The Need for Account-Centric Measurement
“But how do you know it’s working. Show me a dashboard.”
You’ve been there. I’ve been there. Whether it’s your CMO, your head of sales, your CEO, or just that curious little reporting angel on your shoulder – we all want proof that our marketing is having an impact.
Here’s the problem – you know there are dozens of touch points between your marketing campaigns and every buying center that ultimately closes business with your company. Sometimes hundreds. But between click-through rates, opens, web visits, and a whole mysterious black box of offline stuff, it’s still a struggle for all of us to communicate the value and impact of marketing programs on pipeline and revenue.
And most of the tools we use today – from marketing automation to custom dashboards – are all focused on minute interactions with individual people (inherited from the lead-based attribution that relies on a cookied form-fill and known contacts, and the B2C bias that runs through most digital marketing tools).
But using tactical micro-metrics like CPC, CTR, CPL, and on-page optimizations is like looking at a Seurat up close.
You can count the dots, but it won’t help you see the whole picture.
And too often B2B marketers end up in this scenario: You’ve measured everything. Your UTM hygiene is pristine. You track CTR, CPM, and CPL on every permutation of channel and content or ad creative. And you optimize constantly, culling out underperformers and iterating on your superstar content.
But no matter what you do, your tiny tweaks never quite seem to add up to a more efficient funnel. (And, no one beyond the digital marketing team really thinks they matter.) Somehow you always see-saw between quality and quantity, and those optimizations don’t shake out down-stream as better opportunities, faster sales cycles, or any improvement in opportunity-to-close numbers.
So let’s start by admitting it’s not just you. And actually, it’s very possibly a problem with the way you’re measuring success – by hyper-focusing on the small stuff, you may be inadvertently losing resolution on the bigger picture.
You manage what you measure.
If you’re measuring minutia, you’re going to be focused on minute optimizations. That’s fine if you’re selling high velocity, e-commerce or consumer, but that’s not B2B.
B2B buyers are signing up with you for the long haul. Their livelihoods depend on your product working, so they need to trust you – deeply. Your expertise, your ability to deliver, and your ethics.
Optimizing for forms that get a 3% higher fill rate on a webinar page doesn’t build trust. But if that’s what you measure, and how you report on success, that’s where you’ll spend most of your time. Tiny tweaks work for selling shoes, but to build long-term trust you need to consistently deliver expertise that people care about, when they need it, where they are.
And the opportunity cost is high:
- Measuring conversion rates means more focus on creatively barring access to content than conveniently connecting a person with great information.
- Measuring MQLs results in an inevitable tug-of-war between quality and quantity (spoiler alert: quality will lose).
- Creating ‘conversion-optimized’ experiences doesn’t optimize how your buyers want to research or buy.
- Too-soon SDR/BDR outreach builds negative brand associations (those micro-emotions surrounding early brand contact are key, and too many of us kill them with unripe leads and unthoughtful sales touchpoints).
Start fixing it by measuring the right things.
The account-centric measurement mentality is designed to pull you out of the weeds so you can understand the impact of complete, coherent, cross-channel programs, not individual ads and campaigns.
It does this in two ways:
Turning anonymous web traffic into known account traffic so you can quantify overall program impact.
According to Gartner, there are 9.6 people in today’s average buying committee. How many contacts do you typically have on an opportunity? I’m willing to bet it’s not 9.6. That means a lot of the work you as a marketer have to do is get those other people bought in, even when they might not be the ones directly in the sales conversation. If you’re using a lead-based funnel, you’re not measuring that effort. So odds are there are a lot of phantom influencers who aren’t getting enough of your attention (and who can slow your deals down unexpectedly late in the game.
Making it possible to simply track and communicate the revenue impact of higher-level programs across your organization, and for yourself.
By elevating the importance of open and closed pipeline value, sales cycle time, and quantified engagement as the most meaningful leading indicator of true account interest, you’re able to communicate outcomes to everyone in the org, in terms they actually understand and can get behind. So much marketing effort is burned explaining what in-the-weeds marketing metrics mean to people outside of the marketing org. Stakeholders get caught up in terms and definitions and a thousand questions once they start diving in to clickthrough rates and CPM and A/B test results.
It’s our fault. It’s because we’re showing them the dots without connecting them. (Shame on us, we’re marketers and we should know how to tell a better story.)
By putting an account-centric lens on the demand funnel, we deliver metrics in terms anyone in the company can understand – even if they’re not in marketing.
Get to the metrics that matter.
By using newly-available account-level web traffic data in this funnel, you’re able to focus in on exactly the metrics that matter:
Engagement, not leads.
The problem with leads is they can be easily manipulated without actually changing what you’re trying to change – making more good-fit companies legitimately interested in starting a conversation with your team.
A ‘lead’ is supposed to represent the moment at which someone is ready for a sales conversation. But in our current digital reality, it’s just the point at which you’ve gotten someone to trade their contact information for a reward, like a piece of content, discount code, or event invite.
When we manage toward and measure leads, what we’re really trying to measure is how successful we are at causing more people from good-fit companies to be interested in our product to the point that they’re willing to talk to us about it. And not just one person – but whether there is legitimate momentum within the account to find a solution to the problem our product or service solves.
Well, the best (trackable) indication of whether there’s legitimate interest building is that more people are visiting your site or engaging in other ways more frequently than they have in the past. That’s the power of combining web visits from known and anonymous visitors from a company. In Terminus, we call it an ‘Engagement Spike.’ TOPO calls it ‘meaningful engagement.’
If you measure that, you’ll find yourself thinking about how your efforts work very differently. It’ll be more about creating compelling experiences and connecting people with good information, than about bartering emails for content. And it makes sense – you created the content so people could consume it, after all.
Opportunities (also not leads)
We’ve all been in a debate about what a marketing qualified or sales qualified lead is. They suck. They suck because that conversation generates systemic animosity between marketing – the people KPI’ed on XQLs – and sales – the people KPI’ed on dollars in the bank.
So focus on opportunities. Opportunities are clear – we had a conversation that was meaningful enough that I’m willing to commit to working and forecasting it. It’s unambiguous, and it’s a better measure of expected real pipeline.
No more semantic debates.
Revenue (real deals closed)
But easier said than done. Our Account Scorecard is an example of an account-centric reporting view that is designed to make it easier to draw these links without spreadsheet madness.
Deal cycle time
Historically, changing deal cycle time has largely been the responsibility of sales teams, not marketing teams. But it’s more important than you think, as protracted deal cycles can push revenue into later quarters or years, open up space for competitors to enter, or lose momentum altogether and create a forecasting nightmare.
Leads cause the top of the funnel to get all the attention, when often the issue isn’t with net new conversation velocity, but with conversations stalling out between opportunity creation and close.
As you align your metrics and methodology to sales, acceleration plays will become an expanded part of your marketing mix, and a more impactful place to focus for overall funnel conversion and revenue growth.
For this, deal cycle time is a great place to focus.
Average contract value
Similar to deal cycle, marketers often focus too little on helping sales increase contract value by ensuring that target accounts understand all of the value you bring to the table, and surface additional features or services to expand a deal.
Just like deal velocity, as quality leads become ever more difficult to find at a decent price (a problem that only accelerates as you move past your early minority into the early or mid-majority parts of your market), improving opportunity-to-close metrics like deal size, deal time, and unblocking specific dropoff points in your deal cycle will become more impactful places to focus effort.
Revenue measurement drives confidence.
We all know leads can be a little wishy-washy. But one thing that doesn’t lie is cold hard cash – that’s real revenue. But to effectively run your programs as a marketer you need high confidence that the numbers you’re seeing are accurate, and often revenue data in your CRM is the most accurate datapoint available.
Often, leads are the most reliable thing to track because of their traceability back to their source. The farther down the funnel you get, the harder it is to be certain that your numbers are accurate, as more manual data entry and different scenarios and caveats come in.
With the Account Scorecard release, our goal is to boost marketer confidence in their ability to report on revenue by eliminating the manual steps and subjectivity that usually get involved when marketing teams try to track their revenue influence.
Account Scorecard will help you do this by leveraging artificial intelligence to bring your data together, clean it up, find otherwise hard-to-reach influence points, and show you that data in a way that can drive strategic decisions and help you (and your leadership) understand progress by program and at-a-glance.
Once you’re confident that you’re measuring the right things, you’ll be able to refocus on what matters.
Confidence encourages bold moves and big wins.
Confidence in your reporting isn’t just about alleviating your marketing ops pains or reporting up and out successfully – when you’re confident that your reporting represents what’s really going on with your programs, you can commit to bold ideas and big bets.
And ultimately, that’s our vision for B2B marketers – a future where more of us can make bigger bets on memorable experiences, and easily understand the payoff of those bets so we can iterate and make more.