Using the LinkedIn Insight Tag, you can retarget audiences based on the actions they’ve taken on your website – or build segments from your existing CRM databases, matching audiences to email addresses. This provides the tools to map marketing activity to different stages of the buyer journey and generate data that provides more visibility on how marketing contributes between initial engagement and eventual sales.

I would never claim that these things are the entire solution in B2B marketing’s ongoing battle for clearer measurement – but when coupled with the right strategy they definitely can play a big role. The exciting thing from my point of view about the Demand Gen Report are the signs that strategy is starting to come together.

The forces of change in B2B marketing measurement

There are two forces driving this change: one is the extra demands made of B2B marketing measurement by the strategic priority that is sales and marketing alignment. The other is the rapid take-up of account based marketing (ABM), which is promising to help meet these demands. Both are causing B2B businesses to get more focused in what they want from measurement. And this change is happening very quickly. A year ago, 26% of B2B marketers in the survey cited sales and marketing alignment as a key driver for deeper marketing measurement. That figure is now up to 38%. So far, only 20% have solid measurement plans in place for their ABM programmes, but a further 48% say they plan to have measurement and attribution protocols in place over the next 12 months. ABM and sales and marketing alignment are playing a key role in measurement becoming a top priority for 87% of B2B marketers in the survey. A greater sales focus increases the emphasis on closed/won deals as a key measure (it’s now measured by 48% of B2B marketers, second only to MQLs on 55%), but ABM helps to bring deeper metrics into play as well. Of those engaged in ABM, 41% aim to measure influenced pipeline and 21% are looking at customer lifetime value.

ABM by its nature brings sales and marketing together in a way that can connect their different perspectives on the buyer journey, and generate owned data which highlights how B2B marketing can contribute to it. Account targeting on LinkedIn is a big part of this process, enabling marketers to upload lists of target accounts that can then be used for ongoing targeting using LinkedIn profile data.

Better B2B measurement can’t just be about ABM

ABM is a hugely exciting area of opportunity, not just for B2B marketing but for approaches to B2B marketing measurement. However, there’s a potential catch we have to be wary of.

B2B marketers can’t afford to entrench different expectations for measurement, depending on whether activity falls within an ABM programme or not. If ABM becomes the only area in which we track the impact of marketing all the way through the funnel, and all the way through to revenue, then there’s a risk it could obscure the value of other areas of marketing. There are hints of this in the Demand Gen Report stats showing a disconnect between ABM measures and inbound campaigns. Half of respondents said they were no longer sure if they were measuring both. We’ll be losing out in the long run if we start to see ABM as the measurable bit of B2B marketing – and everything else as the activity we run partly on faith.

The real opportunity in B2B marketing measurement is to apply the same measurement standards that we can envisage for ABM programmes across the full range of B2B marketing activity. We have the tools and technology to do it through features like LinkedIn Conversion Tracking and Matched Audiences. With the focus that sales and marketing alignment is bringing to building a shared view of the buyer journey, we’ve got the internal will to do it as well. Many B2B businesses have made great strides in cleaning up their data over the last year (the number of businesses describing their data as ‘messy’ is down from 42% to 34%). It seems likely that more resources will be dedicated to using that data for proper attribution of marketing impact. Let’s be ambitious in how we use this opportunity – and really change the game on B2B marketing measurement.