B2B marketing is hard; the audience is smaller, the persona is difficult to reach, most purchases require several decision-makers, and the competition is fierce.
To survive, marketers need to know they are reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time. This can’t (and shouldn’t) be done through the “shotgun approach” or based on anecdotal evidence.
When marketing our B2B businesses, we need to be making decisions off of data.
With the tools and resources available to us, the question is no longer can we do it, but how should we do it. What channels should I focus on? What metrics should I track/analyze? Which platforms should I use?
While the answers to each of these questions are specific to your company’s marketing strategy and objective, my goal in this article is for you to know the key metrics for some of the larger marketing channels and learn about the systems that can be used to track these statistics. Then, you can use that data to improve the results for your B2B marketing.
Let’s take a look at how to approach some common marketing channels.
No surprise – your website is one of the core areas that should be closely tracked and analyzed. Your website is the center of all digital marketing efforts and the next step for many of your offline campaigns. This is the best place to start when it comes to tracking marketing efforts. It is also one of the most robust.
An important caveat…
Having data isn’t the same as having the right data.
As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that I would rather have no data than bad data. At least with no data, you are forced to look around you at your customers, at competition, and think through what makes sense to you. With bad data, on the other hand, you are making important decisions based on skewed (at best) or completely irrelevant information.
Let me give you an example:
What they failed to notice is that they had no internal IP block. The owner had the new landing page open most every day, and the team had been testing it out and showing it to coworkers since the launch. While the internal team loved the page, all the movement made the content hard to read and their target market was actually spending less time on their site and converting at a significantly lower rate. This was a costly mistake that was validated through bad data.
Back to the topic at hand…
The biggest challenge with website tracking systems is the overwhelming amount of data. There is a lot of information we as analysts can see, but what should we pay attention to? I will break it down into two categories: website traffic and website behavior.
Website traffic refers to questions like where the user is coming from, what devices they are typically on, and demographic information like where the users are located. This information is essential to track because it is directly correlated to your other marketing activities and can be segmented to discover which marketing activities are performing best. There are dozens of metrics that are worth looking at, but a few of the most important ones include:
- Traffic per channel (typically broken up by Direct, Organic, Social, Email, Referral, and Paid)
- Traffic per geographic region (IP address, country, etc.)
- Demographics (Age, Gender, etc.)
Once you have an understanding of the traffic coming to your site, the logical next question is “what are they doing on the site?” That is where user behavior metrics come in, such as:
- Time on Page
- Bounce Rate
- Pages per Session
What Platform to Use
There are a lot of systems to use to track website stats. For most B2B companies, I recommend Google Analytics. It is free, has a robust data set with more information than most companies know what to do with, and it connects to a lot of the other marketing tools companies use.
Most companies utilize email as one of their core channels. As they should. While it doesn’t have the 90% open rates that it did in the early 90’s, it is still a great way to reach the target market when marketing for B2B companies. I don’t even need to know what niche your company is in, I guarantee your target market uses email every day and, if you can get their work email addresses, it is a good way to get in front of them.
That being said, email is incredibly competitive. We are all deleting spam from our inboxes constantly. There are, however, a few emails that sneak in our inboxes that we read almost every time: The newsletters we actually like to get. That is what you are trying to be when creating your own email campaigns. But how?
The only way to consistently push towards that end is to pay close attention to the right metrics. You can tell exactly who likes your emails, what type of content they like, and even what pains they most want a solution for.
The core ways to see this are through
- Click-through-Rate (CTR)
- Open Rate
- Time Spent Viewing Email
- Top Clicked Links
Tweak subject lines to increase your open rate; modify design and Call-to-Actions (CTA’s) to increase your CTR; play with content variations to increase the time spent on your emails.
The challenge with email is that you only get data when you send emails out. Unlike website analytics, you don’t have a constant flow of data to help make decisions. That is why performing A/B tests are crucial in your email campaigns. Not only are you able to get more data for more variables to integrate into future campaigns, but you can actually increase the performance of the campaign itself. Many systems allow you to send an A/B test to a segment of the list then send the winning variation to the rest of your list. There is no excuse not to A/B every email that you send.
What Platform to Use
Now that you know what to track in your email campaigns, the next question is where that data comes from. Almost all email marketing platforms have analytics, but some are better than others. You have to balance the analytics side with other features the platform has as well – like drag-and-drop building, which is essential if you don’t have access to a developer.
For many B2B marketers, I recommend either MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. They both are affordable, have drag-and-drop builders, fairly good analytics, and personalization. If you are looking to utilize drip emails, I would lean towards Campaign Monitor. MailChimp doesn’t have robust automation at the lower levels.
Other platforms to consider include:
Before I dig into social media, I am going to take the same unpopular stance that I have for years – not every business needs to be on social media. Even as a buyer, I don’t particularly care what my local bike shop has to say on TikTok. That aside, it can be a great tool for many businesses. For B2B marketing, I am particularly fond of LinkedIn. Even platforms like Instagram may be a good culture building or HR tool.
Once you decide to be on a social platform, however, it is just like any of the other systems we have talked about – you want to use your time/money wisely. In social, this consists of building a following and having the following take action. That action could be as simple a visiting your website and downloading a whitepaper, or even applying for that role that just opened up. The way to optimize those efforts? You guessed it – data.
What data you track on social will be different based on your goals for the platform. If it is an HR tool, then my goals would be far different than if I wanted to use it to interact with customers.
That being said, there are a few key metrics that matter almost across the board:
- Interactions (likes, comments, shares, etc.)
- Traffic to Site
Because social is so fast-paced, there are many different opportunities to test strategies to increase these metrics. How often should you post? What times do you get the most interactions? What types of content get users on your site?
There is a lot of information and experts out there that promote best practices and they are a great place to start, but don’t take advice on faith when you can easily validate that with data. For example, I have found that for many clients Sunday nights are a great time to post due to the fact that CEOs often spend that time prepping for the week ahead. Test, test, test.
What Platform to Use
The core question, when it comes to analyzing the data you get, is whether to use the native platform or connect to a third-party system. The native platforms are great for companies just starting out, but I often find the analytics to be clunky and difficult to derive insight from.
There are dozens of good platforms to use for social and get easy to use analytics. Here are a few:
Search Engine Results
The inbound marketing tsunami led virtually all marketers to jump on the “content is king” bandwagon. I am glad it did – content is the key to ranking well in search engines, and this will continue to be the case for years to come. It may shift in form to things like voice search, but good content alongside technically savvy SEO is a great way to fill your sales funnel.
Luckily, SEO is a data-rich world (which makes sense; the whole industry and channel is based on algorithms).
With the complexity of the algorithms and an “SEO expert” around every corner all telling you contradictory information, it is more important than ever to track your efforts. Not a rumor of a rumor about a new ranking indicator, but cold hard data. How are the changes you are making and the content you are creating moving the needle in rankings?
Hint: No one knows all the ranking indicators of Google’s ranking algorithm – not even the employees at Google. What we do know, is that Google is trying to rank results based on the most helpful content around a search query. Spend less time worrying about the next update, and more time creating content that is useful and valuable to your target market.
When it comes to the data, there are dozens of important metrics. Some of the core:
- Search term ranking (make sure you are targeting keywords that are related to your service and have significant search volume)
- Organic traffic to site
- Search Terms (look at what people are searching to land on your site)
What Platform to Use
There are many different SEO platforms. Some are really bad and fairly useless, and some can give you useful and actionable data. Price ranges vary significantly for platforms in this channel as well, but expensive isn’t necessarily better. Test a few platforms before you select one – they almost all have trials that last a week or two.
First, there are some free tools you need to utilize regardless of the third-party platform you select:
- Google Search Console
- Google Keyword Planner
Second, look into some of the third-party platforms and test them out. Some of my favorites:
Again, I highly recommend that you test these platforms. While core features are similar, the UX is significantly varied and there are some powerful tools that you may be interested in that only select platforms offer.
Paid is one of my favorite channels, personally. It is data-rich, you can have very tight segmentation, easily control costs, and lots of options for personalization. What else could a guy want?
That being said, it is also one of the easiest channels to waste your money on. A small mistake like not setting geographical limits is essentially equivalent to paying money to visit a pre-school and give an elevator pitch. Don’t spend time and resources telling people who you can’t sell to about your product. If you don’t sell your services in Bangledesh, then be certain you aren’t paying to tell them all about it.
Mistakes aside, paid platforms give you a lot of information about your ad’s performance and where they are showing up. In addition, the nature of paid ads allows you to test quickly and figure out how to get the highest ROI for your efforts.
Here are a few data points to pay special attention to
- Traffic behavior (time on page, pages per visit, etc. for just the paid channel)
Notice I didn’t say impressions. If you focus on clicks and CTR, then impressions will follow. I have found that putting too much emphasis on impressions is a slippery slope to getting less relevant traffic on your site.
I believe that you should track ROI for any channel you have, not just paid. That being said, when both my time and my money are on the line, I want to be doubly sure that I am investing it wisely. It is fairly easy to track ROI with paid ads specifically, so make sure to have that system in place before you spend your first dollar on ads.
What Platform to Use
There are several places you can have paid ads, but the best place to start is Google Ads. They have the lion’s share of the market, the ability to target VERY specifically, and can be connected to Google Analytics for additional data points.
There was a lot of information here, but I hope that you now have a bit more insight into tracking data points and the platforms to use to do so.
Data-Centric B2B Marketing
Making sure to do all this can be complicated, and the information above really just scratches the surface. How to optimize, connecting the different systems into a singular platform, and the strategy behind marketing efforts are all conversations for another day.
That being said, if you are looking for help generating leads for your business in an ROI-centric way, let’s talk.