The Only B2B Advertising Metric That Matters
What data do you use to measure B2B marketing success? It's not about clicks and impressions. Learn what counts from Columnist Rachel Balik.
In its earliest days, advertising meant putting up a billboard or taking out an ad in a newspaper. If sales increased, it was generally declared that an advertising campaign was working. Although remedial and inexact, this type of measurement embodied the true purpose of an ad campaign: drive revenue.
The downside is there were lots of X factors, and at the end of the day, you couldn’t really be 100% sure that the advertising had caused the uptick (or that poor sales were the result of poor advertising.)
As technology advanced, things like Nielsen ratings gave us more insight into how many viewers might be watching a television commercial at any given time, but there was still a lot of ambiguity.
Impressions & Clicks
However, with online display advertising, it seemed like we finally had metrics that delivered the level of detail we were looking for. Impressions and click-through rates felt solid and tangible, and they unsurprisingly became the primary currency of digital display.
Unfortunately, while they provided us with an unprecedented level of precision, these metrics distracted us from the simple, intuitive calculation we relied on in days of yore — are we making more money?
At a time when technology is turning the world on its head, it’s easy to get caught up in tactics and details that don’t support our true strategy. That frenzy of activity can sustain you for a while, but it often backfires, especially in B2B advertising.
While publishers, advertisers and platforms were busy optimizing for clicks and impressions, they created a situation where advertising is a “nice to have,” but is rarely seen as a critical element of any marketing or sales cycle.
Does Advertising Drive B2B Sales?
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should go back to guessing. But it does mean that we should leverage the data and technology we have to get a more accurate picture of how our ads are benefiting the bottom line.
In very simple terms, it means ensuring that our advertising metrics and our marketing metrics are not only aligned but also connected.
In order to do that, we have to zoom out, rather than zoom in, and look at the entire buying cycle as a whole. We reverse engineer the whole journey so that we can determine what sort of behaviors indicate a sale is imminent. Once we’ve identified those, we have a clear way to measure the success of our ad campaigns: they either drive buying behavior, or they don’t.
So what’s the magic metric?
B2B Display Ad Metrics
In B2B, website activity is a leading indicator of intent to buy, so it follows that when we’re running an advertising campaign, we want to see deeper engagement on the website.
But that’s not the whole picture. Remember, our most important goal is revenue.
While website activity is a very strong buying signal, for B2B companies, the most important to question to ask about a web visitor is: do they work for a company that could be a potential customer?
In fact, for B2B companies, the selling universe is finite. So when you’re measuring the success of an ad campaign, the first thing you need to do is discount all the impressions and clicks that come from visitors outside your selling universe.
Then, you can also forget about all the clicks and impressions that didn’t result in deeper website engagement. What that translates to is actually forgetting about clicks and impressions altogether.
Instead, you want to measure whether an advertising campaign resulted in increased website engagement by visitors from accounts that sales actually wants to close.
That means instead of overall engagement by individuals, you’re measuring how much you’ve moved the needle for companies that have legitimate potential to become customers.
From a data perspective, you need to know:
- What companies you’re targeting
- Whether your ads are getting in front of your target companies
- How companies behave on your website
- How far the companies on your website travel through the funnel
Impact Of B2B Display Ads
While it’s harder to be precise without metrics like impressions or click-through, it’s actually a lot easier to get an accurate picture of how much display ads are impacting the overall growth of your business.
We’re lucky to have a vast amount of data and technology at our fingertips, but we can’t take the easy way out and get caught up in numbers that don’t actually matter.
If advertising is going to flourish and thrive as a essential element of the B2B marketing stack, we need to take a step back and ensure that our measurement of display ads don’t end at the top of the funnel.