B2B marketers have unique challenges that can give enterprise marketers headaches — long and complex sales cycles, numerous touchpoints and a marketing approach where marketers work hand-in-hand with sales to identify key members of the buying team within target accounts.
As someone with a lot of experience doing B2B marketing for companies, I understand sales cycles that can vary from days (when very lucky) to months (more often the case) and even longer. Imagine a manufacturer and seller of airplanes; it could take years to complete a sale.
Potential customers learn about enterprises through various channels and combinations thereof. It’s why marketers should employ every tool possible to reduce sales cycles by figuring out where, how and when customers discover their company, research what customers do next to act on that discovery and how they do it — for instance, requesting to be contacted by a sales rep for more information — and, hopefully, convert as a paying customer.
B2B Marketing Is Complex, And Sales Cycles Are Long
Here is a simple, hypothetical situation of what B2B marketers face when marketing products or services, and why they often have grey hair and an overabundance of patience:
The time to action is long. It takes patience to get in front of decision-makers; and those decision-makers need plenty of time to conduct research, vet their findings with leadership and their CFO, talk to colleagues and even competitors to get their opinions and then reach out to talk details of a deal. The decision-makers likely have direct reports that need convincing and encouragement to pass along sales messaging. There is a lot of red tape and there can be multiple hurdles.
It could take months or even longer to get to a signed purchase contract. More touchpoints equal more complexity, additional costs, longer sales cycles and increased difficulty in accurately measuring marketing campaigns.
When the deal is signed, there is cause to celebrate. It’s a necessary grind, especially when large-scale contracts are involved, but it is typically worth the wait.
An Effective Tool: Impartial Multi-Touch Attribution For B2B Marketing
The case above exemplifies why impartial multi-touch attribution (MTA) would be an effective tool to add to any enterprise marketer’s toolbelt. Attribution can identify the specific touchpoints that are influencing new customers. This helps B2B marketers optimize their ad dollars and eliminate wasted ad spend.
MTA connects the dots between broad-scale marketing programs and customer acquisition, ultimately improving bottom-line profit. Enterprise marketers or agencies who must justify marketing spend and do more with the same or shrinking budgets can look to attribution to provide the customer intelligence they need. MTA’s goal is to optimize return on ad spend (ROAS).
Attribution impartially and accurately tracks customers and how they came to purchase a product or service, empowering marketers to make intelligent pivots in their marketing strategies. We’ve heard the frustrations from our customers: there are multiple sources of leads over a long period of time, and no one single source receives the credit — nor should it. Data from Google last-click reports alone isn’t going to cut it.
All those touchpoints and channels work together to drive customers into, through and out of the sales funnel. MTA tracks all of them to tell an impartial, data-rich story and identify customer journeys, dividing up the credit given to those touchpoints.
B2B attribution answers that famous marketing question, “how did you hear about us,” automatically. The funny thing is, humans often answer that question incorrectly, even if they think they know the answer. Attribution, when done properly, answers that all-important question impartially and accurately, every time.
So how do businesses deploy B2B attribution correctly?
11 Attribution Tips For B2B Marketers
Here is a list of actionable items you can take to make attribution work to shorten sales cycles, improve marketing campaigns and optimize ROAS:
- Go full-funnel and measure each step in the path. The sales funnel starts with garnering consumer interest at the top of the funnel; pushing them through the middle of the funnel; and directing them through and out the bottom of the funnel as conversions (better known as customers). Without measuring the full-funnel customer journey, you will lose.
- Measure all of your marketing channels. Maybe you prefer radio ads, so you lean toward supporting those and are biased of their effectiveness. You need to look cross-channel and remember that different customers find you in different ways. If you don't capture everything, the story isn't complete, and you can't optimize across channels. Nothing works in a vacuum; they all work together.
- Capture and recognize events that bring in revenue. It’s so important to note marketing events that are prompting customers to act, thus bringing in revenue. If you don’t track what’s working and what is bringing in dollars, you can’t align those efforts with expenses and determine what is optimizing ROAS.
- Capture and recognize events that are costing you. If you don't know the spend per channel, how can you optimize between them? Revenue and expenses work together to calculate ROAS (see number.5 below). If one channel is working and one is not, attribution gives you the knowledge to adjust accordingly.
- You have to focus on return on ad spend (ROAS). This is the metric to watch. This is the most important KPI of your marketing campaigns. Long-term ROAS analysis is the holy grail of B2B enterprise attribution.
- Add value with all of your customer outreach. Not every touchpoint is created equal. Don't just spam people for the sake of garnering visibility. Provide real value with each touchpoint. (See number 10 about content below.)
- Ask your customers, and non-customers, for feedback. Talk to your customers who close and those who don't. Ask those who made a purchase or signed a contract what you did right and what you could have done better. It’s also important to ask your non-customers — those who didn’t convert — where you failed and where you could have improved.
- Create an omnichannel experience and meet consumers where they want to be met. It’s important to communicate with customers in the way they want to be communicated with — by phone, email, SMS, mail, ads, print, radio or TV. Make sure you measure all those touchpoints with attribution to see what is and isn’t working.
- See if someone else from your business can breakthrough. If you are having trouble reaching a prospect, have someone else from the company make a phone call or send an email or text. Sometimes a personality change or wording adjustment makes all the difference to push someone from prospect to buyer.
- Focus on your content. Content is still king. You have to spend time on your content. If you are not the right person to develop compelling content, find someone who can. And make that content available everywhere —
- Optimize for the bottom of your funnel. Getting more leads isn't the goal; getting more sales is the goal. Most marketers get stuck trying to fill the top of the funnel with leads. With attribution, you should stay laser-focused on optimizing for the bottom.
Despite the thorny situations B2B marketers often face, using the right tools can help minimize the complexity — or at least make sense of it — and provide actionable insights to help shorten sales cycles and optimize ROAS. CEOs and CMOs love what attribution can do for their companies once they understand it and buy-in. But perhaps most important, B2B prospects have a lot to gain from attribution, as well. They will have better customer experiences, receive more relevant messaging and have less friction during the decision-making process. B2B attribution is a win-win.
AJ Brown is the CEO and Co-Founder of LeadsRx, a marketing attribution software platform. He provided the initial inspiration for LeadsRx, having been head of marketing for several businesses over his career as well as head of software engineering. His experience working with fast-paced Silicon Valley startups for the better part of two and a half decades has helped a number of businesses build early traction and high-impact lead generation programs.