There’s a saying in marketing that “50% of your marketing doesn’t work but you don’t know which 50%.” One of the greatest values of digital marketing is the opportunity to track and measure results. In today’s connected environment, whether using traditional marketing channels like direct mail or events or digital marketing channels like content marketing, social media, and search engine optimization, all marketing channels can be tracked digitally to measure performance. We’re going to cover three different ways in which you can measure your campaigns successfully and how in doing so you’ll be able to identify how your marketing is performing to make better decisions on budget, resources and time.

Let’s start off talking about traditional marketing channels specifically direct mail and events. Conventional thinking may lead you astray in thinking that traditional channels can’t be tracked and measured. This thinking is wrong. In modern marketing, we can connect traditional channels using digital tracking for events and direct mail.

Measuring Traditional Marketing Channel Performance

For events, your sales team fielding the booth can connect their offline engagements with digital tracking via a tablet. Whether wifi is available within the conference facility is irrelevant since most apps enable local storage until a connection is stable for a system synch.

For example, when an individual walks up to your booth and your salesperson, armed with an iPad, engages them, they can ask a brief series of qualifying questions while scanning the badge. She or he does not have to act like a pollster on the spot. If they simply memorize the questions they can update the iPad immediately afterward. In addition, the salesperson can scan the attendee’s badge (assuming this is available from the conference organizers.) The scan will gather contact details while the questions can quickly assess where this attendee falls on the buyer’s journey.  Don’t jump into a BANT battery of questions. Instead, pinpoint the attendee’s objective for being at the event and determine what value you can provide to help them achieve that objective now. This is a moment of creating immediate value and a start of a relationship.

The contact details gathered along with the question responses are synced ideally with your marketing automation platform or, at least, with your CRM. If you are using marketing automation, the advantage is that based on the question responses, it could trigger the start of a series of high-value email communications to the contact. Once in a CRM, the sales team should log all follow-up activity and therefore track this event-originated contact through the sales process. In time, dependent on your sales cycle, you’ll know how the event performed as a marketing channel. By adding cost data, you’ll also determine the cost per contact and whether you have generated a return on the event investment.

For direct mail, the tracking process is slightly more involved but nevertheless, it’s still easy to execute. In this case, you’re going to use a PURL (personal URL.) This URL is created for each of the recipients on your mailing list. Companies like EasyPURL (http://www.easypurl.com) and Boingnet (http://www.boingnet.com) (among others) provide services that can automate the heavy-lifting. Do some due diligence though with any company you choose for this service. In most cases, you are uploading your list to generate PURLs so make sure there are data privacy and protection policies.

Each direct mail piece will have a call-to-action (it must be compelling) that request the recipient to enter the PURL into their web browser. Every PURL will direct all recipients to a custom landing page that presents the offer. Make sure this landing page is mobile-friendly! The landing page can identify the specific recipient based on the PURL and provide a personalized landing page experience. By referencing a database with recipient details, you can create a landing page that is highly relevant. Strictly from a tracking perspective though, you can monitor how many mailing recipients entered their PURL and visited the landing page.

Leakage may occur where a recipient bypasses the PURL and instead enters the domain name minus what occurs after the “.com/.” That’s OK. You are still able to assess the number of visitors to the unique landing page and if you use a simple opt-in (requesting simple information in exchange for the offer (I’m mixed on whether you would really want to do this at this point) then you’ll have data to identify the recipient. What is important is to choose a simple unique URL for the landing page and keep the PURLs simple by either using the last name, a first name initial plus last name, or some other easily remembered combination. Keep it simple and short!

Two easy ways to track traditional marketing channels using digital methods. And both methods will fit practically every reasonable marketing budget. If you’re investing a decent amount of direct mail and/.or events, you better spend a bit more to track the performance. If not, then get comfortable with wasting money because you’re not doing the easy things to monitor it effectively.  

Measuring Digital Marketing Channel Performance

 The second component of performance tracking is using UTM parameters for digital marketing channels. UTM tracking is a part of Google Analytics but there are variations of it across analytic platforms. It involves tagging the destination URL associated with a digital marketing channel. UTM tracking (e.g. URL tagging) works for any digital marketing channel where you control the destination URL (e.g. where the user will go after they click.) This includes all common digital marketing channels like email, social media, paid search and social, search engine optimization (SEO), display ads, and content marketing.

Google provides a good explanation for UTM tracking plus offers a URL Builder to help define the specific campaign parameters. It’s fairly straight-forward and you can control whether to make it more or less complex. There are five parameters you can set per-tag including:

  • Campaign Source: the referrer (referring channel): (e.g. Google, newsletter)
  • Campaign Medium: the marketing medium: (e.g. banner, email, CPC, organic, social)
  • Campaign Name: unique names like product, promo code, or slogan
  • Campaign Term: keyword or specific medium qualifier (probably leave this tag out of the process)
  • Campaign Content: different ad types or other qualifiers (will show in the content section of Google Analytics)

The tagging process works by taking your destination URL and appending it with specific parameters. Google Analytics understands what these parameters are and will insert the data into your analytical reporting. For example, if you are running a nurturing email marketing series, you may use the following tagging for the first nurturing email in that series:

  • Campaign Source: Nurturing
  • Campaign Medium: Email
  • Campaign Name: Persona1 (if you use segmentation, this indicates the segment)
  • Campaign Term: <can leave this blank>
  • Campaign Content: Offer1 (could define the specific offer or purpose of the first nurture email to persona1)

The resulting tagged URL with the UTM parameters looks like

http://www.nextleapstrategy.com/?utm_source=nurturing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=persona1&utm_content=offer1

Depending on where you are going to insert this URL, you may want to either hyperlink it to a word or call-to-action phrase (e.g. “download the offer”, where you insert the URL into this phrase) or you may want to shorten the URL like such  https://goo.gl/cZJDWH. You can use Google’s free URL shortener service (https://goo.gl/) to make this happen. An URL shortener is ideal for social media postings.

If you are using Google AdWords and you have linked your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts together (it’s very simple to do) then you don’t have to worry about adding keywords to each destination URL. Google will do this for you (and it will be way more accurate than if you did it manually – and save a lot of time.)n

I recommend testing the UTM parameters for the first time on a simple marketing channel. It’s important for you to get a sense of how the UTM parameters will play out in your Google Analytics. Once you have a grasp for what to expect in the data and across data categories, you can add further details to Google Analytics to capture conversions, add values and even include costs. By building out the full picture with conversion, value and cost data, you can determine marketing channel performance, cost per contact or engagement and ROI (or at least ROMS – return on marketing spend.)

A final note on UTM tracking. Once you start it, remain consistent with how you are tagging parameters and applying UTM tags to each campaign. Garbage in; garbage out. The point of using UTM tracking is to gather new data into your Google Analytics so you can observe unique information about a campaign that ultimately leads to more informed decisions and deeper analysis. If you only occasionally tag URLs or randomly change UTM parameters on existing marketing channels, you’ll introduce data confusion and misinform decision making. If you have to make a change, annotate it in Google Analytics.

If you stop at this point with tracking your traditional and digital marketing channel performance, you are on a good path to building a stronger, more successful marketing program. The data you’ll capture will help you make better, more informed decisions on budget, resources and time allocations. Plus, you’ll begin to identify where leaks exist along your marketing funnel and be able to apply tests to correct them. Congratulations if you make it to this point!

Now – let’s go a step further and get more sophisticated with your marketing channel performance tracking.

Revenue Attribution for B2B Marketing Performance Tracking

We have moved through two foundational stages of measuring marketing channel performance. Now we’re going into a more complicated territory. Up to this point, the tracking I recommended is simple and quite frankly should be happening every day in your marketing processes. Revenue attribution is taking the game to another level. I have not witnessed many marketing teams, even ones within firms with $700M+ in revenue, use attribution. Sadly, one mid-cap firm in B2B wasn’t even using tracking at all – talking about wasting money!! (and yes they were wasting tons of it once I dug into their performance a bit.)  

Revenue attribution is defined asthe process of aligning or matching specific marketing costs to the sales revenue your company receives.” In other words, attribution attempts to connect the dots across all of the different marketing channels (e.g. “touchpoints”) used to access, engage and pull buyers through your sales process and assigns a value to each activity to measure its impact on generating revenue.

In most cases, companies assign 100% of the value to the last marketing activity prior to the sale. For example, if a buyer clicked an Adwords ad and signed up for a one-month SaaS subscription, a company would assign all value to the AdWords ad. But, we know from market research, that buyers spend time researching and considering multiple options before buying from one. A Salesforce study stated that “ It takes 6 to 8 touches to generate a viable sales lead” and more to close that lead into a customer. With last-click attribution, companies ignore the other 5 to 7 touches along the path that ultimately led to the final touch (e.g. AdWords ad click) that generated the actual sale.

If you step back and consider your marketing budget for a new year, if you only used last-click attribution, you would be inclined to put all of your money into AdWords only. But, logically, you know better. You know well that the buyer, before even searching in Google and clicking that AdWords’ ad, had engaged in social media, maybe received an email after downloading a piece of content marketing  from your website, visited your website again to check credentials and even later, late at night, decided to search, click an ad and buy. Are you going to give up all of those other marketing activities? Hell-o no! Those marketing activities “influenced” the final activity that led to the sale!! Right you are – so let’s attribute value to those activities too.

First of all though, before jumping ahead, you have to have the right analytical foundation in place to start attribution. I mentioned earlier that you need to integrate tags like conversion, costs, and value into your website and Google Analytics. You need these tags in place and connected to a CRM that tracks leads, opportunities, and customers. These components provide critical visibility to the full funnel and sales process. It really isn’t hard to integrate these platforms and isn’t very expensive – not today. If you have revenues in excess of $10M, this is a no-brainer and I would highly recommend it for even smaller companies. Clearly smaller companies must be more efficient and effective for how they employ their marketing dollars!

After you have the foundation laid out, the next step is introducing “assisted conversions” into your Google Analytics setup. In Google Analytics go to the “Conversions” tab, then “Multi-Channel Funnels” and click on “Assisted Conversions.” This report will provide a better view of how your marketing performs across all mediums and sources (ah…there’s the UTM tracking coming into play!)

Depending on the size of your sales and marketing team, adding assisted conversions (and attribution) may kickoff debates about which department (and people) should get more credit, how to value the budget now that you have these Assisted Conversion numbers, and so on. As you resolve these issues and start to take action by changing how much budget you spend on each marketing channel, rest assure that you’ll be capturing the data elements required to be successful with online and offline attribution.

Exploring Revenue Attribution Models for B2B Marketing Performance

There are multiple models for which to assign revenue attribution. These include (per Google)

  1. Last Interaction or “last touchpoint” receives 100% of the credit for the sale.
  2. Last Non-Direct Click simply removes all direct traffic from the equation and 100% of the credit goes to the last channel that the customer clicked through from before converting.
  3. Last AdWords Click – the last AdWords click would receive 100% credit for the sale. Clearly, this does not work if you aren’t using AdWords as a marketing channel!
  4. First Interaction – “the first touchpoint” – this may be effective IF your primary goal is to focus on awareness-building and filling the top of the funnel. But, it is the furthest attribution model for looking deeper into the funnel to identify buyer influencers.
  5. Linear attribution identifies each touchpoint in the conversion path and allocates equal credit to each for the sale. This method helps connect the dots across multiple touchpoints and at least sets a way to allocate cost/benefit per activity.
  6. Time Decay identifies each of touchpoints and allocates the closest ones in time to the sale with the most credit. This makes sense especially if you are trying to accelerate the sales process and what to identify which touchpoints weighed most heavily on motivating a customer to complete the purchase. But you have to apply a grain of salt here too. Marketing activities further into the sales pipeline are chosen specifically for the purpose of closing sales while earlier stage activities are meant to build awareness and generate first-time engagement.
  7. Position Based allocates 40% credit is assigned to each the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to the middle interactions. The objective here is rewarding early stage “awareness” activities and later stage “purchase” activities while leveling the intermediate stages.

There are also custom attribution models and ones that can target individual buyers too.  For the sake of this article, we’ll end it here with the models listed above.

How to Setup Attribution Modeling in Google Analytics?

In Google Analytics, go to the “Conversions” tab, then “Attribution”, and then “Model Comparison Tool”. You’ll see “Last-Interaction” listed by default. Next, to it, you’ll see “vs. select model.” You can select any of the above models in the drop-down.

Some analytics experts suggest starting with the “Time Decay” model because it provides reduced credit to marketing touch-points that are further back in the buyer’s journey. I recommend thinking about what you are trying to measure, why and which model best helps you achieve it. Time decay works well but even linear will provide a higher level of marketing channel performance and buyer insights than you ever had before!

Wrapping Marketing Performance Up

Successful marketers know the importance of tracking. Yes – it adds time to both the planning and execution steps but it provides visibility and insights that help determine and justify the future budget, resource and time decisions.

In today’s high-pressure environment where marketers, rightly so, are being asked to justify their budgets and prove ROI on their spends, tracking is a must-have. In the past, a marketer could argue that the technology was too expensive or the process too complicated to integrate tracking into marketing campaigns – BUT NO LONGER! Analytics is free, there is plenty of video tutorials and guides available that walk-through these processes and the gained outcomes are clear. Go do it now.

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Kevin Gold is a B2B demand generation and acquisition marketer with more than 18 years of executive marketing and business leadership experience. Next Leap Strategy develops and executes customer acquisition programs for B2B firms to achieve more consistent and faster leads and sales pipeline growth. Contact Kevin for help finding your next customers.