Making the Case for B2B Marketing Attribution

February 6, 2018 Ginna Hall

Many B2B marketers face extreme challenges when justifying their budgets. It’s difficult for most to show the direct ROI on their marketing and media spend. Multiple factors contribute to this difficulty, including long sales cycles, ineffective media spend and sales team-focused contracts.

However, things have started to change, with marketing and sales working in tandem to achieve their organization's targets. Today, B2B marketing teams play a significant role in increasing ROI, driving down the cost of high-quality leads by optimizing their media spend.

Marketing Technology Offers Advanced Capabilities

While there are multiple factors that have led to this change (such as emerging business models), technology has also played a key role in making this happen. The advanced capabilities that today's marketing technology stack offers help both marketing and sales learn and implement each other’s best practices to reach the right audience with the right message at the right time using the right channel.

B2B marketers are trying out new channels and tactics that were once “only” B2C (such as re-targeting). Budget allocations for B2B digital will continue to increase and advanced advertising platforms will get higher priority as marketers see results from these channels.

B2B Marketing Budgets

Multi-Touch Attribution Is Not Just for B2C

We have seen an explosion of technology vendors at B2B marketers’ disposal, making it more difficult to select the most effective tools and tactics, and justify investments. Multi-touch attribution, which gives weighted credit to each touchpoint on the consumer journey, is essential for both B2C and B2B marketers.

An attribution platform that ingests not only digital channels but also offline channels, such as the events that still dominate the B2B segment, allows marketers to evaluate and optimize performance of all channels. Bringing all media under one umbrella helps B2B marketers build complete customer journeys and gain insights into which tactics are reaping the maximum benefit.

Attribution Needs Grow As B2B Digital Matures

B2B companies are at various stages of readiness for a sophisticated attribution solution. Increased competition and access to a wide variety of data requires today’s B2B marketer to stay ahead with a platform that empowers them with the insights they need to build a personalized messaging strategy across stakeholders in prospective client organizations.

If we are to build a model analyzing B2B organizations’ digital marketing maturity, at one extreme we see companies who are at the introductory 'get-a-presence-online' phase. At the other end, we see companies with sophisticated 'data-driven-channel-planning' execution. As each firm’s digital marketing arsenal advances, its need for accurate measurement also increases.

A multi-touch attribution approach with predictive analytics capabilities helps B2B marketers understand how media is performing and which messages are resonating well with the targeted audience. It also allows them to develop and deliver customized content for each of the stakeholders in a purchase, from an end user casually browsing on social media sites to a senior level executive reading the latest article in The Wall Street Journal.

B2B Digital Maturity

Measure Brand Impact

Multi-touch attribution can also solve the B2B marketer’s challenge of analyzing the effectiveness of brand-building campaigns. Content marketing -- creating brand awareness with valuable content -- has become the success mantra for B2B organizations. While traffic and user behavior can be tracked for each content asset, it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of brand-building tactics at the top of the funnel. Even with an increased use of digital channels and their inherent track-ability, responses to a brand marketer’s efforts often take the form of multiple “brand engagement” actions, or KPIs established through post-campaign surveys.

The brand marketer struggles to use these metrics in combination to gain an understanding of a branding campaign’s performance, and lacks a single “common currency” by which to measure its effectiveness. An attribution platform that gives partial credit for each brand engagement event to the corresponding touchpoints in a customer journey helps to create a single currency for branding measurement and optimization across all channels and tactics.

B2B Attribution Results

Expand Your Account Based Marketing

Account Based Marketing (ABM) has become an integral part of B2B marketing. For the majority of B2B organizations. ABM has shifted from a sales-oriented tactic to an important marketing ingredient. Depending on the ABM vendor used, the capabilities range from optimal lead scoring to programmatic advertising.

However, ABM solutions do not enable B2B companies to determine the effectiveness of their strategy, and whether they have allocated resources to each stage of the account journey optimally. Bringing account-based insights from ABM into an attribution platform enables B2B companies to accurately attribute credit to each stage of the account journey. In addition, relaying segment and account attributes along with attribution results expands the scope of personalization and targeting.

When marketers understand how each segment behaves in response to tactics in conjunction with other channels (for example, display mobile retargeting), they gain key insights needed to plan future campaigns. The Nielsen Marketing Intelligence Platform allows marketers to test and optimize various scenarios for how cross-channel tactics can be utilized. For example, you can see how test groups within your email list respond differently to various tactical combinations.

Track the Right Business KPIs

Selecting the right KPIs to measure is important and allows you to optimize your B2B marketing plans. Common B2B KPIs include content downloads and first-time site visitors. For ecommerce companies, using online purchases as the KPI is simple. But for B2B, this is rarely an option (except for SaaS products).

Most B2B KPIs are funnel-related. Selecting and measuring the right collateral for each stage of the funnel is key. If there are multiple assets, each focused on different criteria, group them by stage. For example, downloading a data sheet may be a key KPI and funnel stage. However, there may be multiple data sheets focusing on certain capabilities belonging to the same product. Similarly, measuring first-time visitors to your site may be an important metric to understand the effectiveness of top funnel campaigns.

Align Taxonomy and KPIs

The next key point is to sync media taxonomy and tracked KPIs. For example, in order to understand which tactic is driving newsletter signups, it's important to capture the funnel targeting criteria using a media taxonomy. Another use case that helps B2B marketers is to understand which partners in your content syndication drive quality leads.

Sample B2B Taxonomy
B2B Taxonomy Sample

Tie Digital to Offline Touchpoints

You can only have a complete picture of media performance if all channels, tactics and sub-vendors are included in your attribution model. One of the benefits of a multi-touch attribution platform is its integration capabilities that enable you to unify data from traditional B2B marketing channels such as events, direct mail, and call center activity, as well as your CRM and DMPs. Cross-linking offline touchpoints with online helps you understand the impact of digital on your events and vice-versa.

While your CRM, DMP, marketing automation and other platforms provide critical capabilities for different aspects of B2B marketing, they operate independently and lack the comprehensive insight required to meet today’s requirements. Marketers need the ability to combine the profile data they have about their customers and prospects with marketing performance data to gain a consolidated view of each stakeholder and every marketing interaction leading up to a given success criteria (lead generation, trial download or contract signing).

Bringing all data under one umbrella helps B2B marketers build complete customer journeys and gain the insight they need to help their companies thrive.

Learn More

Download our ebook Untangling Attribution’s Web of Confusion: A Primer for Marketers to learn more about advanced measurement solutions.

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