Welcome to Chapter 4 of A Master Guide To B2B Content Marketing.
We’re going to cover B2B content distribution and promotional tactics for:
- Organic Media - We’ll dive into some more advanced distribution strategies for your organic content on owned channels.
- Paid Media - We’ll look at paid media that’s more focused on content and providing value. It can be more effectively leveraged once the foundations of your owned (organic) channels have been put in place with some consistency.
- Earned Media - We’ll consider how to boost positive brand mentions that come voluntarily based on the strength of your thought leadership.
1. Optimize Your Multichannel Campaign Strategy
Multichannel simply refers to using multiple marketing channels for content distribution.
Your audience is likely to use multiple social, search or media platforms regularly. Executing campaigns across several platforms will increase target audience reach, exposure frequency, thus improving audience recall and awareness.
However, your goal is to go a step further and deliver coordinated marketing campaigns across multiple channels and platforms simultaneously. A more cohesive brand experience and customer journey across channels is often referred to as cross-channel marketing.
Cross-channel campaigns should include your organic SEO + paid search, organic + paid social, email, events, sponsorships, PR, influencer marketing and paid editorial.
- B2B marketing campaigns which integrated four or more digital channels outlasted those using only one or two, generating up to 300% more ROI.
- 77% of marketers using 7 or more channels report good or very good response rates, compared with 61% of marketers using 3 or fewer channels.
To summarize: join up your organic and promoted content messaging across all channels for more impact!
You may be aware of the term omni-channel marketing. This refers to making a brand accessible across channels by integrating them together, providing a seamless and consistent CX no matter the channel and starting point. Omni-channel marketing distributes highly personalized content across devices and offline touchpoints, with creatives or content targeted on an individual basis using data from previous interactions.
Campaign Design + Targeting
As a given, any marketing campaign should have tailored messages for a specific audience segment and journey stage, targeted across multiple channels accordingly.
Every marketing campaign needs:
- A target audience.
- A value proposition.
- A call to action.
- A distribution plan across marketing channels.
- A landing page and content funnel structure for campaign traffic.
- Resources (budget, content creation, live campaign management + reporting, lead follow up).
Growing brand awareness is a great goal, but is less impactful if there are no deeper funnel content touch points, or you can’t orchestrate further nurturing based on 'digital body language'. If you have a CRM system with automated marketing functionality, you’ll be better able to see and join up the customer journey, nurture conversions and attribute traffic sources for reporting + campaign optimization. Hubspot is perhaps the best-known example.
Top tips for paid media campaigns:
- Don’t Overexpose Creatives - Did you know that ad effectiveness typically plateaus after 5 exposures? Showing your audience the same content or creative over and over again feels like SPAM. To avoid your content being filtered out subconsciously, have multiple creatives in play for each journey stage or platform to keep capturing attention.
- Leverage Popular Organic Content - Look at what organic content has performed well on specific channels or platforms and promote popular posts if they are appropriate for your campaign objectives and goals. Do use organic content to support your paid campaigns via complementary content on your owned channels.
- Leverage Your First-Party Customer Data - Export your known MQLs or SQLs PII data from your CRM and upload them to social media platforms for campaign targeting, exclusion, or to create lookalike audiences. A paid lead generation campaign should exclude existing customers, however, data from existing customers could be used to create lookalike audiences. This is particularly helpful for account-based marketing campaigns if used with platforms offering audience targeting by company name or known IP addresses for company buildings.
- Use Retargeting Ads for Lead Nurturing - Retargeting is an effective tactic for nurturing qualified leads. Google AdWords will serve ads to previous site visitors using their display network of participating websites. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can also help you retarget potential leads. For retargeting, you may want to save budget by filtering out known prospects or leads who have already completed a lead generation form and are subscribed to your email list.
- Landing Page Quality Is Important - Google penalizes ad campaigns that use poorer quality landing pages and have poor goal completion rates. For Google, UX is the north star.
Live Campaign Optimization
Split testing is a simple tactic, used during live campaigns to optimize content rapidly for instantaneously improved results. It’s essential for optimizing the ROI of your campaigns and ad budget, so are you doing it already?
The quality of ad creatives naturally has a huge impact on campaign effectiveness, so try a few approaches adjusting key variables like:
- Word count or video length
- Time of day
Promoted content on social or search will cost you more and be less likely to be shown if it doesn’t deliver a high quality UX and reasonable engagement rates.
Hubspot found that only 17% of marketers use landing page A/B tests to improve conversion rates, so that’s also something to think about for lead generation campaigns.
Concurrent + Sequential Campaign Flows
Build a strategic campaign planner setting out channels, creative outline, how long campaigns should last, the ideal exposure frequency, and how campaigns can sequentially fit together to build smooth customer journeys. Content messaging should be tailored accordingly from top of the sales funnel (ToFU) to bottom of the funnel (BoFU).
Brand awareness takes time to build across channels and touch points. Lead generation is more rapid and tangible in terms of results, however lead generation will gain more traction when you’ve built up some level of brand recognition first.
Your paid media can support you in using storytelling to create greater brand awareness when you build sequential campaign creatives before moving into lead generation on an individualized basis.
For example, a multichannel brand awareness campaign with broad targeting could be run for 2 months, before deactivating it then running persona-specific lead generation campaigns. The downside is that you would be missing opportunities to convert prospects who are ready before you get around to your lead-gen campaign.
Alternatively, you could upload targeting and exclusion lists of known leads to social media or email marketing lists, and run concurrent dynamic campaigns that target different stages of the customer journey. So if a prospect clicked on a brand awareness campaign and engaged with a piece of content (completed a goal), they can be excluded from the brand awareness campaign and moved onto a mid-funnel lead-gen campaign with the aim of identifying them as a qualified lead. If a prospect clicked on a lead-gen ad without converting according to a set goal, you could move them onto a retargeting campaign, promoting another piece of similar content.
Dynamic ads are a powerful tool utilizing data and AI technology. Dynamic ad campaigns and creatives will allow you to maximize the UX, campaign impact and ROI for your budget.
Dynamic functionality means that ad content, promotions, and calls-to-action will change based on user behavior. It allows for much greater ad personalization than could be possible with manual campaign management.
For example, with Google Dynamic Search Ads, you can select the webpage(s) you want to promote, then let Google match relevant search terms with dynamically generated headlines to match the search query. The end result is much greater reach using all relevant keywords and search terms users entered during your campaign period; not just the ones you would have selected.
However, dynamic ads are only a facilitator. You still need to manage the production of effective source content or creative inputs which ad platforms require as a foundation. For example, although you wouldn’t need to select relevant keywords and search terms for the ad campaign, you’d still need to choose relevant keywords to create the promoted landing page the campaign feeds on. Or for dynamic display ads you’d need to provide a selection of CTA copy and links for a customer journey funnel.
Publishing Frequency + Timing
Publishing frequency and publishing timing are equally important to help you optimize audience engagement, whether the content distribution is organic or paid.
Regular content is necessary to boost your content ranking on both search and social. On your blog, aim to post once a week, or even a couple of times a week if you can. However, choose quantity over quality every time for the best results.
PFL research found that frequent communication is most effective for engagement, apart from C-suite audience members who respond better to needs-based communication.
Once you’ve decided on a target frequency for each channel, do you know which days and times are best for improving audience engagement on each?
Use Google Analytics and your publishing platforms to see which days and times get the best engagement statistics on average.
For example, Half Past Nine just completed a B2B content marketing project with a client that got the best Facebook engagement on Mondays and Thursdays at 7am and 7pm. LinkedIn would bring the best audience on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the website would attract more visitors on Mondays and Tuesdays. Based on this data, our client could optimally distribute content for each channel in their content calendar.
Create a content calendar, publish at optimal times for target personas, and keep a consistent process. Keep in mind national holidays and special events which can influence online behavior. Editorial calendar tools such as CoSchedule or collaborative project management software can help you organize efficiently and keep track.
Try out publishing platforms that optimize timing for you, like Hootsuite. If you select which day you want to publish, it can pick the best time for your audience, taking out some of the hard work.
Native advertising typically puts more focus on content quality and relevance.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of native advertising, it's promoted content that appears organic for the platform. The creative format adapts to the look and feel of its surroundings so it doesn’t obviously seem to be an advert. This can help improve the UX of a platform, especially when the focus is on providing non-disruptive quality content that users will be genuinely interested in.
Native advertising is easy to execute on popular social platforms with promoted posts or videos that avoid display placements, and works well for news publications or magazines too.
Here are some compelling reasons to use value-focused native ad content:
- 53% of users look at native ads more frequently than display ads.
- 70% of people prefer to learn about products from articles rather than traditional adverts.
- Native ads get 20-60% higher engagement rates than display banner ads.
- Native ad formats have been shown to reach CTRs of approximately 0.3%, compared to 0.12% for standard ad formats.
- Native ads create an 18% increase in purchase intent.
Programmatic Media Buying
Programmatic buying describes the process of automatically buying or selling digital advertising placements online via exchange computing technology. It’s much like trading on a stock market but for ad space.
Buying is done via a Demand-Side Platform (DSP) which connects to exchanges. You could purchase your own DSP, or have a specialized agency run ads on your behalf.
A programmatic ad platform helps optimize ad bidding based on current demand across the participating networks of websites and apps. It's a display network focussed technology, and ad formats range from video and mobile to social and television. The exchange platform selling ad space takes a cut of the ad costs, before passing on the rest to owners of websites where adverts were shown.
The main benefit is a centralized platform to run all your ad campaigns across multiple channels depending where targeted users are at any given time, especially powerful for personalized, cross-channel retargeting. You get access to a wide network of participating websites, and potentially better real-time pricing if you have a high volume of ad purchasing. It saves you time managing campaigns across multiple ad management platforms or dealing with individual publishers.
Google, Apple and Facebook’s network of participating websites and apps are technically the biggest networks, and you can access their ‘DSP’ via their normal ad managers. All the well-known social and search ad platforms will run optimized real-time bidding for you on their own sites. However, programmatic usually refers to campaigns delivered across a network of websites rather than just one platform. That said, the tech can be used for direct buying from large media publications like The New York Times, which uses an internally built programmatic platform.
Looking at the downsides of programmatic, the prevalence of ad-blocking software (used by 47% of internet users), third-party cookie blocking and inaccurate reporting due to bots are all significant issues. Actually, in the first half of 2021, 64% of all internet traffic was bots, 39% of which were ‘bad’ bots. With less control over where your ads appear, you might also receive undesirable ad placements and associations that don’t serve your brand’s positioning.
There’s also a huge disparity in the distribution of internet traffic. The top three websites for global internet traffic in 2021 (Google, YouTube and Facebook) get more monthly visits than the next 47 websites combined. 91% of all website pages never get any traffic from Google. If the majority of your adverts are going to be shown on the most popular sites and platforms that you already know and use, why spend money on purchasing DSP software and staff training, or specialized agencies? And when it comes to media publications, there can be more benefit from communicating directly to build relationships that deliver additional PR value.
To summarize, unless you’re buying a high volume of placements within a limited ‘vertical’ network of owned or handpicked media platforms, this approach may not generate the quantity or quality of authentic website traffic that you’re looking for. As a simple alternative to a programmatic DSP, you could create a centralized dashboard to report data from all your ad platforms in one view. (Give Half Past Nine a holler if you need a hand.)
2. Optimize Your Social Content Strategy by Platform
LinkedIn is the most popular social platform when it comes to B2B content marketing and lead generation, used by 96% of surveyed marketers. No surprise there. In joint second place is Facebook and Twitter, used by 82% of B2B marketers, followed by YouTube at 62%.
On the buyers side, the most popular social platforms for B2B purposes are:
- LinkedIn (82%)
- Twitter (66%)
- YouTube (64%)
- Facebook (41%)
Your audience targeting probably doesn’t change across social platforms, however, the individual users and their behaviors could vary notably. Trending topics and content format preferences do differ by platform. If your resources are stretched, it makes sense to nail your social content strategy consistently on a couple of channels first before sustainably expanding out.
Let’s cover off the top 4 social platforms for B2B marketing, with broad strokes for how you can optimize content on each. We’re looking at platform-specific distribution strategies here. (If you missed it, refer back to Social Media in Chapter 3 for the general social distribution tactics that apply across platforms.)
LinkedIn isn’t the largest social platform, however it continues to grow and now has around 800 million users. There are over 57 million registered companies, and up to 40% of users login on a daily basis.
We know LinkedIn users are purposely on this platform to interact with other professionals and consume professional content. Demand Gen Report research found that LinkedIn is the most popular channel for B2B buyers to share content with other colleagues (81%), even over email (70%).
LinkedIn user demographics:
- 165 million LinkedIn users are located in the US.
- Users are likely to have higher than average education and income. Decision makers are well represented.
- Males outnumber female users at 57%.
- 59.9% of all users are in the 25-34 age demographic.
- 51% of US adults who have a bachelor’s or advanced degree say they use LinkedIn (Pew Research Center).
- 57% of LinkedIn sessions are on mobile devices.
What Sort of Campaign Is LinkedIn Best For?
You can and should grow brand awareness here. However, do take advantage of the high conversion rates for lead generation campaigns too.
The professional use of LinkedIn during purchasing research means you can include more mid funnel content in the mix. ToFU LinkedIn articles could link back to deeper funnel content on your website such as case studies, videos, eBooks or buying guides.
LinkedIn offers great versatility for post formats, now including live videos. And LinkedIn articles give you the option to publish the most written content on any of the biggest social platforms. It works well to position individual users and brands as thought leaders.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, no other social platform allows you to target users by professional demographics so accurately, and there’s no better place for account-based marketing!
Given LinkedIn’s prominence in the B2B social niche and a lack of competition, it is a more expensive advertising platform for lead gen Cost-Per-Click (CPC) campaigns.
However, LinkedIn Cost-Per-Mille (CPMs) for brand awareness campaigns are more competitive.
Discover the range of LinkedIn ad placements available.
Best Practices for Organic LinkedIn Posting
- Post Weekly - At least weekly. LinkedIn reports that accounts posting weekly see a 2x higher engagement rate.
- Videos Get Most LinkedIn Shares - When it comes to content format, LinkedIn posts with images get 2x more engagement than those which don’t, but video posts are 20x more likely to be shared.
- Live Streams Get Most Engagement - Brands using LinkedIn Live streams reportedly get 7x more reactions and 24x more comments than regular videos.
- Use LinkedIn’s Lead Gen Form Fills - Lead gen forms on LinkedIn have a 13% average conversion rate, while links to landing pages only get an average conversion rate of 2.35%. Use LinkedIn’s pre-populated forms to speed up access to downloads, registration or sign up processes.
- Leverage LinkedIn Groups - Whether you create a group or join a group, they’re a great way to connect with professionals interested in your niche area. Use genuine conversation and insights to attract and connect with potential leads. Just don’t SPAM with sales content!
LinkedIn Blogging - OkDork conducted a very helpful analysis of 3,000 LinkedIn blog articles, and their strongest recommendation are:
- Focus on Getting Likes - The more likes you get, the more people will view, comment and share an article. Use your staff to give you a quick boost of likes after posting.
- Use How-to and Listicle Titles - These gain significantly more views. Avoid questions in your titles.
- Include Images - 65% of people are visual learners with brains that want to process images, and using images will significantly optimize your chances of gaining views!
- Get the Number of Headings Right - The articles with the most views (by a long shot) had either 5, 7, or 9 headings. Odd numbers work better than even numbers, and you should provide enough content to offer value but without being overwhelming.
- Longer Articles are Preferred - Articles get the most views if they are 1,800+ words long (the research covered articles up to 2,000 words in length).
- Don't Embed Videos or Multimedia Content - Give these assets their own dedicated posts for higher engagement rates.
- Stay Neutral In Sentiment - Neutral sentiment gets more views than positive or negative.
- Cross-promote on Twitter - Share your LinkedIn blogs on Twitter especially, which has the highest correlation with LinkedIn post engagement.
Twitter’s user demographic, along with its popularity for discussing trending news topics and tech, make it a good fit for sharing B2B content. It offers a smaller audience, with around 353 million monthly active Twitter users globally, however regular users do tend to be highly engaged.
We all know the hashtag is king here, making it easy to follow topics and connect with other like-minded users or brands. It’s a favorite with techies, so technology subjects may work well. As always, do focus on adding genuine value, but don’t be afraid to use a little more personality and humor on Twitter as authenticity is key.
Twitter user demographics:
- Most users are located in the US (at 29.5%), followed by Japan and then the UK.
- According to Pew Research Center, Twitter users are more educated and have a higher income than average.
- Twitter has a male majority audience, representing around 61% of users.
- 57% of users are in the 25-34 and 35-49 age brackets.
- 80% of Twitter sessions are on mobile devices.
The top reasons people use Twitter are:
What Sort of Campaign Is Twitter Best For?
Twitter is best for building brand awareness and topical authority. To gain traction on Twitter, backlinks to ToFU thought leadership, tweeting often, and regular audience engagement are important. Organically, the odd post here and there will be a forgotten drop in the ocean; a high volume stream of snappy insights, threads and replies defines Twitter.
Twitter advertising will give your content more staying power on this fast-moving platform, and ads do tend to receive higher engagement stats here. Check out the Twitter ad formats and placements available. It’s most cost-effective for video content, with video-based ads costing an average of 50% less per user engagement.
In terms of ad pricing, there’s no minimum required budget to get started, and promoted tweets are charged per user ‘action’ that you’ve chosen, making your budget go further.
Best Practices for Organic Twitter Posting
- Tweet Daily - Aim to post at least once a day to maintain visibility and engagement. If you’re running an event or providing commentary on a trending topic, post multiple times throughout the day. It’s not really possible to post too often on Twitter!
- Pair Bold Wording + Imagery - Make every character count with impactful word choices, and take advantage of users being 3x more likely to engage with Tweets that include visual content. Adding images, videos and GIFs will take up more space in the newsfeed, increasing awareness, attention and engagement for your tweets. Image-based posts actually get more shares than videos on Twitter, and humorous images are the most popular (62%).
- Share Links - Tweets that contain links have an 86% retweet rate. Tweets that link to how-to or list-based articles receive 3x more retweets than any other type of text-based content. Create multiple snapshots and highlights from your long-form content as teasers, and link back to the asset on your website. In addition to threads, a unique campaign hashtag can act as a filter and make all of your relevant insights visible in one feed for interested users.
- Use Twitter Polls + Ask Questions - Users are 21% more likely to respond to a question. Not only do instant polls make your content interactive, but the right questions can generate useful and timely industry insights for you and your followers.
- Schedule Weekend Posts - Tweets don’t have much staying power, so regular posting throughout the week achieves better visibility. Don’t forget to schedule weekend posts too, as Saturdays and Sundays get the highest engagement rates!
- Get Your Senior Staff Tweeting - Twitter thrives on personality and is perhaps the platform that requires the most authenticity and personal representation over brand. Train and encourage your leadership team and subject-matter experts to Tweet under their own names about their interests and expertise. Authentic content is key for Twitter audiences who enjoy geeking out within their niches. You can then use your brand’s Twitter handle to amplify the Tweets that best represent your brand and your wider audience are most likely to appreciate.
Facebook is well known as the largest social media platform out there with an astronomical 2.8 billion monthly active users. Facebook might not stand out as the most natural fit for B2B content given that people use it during downtime. And yet, a Hootsuite study actually found that 48.5% of B2B decision makers use Facebook for conducting research. So Facebook is absolutely a valuable platform for sharing your B2B content.
Facebook user demographics:
- 86% of internet users with $100k+ income use Facebook, meaning decision makers are well represented.
- The largest age demographic is 25-34, and 72.8% of users sit within an 18 - 44 age range.
- Globally, there are more male users at around 68%.
- Nearly 70% of the US population has a Facebook account, and the US gender balance swings to women, accounting for 54% of users.
- 51% of users are active several times per day.
- Facebook users have a particularly strong preference for the mobile app, and 79.9% of users only ever use mobile.
Facebook is the most challenging place to gain user engagement. The average post engagement rate is just 0.18%. However, pages with less than 10,000 followers get more engagement on average (0.52%) than pages with over 10,000 followers (0.1%). See Facebook engagement rates by industry verticals.
Smaller pages or group communities will be more engaged when you’re better at appealing to the specific niche. Managing content for their preferences will create a feeling of intimacy. Further to that, connecting with personally known leads and customers on Facebook via your sales staff really does make a relationship more personal. Connect on LinkedIn first, and hold off sending friend requests too soon in the relationship.
The top reasons people use Facebook are:
What Sort of Campaign Is Facebook Best For?
Facebook is the best place to increase brand visibility and recognition given its extensive reach across age and gender demographics. ToFU brand awareness campaigns will work best here, using visual or video content to attract and hold users attention while they are enjoying downtime and seeking entertainment.
Bold headlines, appealing directly to pain points, and resonating on a personal level will help you appeal more. Retargeting campaigns are a viable option too. For lead generation, try promoting an event, webinar or a free trial. Provide short but valuable snippets in visual or video form, and link back to your blogs or gated content assets.
- Facebook ads typically have the highest average costs for CPM campaigns, however, it delivers most click-throughs (CTR) on average.
- CTRs are 3.9% on average, with the average Facebook user clicking on 12 ads per month.
- Native advert styles such as status update posts get the best results with an average CTR of 6.65%.
Best Practices for Organic Facebook Posting
- Use Videos Over Links - Hubspot reported that link posts receive 73% less engagement than video posts. Videos also cost less per action if you’re using promoted options. Vertical videos get the highest engagement rate at 0.35%, compared to 0.26% for video overall - which makes sense given users’ preference for using Facebook on mobile. Facebook Live videos are popular, and you can share them afterwards or re-post them to other social channels.
- Time Your Posts - As with Twitter, there is a high volume of new content on Facebook, so posts may not have as much staying power or reach compared with LinkedIn. Posting daily is great if resources allow. Use UGC or share other influencers content to help you achieve a consistent frequency. Optimize your reach and engagement rates by posting content when most of your audience are online. The highest engagement days on average are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Test with your own content to narrow it down. However, Facebook Stories remain visible for 24 hours; a useful non-paid format that can help improve the longevity and reach of your content. Facebook Stories allow you to share photos, texts, or videos in vertical format.
- Don’t Be Too Corporate - Yes, you need to represent your professional brand to a high standard. But Facebook attracts people during their downtime who want personally relevant content. Unpolished pictures taken by real people in real-life scenarios generate more engagement than generic stock images or staged photos, which users subconsciously filter out as generic promotional content. Go for a cost-efficient, user-generated feel some of the time, and build a profile for a few selected staff as the human and relatable face of your brand. The use of exclamation points in your posts will also get you significantly more engagement on Facebook, suggesting audiences here want more emotive content, rather than neutral corporate styles.
YouTube is a video sharing platform and Google company. YouTube videos can rank in Google search results, helping boost search visibility.
It’s the second largest social platform with over 2 billion users, and second most visited website globally. However, YouTube is actually the largest social platform in the US!
All age demographics are well represented, including those in older age brackets.
- 75% of Fortune 500 executives view online video, and 46% of B2B technology buyers will purchase a product or service after viewing video content.
- 68% of YouTube users watch videos to help make purchase decisions.
- 88% of video marketers plan to include YouTube in their 2022 video marketing strategy.
YouTube demographics (in the US):
- YouTube now reaches 81% of adults, out-performing Facebook at 69%.
- 62% of users visit YouTube daily.
- 77% of 15-35 year olds use YouTube, which represents the biggest demographic. However regular users include 73% of 36-45 year olds, 70% of 46-55 year olds, and 67% of people aged 56+.
- 3/4 of adults watch YouTube at home on mobile devices.
- In terms of gender, global averages are 56% male and 44% female.
What Sort of Campaign Is YouTube Best For?
Firstly, the best content format for YouTube is naturally video. Video is a great medium to explain concepts, helping customers build awareness for challenges and solutions.
- Viewers have been shown to retain 95% of information compared to only 10% when reading text.
- The average YouTube video length is 12 minutes according to the Pew Research Center.
- Google Ads reports that 70% of viewers bought from a brand after seeing video content on YouTube.
You can use brand awareness and lead generation campaigns to good effect here. People are willing to spend time on video content as long as it’s interesting or useful. Adults in the US spend one hour and 43 minutes per day watching digital video on devices.
For your organic video content strategy, focus on ‘How to’ content, educational content that talks around customer challenges, and industry or tech trends. Open with surprising statistics or interesting facts. For mid to bottom funnel stages, include video case studies and solution explainer videos.
Looking at advertising, YouTube outperforms Facebook on ad prices and ROAS while delivering similar reach. There’s no minimum investment required and you can start with as little as $10. You should create YouTube ads in video format to get the best results, which does require some extra content investment. YouTube says top-of-funnel awareness ads perform best when branding appears in the first 5 seconds and throughout the ad. But if you have less budget, then display or overlay ad formats are the cheapest options.
Manage your YouTube Ads via a Google Ads account by linking your YouTube channel, giving you access to Google targeting and reporting tools. A range of YouTube ad placements are available. There are also audience targeting tools, and with Placement Targeting, you can identify specific YouTube pages you want your ads to appear on. Discover helpful YouTube ad benchmarks.
Best Practices for Organic YouTube Posting
- Maintain a Regular Publishing Schedule - For YouTube, quality is better than quantity. It’s been found that longer videos can achieve better engagement than shorter videos posted more frequently. And the general consensus is that publishing consistency is the most important factor. For example, don’t upload 3 videos at once. It’s unlikely people will watch more than one video at a time, and lower engagement will downgrade your channel’s content on the algorithm. Uploading once a month is ok, or once a week if you can. If people know your publishing schedule, they’re more likely to keep an eye out for your content at the appropriate time. You can optimize your publishing timing according to audience engagement. In general, the best time to publish on weekdays is 2-4pm in time for peak viewing hours in the evening, or in the morning on weekends.
- Not All YouTube Content Is Video - Titles and thumbnails are a big deciding factor or whether people will engage or not, so give plenty of thought to hooking in viewers. Descriptions for your videos can provide additional information and backlinks, which along with hashtags will also help make content discoverable. Titles, descriptions, closed captions and links are just as important for SEO here as they are on your website. Don’t forget to use community posts and polls to maintain engagement in-between video posts. Do update the ‘About’ tab on your channel to include your business information with a link back to your website.
- Use Short Video Formats for Sustainability - Low production costs in terms of budget and time will help you sustain video production. For organic content, ‘Shorts’ are a new format that’s performing well. They only last 60 seconds maximum, and were receiving 15 billion daily average views by July 2021. For advertising, Bumper ads are six-second, non-skippable video ads that play right at the start of a video. They work for simple but memorable messages. Google analyzed 300 bumper ads and found that 90% created a big lift in ad recall. Plus, events placed at the beginning of videos perform best for CTR and goal conversions.
- Organize Your Channel’s Videos - Sort all videos from your website and YouTube library into labeled playlists. Separate out corporate videos from your topical YouTube video content, and use labels that will resonate according to customer journey stages or personas. This will make it easy for new users to navigate your YouTube library and hopefully watch more content.
Key metrics for video reporting:
- View Velocity (how quickly views are accumulated after publishing)
- Upload Frequency
- View Duration (How long a video is watched for)
- Session Starts (How many people view your video first during a YouTube session)
- Session Duration (How long your channel keeps people on YouTube)
- Session Ends (A negative metric looking at how many people finish their YouTube session while watching your content)
Given that view velocity is perhaps the most important factor for YouTube ranking, ask your staff to subscribe to your channel, and send out an internal comms mail blast asking staff to watch and like videos immediately after publishing.
3. Build a Digital Culture Internally
Real people are the key to authentic relationships, and that includes online representation of your brand. Potential or existing customers will naturally want to know more about the people behind a brand, especially when it comes to B2B purchasing decisions.
- 70% of people report feeling more connected to a brand when the CEO is active on social media.
- 72% say they feel similarly when employees share brand information.
It’s often content from personal accounts that helps to gain more credibility and engage other industry players in a discussion. Your staff are an easy way to help you expand reach through their networks when they share branded content.
Top tips for promoting the people behind your brand:
- Include Staff-Generated Content - On social, aim for a mix of brand posts and sharing content posted from staff accounts. Do use a review process for any content that is used to represent your company. Encourage staff with internal recognition, contests and prizes. Forward thinking companies even include this as a career-building objective to further leadership advancement.
- Train Staff - Provide staff with social media training and brand style guidance on how to represent your company online. Ask them to follow your accounts and share new posts.
- Build Personal Networks - Prompt C-suite or technical leaders to connect with your audience and grow their own network, creating connections with customers, prospects and industry leaders as they feel comfortable.
- Create Content for Senior Management - Senior business leaders rarely have the time or inclination to write high level thought leadership content (unless you’re lucky!). Write and publish thought leadership content on their behalf with any input they are willing and able to provide. Ask them (or their EA) to publish it if they don’t want to share access to their accounts. Then repost it from your brand accounts.
- Include Technical Content - Work with subject matter experts to provide valuable and interesting technical content for specific personas, which can also be posted from their personal accounts then shared on your brand accounts.
- Ask for Staff Engagement - Ask employees to like your thought leaders posts for a quick engagement rating boost. Send round an email to relevant teams with a link to the social post you would like them to support and share.
- Groups + Online Communities - Industry and discipline specific groups are common on social media. Join them using your brand account and ask staff to do the same. Share your relevant content to community groups if you have permission. Create your own community group if you have the resource and commitment to maintain it.
- Comment - Engage in conversations initiated by customers and other industry experts, even if it’s just to say you like their article or think they have an interesting perspective.
Naturally, you should respect any staff who prefer not to be visible on social media. If a little light persuasion highlighting the personal and organizational benefits doesn’t change their mind, focus on supporting those who are willing.
Social Media Interaction
When it comes to building relationships and trust, two-way conversation at all stages of the customer journey is important. At the end of the day, social media is a place to interact and build community with connections. If all you do is broadcast self-centered brand content, you’ll be tuned out.
Consistent interaction will help you to increase engagement with your content, improving your social ranking and reach over time.
Allocate staff resources to interacting with comments on your own posts, and proactively finding other accounts or community groups to interact with. If you have the budget, employ a member of staff dedicated to social media. If not, consider a rota of interested staff willing to participate.
Ways to interact on social media:
- Follow, like and comment on your industry network’s posts, which will encourage them to do the same for you.
- Tag people who you think will appreciate the content with a quick note saying so.
- Pay a compliment to brands, influencers or customers by reposting their content on your account (UGC).
- Find existing online communities and groups to interact with by participating in and starting discussions.
- Ask questions in your posts that prompt people to comment.
- Respond to people commenting on your posts.
- Use instant polls, and create an additional post to share the results with your own commentary.
- Run live video streams that answer questions from the chat, or comment in live video chats.
- Provide rewards as a thank you to people who share your content, like a free email question answered by a consultant.
4. Amplify Word of Mouth Marketing
Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) is the promotion of online and offline recommendations from customers, affiliates or influencers. It’s social proof that your business provides a great solution and is trustworthy.
B2B is usually more than 50% referral, although it can vary from industry to industry.
- WOMM influences 91% of B2B buying decisions.
- 92% of consumers find UGC content more trustworthy than other types of advertising.
- Adverts using UGC receive 4x higher click-through rates compared to other ads, with a 50% drop in cost-per-click thanks to better engagement ratings.
- 59% of buyers read peer reviews on such websites as G2Crowd.com.
WOMM will happen naturally based on the strength of your CX. However, given its impact, do aim to encourage, facilitate and promote it as much as possible to ensure maximum amplification.
Here are useful WOMM tactics to make sure word spreads about the great things your business delivers!
Proactively gather reviews on influential platforms relevant for your vertical or niche, from TrustPilot to your Google business listing.
Top tips for boosting your brand reputation on review sites:
- Shortlist Platforms - Make a shortlist of review platforms that you will concentrate efforts on. Provide links to these sites from your own website, encouraging prospects to navigate to your profile.
- Identify + Ask Clients - Identify clients where the relationship is going well, or a project has been successfully completed. Work with account or relationship managers who are best placed to approach clients and send a link to the desired review platform. Ask for a quick recommendation, from a few sentences to a few paragraphs. This will provide enough impact without asking too much of your client’s time. Some of your reviewers will hopefully provide more detailed information covering how challenges were solved via particular features or expertise. Do always thank them afterwards.
- Reward - What small rewards could you offer to help incentivize more reviews with a desired level of detail? It could be a discount on the next invoice, free webinar access, a little service freebie or temporary upgrade, tickets to an industry conference, or something else that is within company policy. A great service delivered and a thank you may be enough!
- Respond To Reviews - It’s advisable to regularly monitor reviews on external sites, whether you proactively seek reviews for them or not. Some negative feedback is not the end of the world, but it’s important to respond. This will show potential customers that you swiftly deal with feedback to deliver a great service. Share the feedback internally for improvement, or identify significant issues that need to be resolved. Respond in a polite and professional tone on the platform. Own up to any lapses with any apology, and confirm that action will be taken as a result. If it’s an existing customer, make sure the relationship manager reaches out to take the conversation offline. If a customer is being unfairly negative, never get into tit for tat comebacks on a public forum. Provide one diplomatic response and draw a line under it. If your business cares about delivering a great customer experience, the majority of your feedback will reflect that.
Testimonials are simply quotes from happy clients. However, the length and available formats for distribution allows plenty of flexibility as a B2B content marketing resource.
Top tips for curating and distributing testimonials:
- Collection - Sometimes customers will share positive feedback without any prompting, whether in email or conversation. Let client-facing staff know that you are on the look out for this type of content and request that they share it. Additional methods of gathering testimonials include customer surveys, project debriefs, or directly asking for a testimonial.
- Formats - Present testimonials in a format that best fits the distribution channel, from simple text snippets to images and videos. Videos filmed on a phone in UGC style will work for social media, but use professional production if they’re going to be a feature on your website. You could also take the testimonial format a stage further by co-writing ‘success story’ articles in partnership with your clients to jointly promote your businesses, or co-present at events and conferences.
- Permission - If there are testimonial quotes you want to use publicly, have the relationship manager ask the client for permission first. Testimonials should provide the name and position of the person who gave it, if possible, for most credibility. (Authenticity is discernible.)
- Distribution - Near the foot of your homepage is the perfect place to feature a few testimonials, helping create a standalone sales funnel by using BoFU content near the bottom. If you receive any testimonials relating to specific service lines or products, feature them at the bottom of the relevant solution webpages. Include testimonials in case studies where possible, maximizing their credibility. For social media, create text-based graphics, quote cards in your brand template, or use short videos, whether UGC or animated. Promotional emails are another place to promote testimonials, helping back up an offering you are highlighting with social proof. If you have any current PDFs, ebooks or sales proposals being produced, insert one or two of the most recent (and relevant) testimonials you’ve received.
Incentivize your existing customers or industry partners who bring you new clients via a publicized referral program with clear parameters. It’s perhaps the number one method to get WOM working for you to generate more sales.
- 54% of marketers say that B2B referral programs bring in leads at a lower cost than other marketing channels.
Top tips for a referral program:
- Choose Rewards - Decide who will get what rewards, and when they’ll get it. Depending on your business model or offering, there are options to choose from. Direct cash incentives will work for most clients, which is easiest to deliver as a fixed value regardless of deal size. On the opposite extreme, you could have close client relationships where they work with you to close new customers for a commission-based reward. Everyone loves some free swag, such as a choice of branded apparel, sports equipment or gift vouchers for big brands like Amazon. If you’re a software services company, free upgrades like an extra user, more storage space, premium features or a whole free month should work well. If you run paid courses, events, or webinars, offer free passes for their choice of whichever one, or even tickets for a popular external event like an annual conference or big sports events.
- Build a Referral Program Site - Create concise information and FAQs with all the important details, including terms and conditions and reward delivery information. Use a unique referral link and code for each referrer, to bring leads to a simple lead form.
- Provide Messaging - Make it easy to share information. Include social sharing options, such as email, Whatsapp, Facebook and LinkedIn. Write message templates with placeholders for personalized details to be inserted.
- Promote During Customer On-boarding - Make sure your new customers know about your program right away. A customer doesn’t have to be with you for years to share solution information with connections who’re potentially unaware; you’ve already convinced them that you are the best option!
- Manage Referral Submissions - As with any new leads, enter them into your CRM system with lead scoring information. You’ll want to know their company, job title, and main area of interest. Then decide on what type of response to provide. Your sales team could potentially reach out to the referring customer to get background information as a starting point. Ensure a proper hand off to sales to manage the reputation of your program.
GrowStuff is a referral platform provider with some great examples of how to run a referral program.
Influencers give third-party credibility to your brand messages in the form of association or endorsement.
Whenever you work for influencers, remember that you are looking for the relevancy of an influencer’s audience, not just the size of their following. They need to be able to influence the perceptions and actions of your target audience specifically.
Your influencer partners need to provide original content that positively references your brand, and endorsement of your solutions for identified customer pain points. Ideally, your partners distribute their content on more than one platform, but you should also amplify their content by sharing it across your own channels.
Direct payment is a possible route, as are mutually beneficial marketing partnerships, whether at a personal or organizational level.
Types of B2B influencers:
- Independent - Independent B2B influencers are perhaps not as prevalent in B2B marketing as they are in B2C marketing. However, academics, authors or business consultants are the usual independent players that businesses partner with. Topical articles mentioning your brand, sharing your content as a good read, speaking slots at your events, guest blogging and interviews by either side are popular approaches.
- Customers - Customers are powerful influencers, usually in the form of shared testimonials and case studies. Your testimonials and case studies can be turned into blog articles or branded videos to work better in a social context, improving your credibility at ToFU journey stages in a more shareable and topical format. You can also add social sharing buttons to your content to make it effortless for engaged customers to share it.
- Staff - Perhaps the most potent influencers actually come from within your own organization in the form of employee advocacy. After all, who knows your business better? Staff have a long-term investment in your company, and are a very credible source of information about it. Work with leadership and technical staff who have a respected reputation or social reach within your vertical. Refer back to building a digital culture internally, and incorporate such individuals into your PR strategy.
- Organizations - B2B influencers can also be organizations, from news publications to industry bodies. For example, say environmental impact was a common issue in your industry. You could utilize assessments and endorsements from a relevant governmental department, specialized publication, NGO/NFP or university, promoting how your company is meeting or exceeding best practice sustainability measures. Articles, case studies, video interviews or joint event presentations could all be used to showcase your sustainability initiative, with joint branding and distribution from the endorsing organization.
Do ask your partners to tag your social accounts and any named staff, or link to the most relevant page on your website. For content shared on your own social accounts, tag all influencers mentioned in the content piece, both within the copy and on the social post to boost impact and credibility. If an influencer is not on a particular social platform, mention their full name and title, and tag their affiliated organization instead.
Media + PR
News and media publications could be considered as an organizational influencer.
- In 2021, survey respondents said that they trust ads on news sites 4x more than on social media.
B2B publications for industry verticals benefit from a more relevant and topically engaged audience by default, and are generally less oversaturated with disruptive or irrelevant advertising. Your content is likely to gather better engagement, including in native editorial format.
Use respected media publications to feature ToFU content for increased share of voice and brand awareness. Media brands focussed on online publishing will allow you to track the results. However if a publication is still well-read in print, you may want to include a couple of print features in your paid media mix too. A free conference handbook or brochure is another example where high readership is a given and you can justify foregoing ROI evidence in the form of digital metrics.
Ask the publication to share the article (whether paid or not) on their social media channels. People increasingly follow publications on social media rather than navigating directly to the website. Share any posts that link to content which mentions your business, with a snapshot shout out about why you are mentioned.
If you’re a Fortune 500 company, organic media mentions happen aplenty. For smaller businesses, building relationships with target news and media publications is necessary. When you build a relationship, potentially by paying for a few editorial placements throughout the year, publications will develop more awareness for your brand. As a result, they will be more likely to start mentioning your brand organically or requesting staff interviews and quotes, thus giving you free coverage.
Top tips to build PR and media share of voice:
- Create Media Objectives - What are the main messages you want to amplify, and who do they need to reach? What is your current share of voice in the media, and where does it come from? What is the sentiment? How does that compare to your competitors? Do you have benchmarks that will tell you when you are achieving the right share of voice among the desired caliber of media publications? Use a tool to help you with SOV metrics, like Determ.
- Shortlist Your Audience’s Favorite Publications - Research news and magazine publications that talk to your target audience, attracting them as regular readers in the largest numbers. A mix of publications will give you the largest reach. If your budget stretches, target two or three publications for your biggest campaigns. Alternatively, alternate your media campaigns across publications throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to investigate which are most effective for driving high intent traffic. (Use UTM codes for links to track traffic source by individual creatives, and identify any subsequently completed conversion goals on webpages.)
- Open Communication Channels - Contact media outlets and request information about their upcoming editorial calendars. What will their topical focus and other features be for each edition, and where do you best fit in? Discuss how your expertise could be incorporated, and ask what kind of content they would be most interested in featuring organically, as well as costings and best-practice advice for paid editorial options.
- Position Your Brand - You’ll need to take an angle for pitching your brand as a company worth talking about. That could be as a large player in your vertical that has the inside scoop on industry trends, a niche technical expert with unique expertise, or an exciting start up that’s growing quickly and creating some kind of new impact.
- Plan Ahead - As I’m sure you know, news and magazine publications usually work 3 to 6 months ahead, so little more forward planning is par for the course. Consider what media content will be most relevant for your live campaigns at that time, and any seasonality within your industry. Also share your copy ahead of the deadline so there is time for revision.
- Deliver Content With Strategic Purpose - Craft your narratives around the key brand messages you want to get across. Brief any staff participating as interviewees; ask for the list of questions ahead of time, and coach staff on key messaging to include or frame their answers around. Remember that at ToFU stages, the goal is to raise more awareness for challenges and best-practice solutions among specific buyer roles.
- Pitch Regularly - Keep your brand top of mind by staying in touch with your main contacts at set intervals. Offer exclusivity, and interviews with your executive team or technical experts. Running paid editorials might mean a publication is more amenable to giving you some free organic mentions in relevant pieces. Let your publication account manager know that you’re aiming for this, and proactively reach out ahead of relevant features where you think you can provide value.
Events are WOM channels that really do matter for B2B. In addition, event presentations are an important B2B content marketing format when they feature an employee as a speaker.
There are plenty of different event formats to choose from:
- Industry conferences or exhibitions.
- Award ceremonies.
- Workshops or forums.
- Partner events.
- Internally-run speaker events.
- Live streaming events (third-party or brand owned).
- Networking events.
- Product launch or office opening celebrations.
- Round-table dinners.
Popular industry conferences are an important place to be seen, where you have access to a highly relevant and engaged audience. Consider conference sponsorships, applying for speaking slots, manning a stand with eye-catching brand materials, demonstrations and swag bags, and have a number of staff in attendance to proactively network. Visit the stands of your prospects and customers' businesses if they are present.
Virtual and live streaming events are growing in popularity, which has undoubtedly been spurred on since 2020.
- 80% of event marketers say they have reached a wider audience with virtual events.
- 93% of surveyed marketers planned to invest in virtual events in the near future.
Top tips for running your own brand events:
- Clarify Your Targeting - Pick a demographic within your audience based on sales and marketing objectives. Create defined objectives for each event, such as generating new leads, or cross-selling to target customers. Your internally-run branded events shouldn’t be all things to all people, focusing on content for specific personas and roles.
- Provide a Compelling Reason to Attend - What’s the hook? Are you providing valuable knowledge, a high profile speaker, an exclusive experience, or a great networking opportunity? For high value, senior prospects, consider exclusive networking or roundtable dinner events with noteworthy speakers. This will facilitate social introductions between known leads being worked on and the long standing clients you have a positive relationship with. You are demonstrating your credibility to prospects with WOM by customer association. You will also showcase the quality of the industry network that a prospect would have access to.
- Promote Your Event - Do this before, during and afterwards. Exclusive events can use email invitations with personal follow ups. Open events can be promoted on social media, sites like Eventbrite, through your marketing partners, and on your website. Use a registration form and automated data capture to collect attendee names and contact information during the sign up process. Have your sales team score new leads, and create a list of event hosts to engage with guests. During the event, take some images to share with insightful speaker quotes, or run a quick live stream. Record event presenters who give permission, and promote the video across your channels afterwards. (Assuming any information discussed is not confidential. Also remember to run presentations through a brand approval process in plenty of time.)
- Interaction - Whatever event format you run, make your event as interactive as possible. In-person and virtual events can both use audience polling and take live questions. In addition, in-person events can utilize breakout sessions for collaborative tasks or networking. Select internal staff to host your guests, asking them to join in the breakout groups and during pre/post event networking to build relationships.
- Follow Up - Close the loop by sending your delegates the event materials afterwards, plus the contact details of the person they should reach out to if they need any more information. Ideally that should be a senior leader or relationship manager, not technical staff. For new leads, that should be the most appropriate person to start building a relationship with them such as a sales team leader. Create email list filters accordingly so emails are signed off by the most relevant staff member. For a personal touch, send the event follow up from the relevant person’s individual email account rather than from marketing. You can add ‘From’ email addresses in your marketing platform to retain control of this process. Give that person a heads up that the email is going out in their name, as they will receive any automatic responses and bounce notifications. Feedback forms are also recommended, whether you share them during the event or afterwards. Use feedback forms to gather ratings for key event elements (venue, topic, speaker, etc.), why people attended, and if they have any comments.
Events have their own set of specific KPIs, and here are some you should find insightful:
- Event Mentions - Use event hashtags, track social shares and use social listening to gauge this. People talking about your event ahead of time and sharing the sign up link may be the goal. It’s an effective ToFU tactic to grow your reach. But if the event is more exclusive and invitation only, sharing speaker insights after the event is more appropriate.
- Sign-up Rate - How many people signed up compared to impressions for your promotional posts or invitation opens? A low rate will indicate that you aren’t hitting the right note with your event format or promotional description.
- Attendance Rate - This factors in no shows to tell you how many people actually attended the event compared to those who signed up. This is a good indicator of engagement and lead quality.
- Number of Qualified Leads - How many attendees were qualified as leads after attending the event and engaging with your staff? This is a more important ROI metric if the goal of an event was to generate new leads.
- New vs Returning Attendees - Aim for a mix of new and returning attendees depending on event goals. Referring back to WOMM, remember that some existing clients are ideal influencers to help you convert new leads. Use event feedback forms to understand why people attended.
- Cost Per Lead - Divide the total cost of the event by the number of leads generated. That could include billable time of any staff in attendance to host guests. However, do remember that events can be an effective means of relationship building and customer retention. Don’t automatically throw events off your calendar if the short-term cost to lead ratio isn’t great. Run event debrief calls with sales and leadership staff to gather feedback on whether they are helping achieve relationship building objectives.
- Attendee Feedback - Use feedback forms to gather ratings for key event elements (venue, topic, speaker delivery, etc.), reasons why people attended, and if they have any other general feedback or questions. This will allow you to gather more tangible quantitative metrics to sense check if events are helping to develop relationships from the attendees perspective.
5. KPIs for Paid + Earned Media
How well you measure and react to content metrics is paramount for achieving your goals as rapidly and resource-efficiently as possible!
- 94% of the most successful B2B content marketers measure their content performance compared with 60% of the least successful.
To help you gather these metrics, add unique UTM parameters for all your landing page ad links. UTM code snippets are added to the end of landing page links, allowing analytics programs to provide detailed data on your traffic sources. They will identify the exact pieces of content that bring in traffic and help you filter out double attribution when running multichannel ad campaigns.
Double attribution is when more than one ad platform claims that ads on their platform are connected to a webpage goal conversion within a set number of days after exposure or clicking.
Paid Content KPIs
(Ad platforms will provide all the necessary input or calculated metrics you’ll need.)
- Reach - This will tell you how many unique people saw your advert. Better quality creative results in more engagement, for a virtuous cycle that will lower your ads cost and improve reach. (Platforms downgrade and charge more for adverts that don’t engage targeted users in order to maintain their UX/CX.) Frequency is a related metric - the average number of times users see an advert is called frequency. Aim not to exceed 5 impressions per creative per user, or your returns will diminish.
- Frequency - Frequency is related to reach. It’s the average number of times users see an advert. Aim not to exceed 5 impressions per creative per user, or your returns will diminish.
- Cost Per Click (CPC) - CPC is the actual price you pay for each click in your Pay Per Click (PPC) ad campaigns. That means you only pay each time someone clicks on your advertisement. This pricing model incentivizes ad platforms to only show your ad to people whose data says are most likely to click on your ad. The higher the price you are willing to pay per click, the more times your advertisement is likely to be shown. Thus, this pricing model is best for generating leads. If one ad platform has a higher CPC than another, how does it correspond to the revenue that it’s creating? Consider the audience reach, engagement metrics, and KPIs such as ROAS to help you decide how much to spend on platforms with higher CPC prices.
- Cost Per Mille (CPM) - Cost Per Mille means cost per thousand impressions (views). If you choose a CPM pricing model for your advert then you’ll pay for every thousand people it’s shown to, whether they click on it or not. CPM pricing models are best used for brand awareness campaigns and cost less than CPC adverts. They are optimized to get your ads in front of as many people in your target audience as possible. They usually achieve a higher share of available impressions since the ad platform is guaranteed revenue each time they show the ad.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR) - CTR is the ratio of ad clicks against how many times your ad was shown (impressions): CTR = No. of Ad Clicks ÷ No. of Impressions. This is a useful creative metric, as a high Click Through Rate indicates a well-designed and well-targeted ad, or vice versa. However, If you get a low ratio of goal conversions compared to clicks, elements within your landing page are not performing.
- Ad Conversion Rates - This looks at how many people who clicked on an ad completed a landing page goal: Conversion Rate = No. of Conversions ÷ Total Clicks (in the same period).
- Forms Started to Forms Completed - The number of forms started vs. completed will show how many leads are dropping out of your funnel. If the drop-out rate is high, it’s likely you’re asking too many questions or making the process too laborious for users. Online users are increasingly unwilling to share their personal data, with privacy and data security front of mind. You may need to build the relationship and level of trust with your customers first, and provide more content value or better justification as to why you are asking for data and how you will protect it.
- Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) - Return on Ad Spend is the universal metric for measuring any advertising ROI: ROAS = Resulting Revenue ÷ Ad Spend.
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) - CAC is the average total cost you’ve spent to capture new customers: CAC = Total Marketing Spend To Acquire Customers ÷ No. of Customers Acquired in period. However, given the average length of time to complete sales for your business, there may be a lag time in between.
- Cost Per Lead - This looks at the average cost for each person who came to your landing page: CPL = No. of Unique Page Visitors ÷ Total Ad Cost. This tells you how much you’re spending for each sales lead.
- Bounce Rate - An important content metric, bounce rate looks at how many people quickly navigate away from your landing page without taking any action. High bounce rates means users aren’t interested in the content on the page. Is your landing page perfectly relevant for the advert, giving users what they expect to see based on the ad copy? And is there a clear and compelling call to action?
- Advert Share of Voice - This measures your ad visibility by comparing the potential number of times an ad could have shown up vs. the actual number of times it was actually shown. Google AdWords gives you this as ‘Impression Share’. (It takes into consideration your campaign and keyword settings to determine this potential visibility. Your pricing model and ad quality ranking are key factors.) In Google AdWords, go to the Campaigns tab and click on the columns icon. Select Modify columns, and click on Competitive metrics. You can choose the impression share columns you want to track.
- Cost Per Purchase - At the endpoint of the sales funnel, Cost Per Purchase looks at the average ad cost you’ve paid to acquire a customer who completed a sale: Total Ad Cost ÷ Completed Purchases.
- Average Order Value (AOV) - This is a self-explanatory and simple calculation: AOV = Revenue ÷ No. of Orders. It shows you how much customers spend on each sale on average. If your AOV is high, you can justify spending more on advertising to acquire each customer.
- Lifetime Value (LTV) - Customer LTV refers to how much a customer can be expected to spend over the relationship lifespan with your business. LTV = Average Order Value x Average No. of Transactions x Average Customer Lifespan. Again, the higher this value is, the more you can justify spending to acquire each customer.
- Ad Spend vs. Revenue by Channel - Break down your ad spend and revenue results by individual marketing channels and compare them as a ratio: Total Sales by Channel ÷ Total Ad Spend by Channel.
- Organic vs. Paid Customer Conversions - Track the ratio of your sales conversions by organic traffic vs. paid traffic sources to see how the traffic quality and volume compares. If you get a higher proportion of organic conversions, your SEO efforts may be a more worthwhile investment than advertising.
- 3-Second View Through Rate - For video adverts, the 3-Second View Through Rate tells you what percentage of people were shown an ad and viewed it for at least 3 seconds: 3-Sec VTR = (No. of 3-Sec Ad Views ÷ No. of Impressions) x 100. A high 3-Sec VTR indicates an ad that’s interesting/engaging for the target audience - they aren’t immediately scrolling past it without stopping to look.
- Video Average Watch Time - This tells you how long people watched your video ad on average, showing the average second mark at which viewers stopped watching.
You can find a few more ecommerce-specific metrics here, if your business offers B2B ecommerce purchasing options.
Is your PPC Agency doing a good job? Audit your PPC agency with these 5 KPIs that tell the truth.
Earned Media KPIs
- Social Media Share of Voice - Any mentions your brand gets on social media contribute to your social media share of voice. Invest in a social media analytics tool to identify all your brand or product mentions across platforms. Compare this against monitored competitors to find your share of the total conversation. Tools like BrandWatch and Determ can help.
- Backlinks - Organic backlinks from other websites or social accounts that point to your website content are a great indicator of organic reach and authority due to the quality of your content marketing. Google Search Console will give you this data.
- Referral Traffic From Media Publications - See how your authority and industry influence is growing with referrals from media publications. This could include a combination of organic and paid backlinks, so again, split them out using UTM codes to see the difference. Organic backlinks won’t have a UTM code.
- Media Mentions - Use a media listening tool to track all brand mentions on media publications. A growing number of mentions is obviously a great sign, as long as the sentiment is positive or neutral. Tools like BrandWatch can help here.
- Media Share of Voice - You will need a paid tool for this metric. Media share of voice looks at your brand mentions across news websites and blogs. Sentiment analysis will also tell you in what context your brand is mentioned. Do the same for your competitors, comparing how many mentions they get, and what sentiment. With this data, you can calculate your share of mentions out of total mentions. You can take this right down to which publications mention your competitors more than you, providing guidance for PR outreach efforts. Use the same listening tools you have for social media. Tools like Sprout Social include news outlets and blogs in their analysis, with filters to narrow down the results on media mentions.
- Reviews Average Rating - For reviews on third-party platforms, check out the number of reviews you are receiving, and your overall average rating scores.
In this guide series, can you recall any brands that were mentioned? Have a quick think. There is one in particular that stood out for me, although there are a few strong performers - all thanks to the strength of their content marketing. The brands mentioned by name all heavily invest in content marketing to attract leads to their website, increasing their authority and SEO performance.
For me, the stand out brand is Hubspot. In addition to 16 mentions, I used multiple research backlinks to their website, giving their domain authority another boost in Google’s algorithm. Hubspot has collected 16 backlinks from this one piece of content alone, alongside increased share of voice among their target audience. If that’s not a case in point for the value of high quality content oriented around audience education, then I really don’t know what is!
What also strongly crossed my mind while pulling this guide together, even as a seasoned in-house marketer, is just how much work goes into an expert B2B content marketing operation. The skills and organization required are broad and significant. Content marketing could be viewed as a bottomless pit in terms of the people and financial resources that could be poured into it. Intelligently prioritizing activity based on a clear understanding of where you currently are, what your objectives are, and some specialized tools or outside support where feasible will help you succeed with whatever budget you have.
Half Past Nine is a boutique growth agency. We’re dedicated to delivering highly personalized services to a small group of clients ready for accelerated growth. Our specialized team brings together deep expertise in performance media and marketing intelligence, equipping us to manage more technical marketing elements and deliver rapid results. We automate, integrate, optimize, illuminate - and generally help our clients achieve their objectives while saving time, money and stress! If you’re interested in whether we might be the right fit for your team, get in touch and we’d be delighted to discuss a potential alignment.
More in This Series
- Chapter 1: The B2B Customer Journey + Buying Process
- Chapter 2: Building Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
- Chapter 3: How To Create B2B Marketing Content
Unlock Revenue Growth With Data
Knowing where to invest marketing budget to increase contribution margin and overall revenue growth is the #1 pressing challenge for any marketing or growth leader.
As multichannel complexity and media budgets grow, attribution becomes one of those topics we really can’t ignore.
To truly understand the most valuable customer journey design, relying on default attribution reporting within ad platforms or Google Analytics just doesn’t cut it. In fact, it can even do more harm than good due to misattribution and double attribution - a big problem with these uncensored (and self-serving) tools.
The trouble with free on-platform attribution reporting (like Facebook or Google Analytics) is that they are siloed walled gardens that work in isolation with their own limited data sets. Your most powerful and valuable attribution analysis needs to cover everything, directly tied back to revenue results.
Without a proactive attribution strategy that connects all your customer journey and conversion data, optimized customer journey design will remain an elusive mystery. Highly influential channels like dark social or offline interactions are often underestimated or completely missing, while non-profitable campaigns are over-indexed.
The difference in business results can easily stack up to millions of dollars in wasted budget and lost opportunities - especially where larger paid media budgets are involved.
Let’s explore how marketers can master attribution to start hitting revenue targets with much greater confidence and certainty.
The Impact of Not Using Accurate Attribution Reporting
The impact of not using attribution reporting - or using it poorly - is worth understanding. It can have multiple negative impacts on decision-making and overall business performance.
The common consequences are:
Incomplete Customer Insights Cause Poor CX
An incomplete understanding of customer preferences, motivations, and pain points hinders the ability to tailor marketing strategies to effectively engage and convert customers.
This can result in a lack of adequate content personalization and a poorer customer experience (CX), meaning your brand gets overlooked in favor of others by potential customers.
Unprofitable Resource Allocation
Struggling to accurately identify the marketing channels, campaigns, or touchpoints that are driving conversions or desired outcomes results in less effective use of resources.
For example, over-investing in underperforming channels, and underinvesting in high-impact touchpoints, wasting budget in the process.
Poor Revenue Growth and Limited Brand Equity
Incorrect assumptions about the impact of specific touchpoints or channels results in suboptimal marketing performance and missed opportunities.
If marketing efforts fail to engage and convert customers effectively over time, the business can suffer from stunted revenue growth, also putting a cap on brand equity.
Understanding the Challenges for Accurate Attribution
Marketers can’t fully rely on free attribution solutions for the insights they need to drive significant optimizations. Results can be significantly misleading when solely using free on-platform attribution reporting.
On-platform attribution issues:
- No Cross-Channel Visibility - On-platform attribution doesn't have full visibility into the performance of other channels, or wider customer journey outside of their own ecosystem, acting as walled gardens. This limited view can make it difficult to understand the true impact of each channel on conversions and ROI (or ROAS).
- Double Attribution - When using multiple platforms, there's a risk of double attribution - where more than one platform takes credit for the same conversion. This overlapping attribution may cause businesses to overestimate the performance of certain channels or campaigns, and consequent overinvestment stunts overall marketing ROI.
- Inconsistent Attribution Methods - Different platforms apply different attribution rules, leading to inconsistencies in how they assign credit to various touchpoints. This inconsistency can make it challenging to accurately compare the performance of different marketing channels or campaigns.
- Tracking Limitations - With increasing data privacy regulations, third-party platforms may face challenges in accurately tracking user behavior across channels. A custom attribution model can help overcome some of these limitations by incorporating first-party data and other tracking methods.
- Lack of Customization - On-platform attribution reporting may not be tailored to your specific needs, goals, and marketing strategy. A custom attribution model, on the other hand, can be designed to accurately reflect a business's unique customer journey, allowing for more precise insights into the performance of each marketing channel and campaign.
There is a compelling case for marketers to invest in their own customized attribution solutions. Especially when paid media investments start becoming more significant.
However, accurate attribution modeling isn’t one of the most straightforward tasks for a marketing department to tackle.
There are several hurdles to overcome to extract and benefit from the most valuable insights:
1. Tracking Data Across Complete Journeys
A typical user journey involves multiple devices, channels, platforms, and time breaks between visits, making it difficult to track a complete customer journey path from the first touchpoint to conversion. Cross-device tracking techniques are needed, such as device matching or probabilistic modeling.
2. Data Privacy
Tracking restrictions and cookie limitations can limit the ability to track customer interactions across marketing channels, sometimes requiring workarounds. Yet it's essential to adhere to data privacy regulations, maintain transparency and obtain appropriate consent from customers when collecting and utilizing their data.
3. Offline Data Tracking
Marketers may need to implement strategies such as unique identifiers, coupon codes, QR codes, or call tracking to link offline interactions to specific customers and attribute them properly. However, implementing and managing these tracking mechanisms may require additional resources and operational adjustments, including manual data entry from both customers and staff.
4. Data Quality and Completeness
Ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the data is crucial for building reliable attribution models. Marketers must establish data quality control measures, address data gaps, and perform regular data validation to maintain the integrity of the data.
5. Data Integration
Integrating data from various sources, both online and offline, can be complex. Offline data sources such as in-store purchases, call center interactions, or direct responses may not be easily captured and linked to other digital data. Marketers need to develop data integration processes to build a unified view of complete customer journeys.
6. Attribution Modeling Complexity
Choosing the best-fit modeling approach for marketing goals, and accounting for multiple touchpoints both online and offline, adds complexity to attribution modeling. Marketers need to understand statistical models that can properly attribute credit to different touchpoints based on their real impact on conversions. This requires analytical expertise, plus the budget for necessary data tools as marketing complexity grows.
Types of Attribution Data
Data attribution models are nothing without the data that you feed into them.
There are 2 main sources of attribution data.
1. Software-based Attribution Data
This utilizes digital tracking tools, such as analytics platforms or marketing automation software, to track and record user interactions and automatically attribute conversion actions to specific marketing touchpoints.
Pros - It provides objective and granular data on user interactions and conversions, and enables real-time tracking and analysis of customer journeys. The reliance on voluntary self-reporting and subjective recall is reduced.
Cons - Aside from missing touchpoints that are not digital or easily trackable by software, it can be complex to implement and require technical expertise. You’ll need the right tracking set up for accurate data and reliable insights, and the analytics tools.
2. Self-reported Attribution Data
This is data collected directly from your customers and leads, who share information about the touchpoints that influenced their decision-making process. It’s usually collected via an online form or survey but can also be collected in direct conversation with customer-facing staff and then recorded in a CRM.
Pros - It allows for qualitative data collection, using direct insights from the individuals themselves to capture subjective factors and nuances that software-reported attribution may miss, such as offline interactions or word-of-mouth referrals.
Cons - It relies on individuals' willingness to provide information, and their memory and perception which may not always be accurate or complete. This type of data can be more time-consuming and resource-intensive to collect and analyze.
Hybrid Attribution Data
Combining both self-reported and software-based data sources into attribution modeling is what is known as hybrid modeling. It’s the ideal solution to mitigate the drawbacks of each data type, providing the most fully comprehensive understanding of your customers journeys.
Next, depending on your marketing activity and data tracking sophistication, you’re going to have some of the following types of data sets to work with.
The best way to categorize your data inputs is to split it into channel data and event data.
1. Event Data (What Happened?)
Event data typically includes:
- Conversion Data - Conversion data includes information about the desired actions taken by users, such as purchases, form submissions, or sign-ups. Conversion goals need to be set for each journey stage.
- Behavioral Data – Any data related to customers' online behavior, such as organic website visits, page views, time spent on site, clicks, search queries, and interactions with specific content or features.
- Clickstream Data – This is a record of each click a consumer makes while browsing online. Tracking all these actions can help brands form an accurate understanding of the most effective consumer journey design.
- Ad Impressions and Clicks - Ad impressions combined with click data provides information on the number of times an ad was displayed to users, and the corresponding clicks made. This data helps gauge the effectiveness of specific ads.
- CRM and First-Party Data - This data provides long-term insights into customer behavior and can include survey responses, purchase history, and any interactions with the brand. CRM data is necessary to link the direct impact on revenue generation and CLV.
Note, there are two common ways to give credit to touchpoints within a conversion sequence: post-click, or post-view.
Post-click Conversion Data - If attribution is done on a post-click (not necessarily last-click) basis, clicked touchpoints will get a part of the conversion credit as long as the action happens within the defined lookback window.
Post-view (or view-through) Conversion Data – Here, the content a user viewed (impressions) within the specified lookback window also gets part credit for a conversion. Most of the advertisers who advertise on multiple channels will have video and social media as part of the conversion journey. These channels usually are not driving clicks, but still contribute to outcomes. This data is more challenging to accurately collect.
The lookback window is how far back a conversion action is included, usually measured in days. So a 7-day lookback window would only include advert impressions or clicks 7 days before the customer converted. In low-cost eCommerce transactions where the selling cycle is short, the most relevant lookback window only might be 7 – 14 days. Whereas for more complex sales like business software, a lookback window of 60 days could be used.
2. Channel Data (Where Did It Happen?)
Channel source data typically includes:
- Referral Data - This identifies the source that referred users to your website (or app). It can attribute from the high-level referral sources, such as search engines, social media or email, right down to the specific pieces of content.
- Device and Platform Data – This gives information about the devices and platforms used by users during their customer journey. It allows marketers to track cross-device interactions and attribute conversions across different devices. Device data is also helpful for providing location information.
- Offline Data - This gives information about customer interactions outside of digital channels, such as in-store purchases, phone calls, word of mouth, events, direct mail responses, etc. Offline data is typically captured through mechanisms like unique identifiers, coupon codes, or CRM systems.
An attribution model is essentially used to link these two types of data together to show which marketing touchpoints deliver the best results.
Types of Attribution Models
There are several types of attribution models to feed your data into. Applying the right modeling for the goal or KPI is key.
A model essentially joins up your event data (what happened) to your channel data (where it happened) to show you the most profitable journey connections.
The difference between attribution models is where they place most credit for achieving a desired conversion goal (like submitting a contact form, generating an MQL or closing a sale). Conversion goals should be set up for each stage of the customer journey to feed attribution analysis.
Multi-touch models attribute results to more than one touchpoint, allowing for the influence of consecutive touchpoints to be considered as part of a process that led to the final conversion.
A model either uses:
- Rule-based methodology - Analyzes data in a completely static approach.
- Data-driven modeling - Typically uses AI and machine learning to help automatically customize multi-touch attribution based on the influence of touchpoints.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common attribution models:
Last Touch (or Last Click) Attribution
This model assigns all the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint (or channel) that the customer interacted with before making a purchase or completing the desired action.
When to use it? - To understand which touchpoints are most influential for prompting people to take the final step in completing a conversion goal (e.g., submitting a contact form or making a purchase).
Limitations? – Although easy to use and collect data for, it’s not a great stand-alone model for longer and more complex sales cycles where conversion still heavily relies on the preceding touchpoints, particularly in B2B.
First Touch (or First Click) Attribution
The first touchpoint (or channel) the customer engaged with receives 100% of the credit for the conversion.
When to use it? - To understand which early journey touchpoints are best at first reaching new audience members who will eventually convert.
Limitations? – It ignores the influence that mid to late journey touchpoints have for final conversion. Data accuracy can also be more difficult to assure depending on your data tracking methods and lookback window
Equal credit is given to each touchpoint in the customer journey, recognizing the role of all channels in driving conversions.
When to use it? – To understand how touchpoints and journey architecture work together to nurture conversions over time, including cross-departmental touchpoints between marketing and sales for B2B.
Limitations? – The data collection process is more intensive and may require cooperation with other departments to capture all touchpoints, taking time to implement fully. This may include qualitative touchpoints through manual data entry. Distributing credit evenly doesn’t account for which touchpoints have most influence.
Time Decay Attribution
More credit goes to touchpoints that occurred closer to the conversion event, with the assumption that recent interactions have a greater impact on the decision-making process.
When to use it? – For longer, more complex customer journeys where later touchpoints are most influential. Equally, it can be useful for very short sales cycles where decisions are made quickly and you want to see which touchpoints have immediate effect for impulse conversion.
Limitations? – The influence of earlier touchpoints for creating brand awareness or intent won’t be accounted for.
U-Shaped (Position-Based) Attribution
A higher percentage of credit goes to the first and last touchpoints in the customer journey, while the remaining credit is distributed evenly among the other touchpoints. It's based on the idea that the first and last interactions play a more significant role to create new leads and drive conversions.
When to use it? – When you want to understand which channels generate most new leads, and which drive most conversions.
Limitations? – Again, the influence of in-between touchpoints will not be fully understood, and it requires data collection to cover all touchpoints within the journey.
Equal credit goes to three key touchpoints: the first interaction, the lead creation event (e.g., form submission), and the final conversion event. The remaining credit is divided among the other touchpoints.
When to use it? – To highlight the key journey milestones from early journey, mid journey and late journey.
Limitations? – The influence of intermediary touchpoints is not fully understood
Data-driven models use advanced analytics, machine learning, or artificial intelligence to analyze customer journey data and assign credit to various touchpoints based on their estimated influence on conversions. This can be done by off-the-shelf software solutions specifically designed for marketing attribution. There are two widely accepted data-driven models for attribution: Shapley value model, and Markov chain model.
When to use it? – For more accurate full-journey attribution across multiple touchpoints, providing greater flexibility for integrating multichannel data silos and more balanced weighting criteria.
Limitations? - An attribution software subscription is required, some of which can be costly. How the algorithms are coded and applied is sometimes proprietary information that is not made fully clear or adaptable. Data sources still need to be set up and connected, including offline touchpoints. It can take months of work to fully set up and implement a data-driven model covering all marketing channels.
Fully Customized Attribution Modeling
Custom-built models are also data-driven, but can include as much complexity and adaptability as you’d like. They allow for full visibility and control of the combined data sets, rules and weighting in use. It allows the layering of many rules and granular data analysis so you can deeply understand and drive growth to a level that isn’t available any other way.
When to use it? - For larger media budgets where small adjustments see the $ results impacted by millions.
Limitations? - Fully customized attribution requires a specialist to implement because of the complicated algorithms and calculations, along specialized statistical software and coding. Like off-the-shelf data-driven solutions, it can take several months to fully implement.
Choosing Data and Models to Match Goals
For multichannel marketing across the customer lifecycle, marketers will have several different goals and KPIs, so there isn’t a one-size fits all when it comes to using attribution modeling.
For example, marketing goals will vary by campaign, but also business lifecycle stage. As a business matures and can afford to allocate more budget in demand creation, longer payback periods become feasible in the name of sustainable growth.
For the most accurate results, several rules and weighting criteria may need to be layered together. This requires an understanding of how to choose the most appropriate combination for each goal or data set.
Here are examples of how different goals could affect the overall approach for assessing attribution against KPIs:
Brand Awareness - The main objective is to build familiarity rather than immediate conversions, so attribution models that consider upper-funnel touchpoints using a longer lookback window are most helpful.
Conversion Rate Optimization - Last touch attribution can provide insights into the most influential touchpoints in driving conversions for any journey stage.
Customer Acquisition – With a focus on identifying marketing efforts that drive most new customers, attribution models that emphasize first touch and last touch before sale conversion are a good fit.
Customer Retention and CLV - Attribution models that consider multiple touchpoints over the customer lifecycle are best. Time-based attribution models such as linear or time-decay attribution can help identify touchpoints that contribute to CLV over time.
Cost Efficiency - Attribution modeling using cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-acquisition (CPA) data provides insights into the cost of acquiring customers through different channels.
Channel Optimization - Models like time-decay attribution or position-based attribution can help evaluate the effectiveness of various channels throughout the customer journey.
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) - Attribution that uses revenue conversion data along with position-based or data-driven models are most suitable for calculating ROAS. These models can help isolate the impact of an advertising campaign against other touchpoints.
Customer Engagement - Attribution models fed with click data are most valuable. Models like engagement-based attribution or position-based attribution can help attribute credit to touchpoints that generate higher engagement levels.
Campaign or Event Success - Campaign-based attribution or event-based attribution allow marketers to filter conversion data specifically for the corresponding campaign (or event) identifier.
Demographic Targeting - Companies that target audience segments based on demographic data, such as geography, need to be able to filter customer event data for segment-based attribution.
Social Media Influence - Models using multi-touch attribution with social media weighting can help more accurately attribute conversions or engagements specifically to social channels.
Experimentation with attribution models will help you find the most suitable approach for each reporting use case.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Custom Attribution Models
A customized approach to attribution modeling allows hybrid data usage to give the most complete and accurate view of your marketing effectiveness. (Reminder - a hybrid approach combines multiple online and offline data sources, reducing the risk of misleading insights).
With customized approaches, you can get journey clarity at the individual level. For example, you could isolate a new customer to see that their first website visit was 9 months ago, and they were exposed to 37 ads across 5 platforms. You can also use heat map tools to confirm how channels work together in order to predict where prospects will go next, targeting content messaging accordingly.
Here are the 6 steps to create custom attribution reporting that will truly allow you to start optimizing your marketing investments:
Step 1 - Clearly Define Your Goals
Identify the specific objectives that your marketing efforts aim to achieve, such as increasing conversions, driving brand awareness, or improving customer retention. They can be different for each channel or audience segment. As discussed, these goals will guide the rule options for your attribution model.
For each goal, decide what you consider to be a conversion for the journey stages, and whether you will need to include post-view data in addition to post-click data. The type of conversion is important, so you’ll want to identify the conversion events to look at for each specific goal, including the lookback window that will be most relevant.
Attributing marketing activity to revenue is the ultimate aim – this will give you the most powerful information to improve ROI and drive growth.
Step 2 - Identify All Your Data Sources
Start with accurately and consistently collecting all the data you possibly can for all customer interactions across all your active channels and platforms. You’ll need to UTM tag every link that matters, and have tracking pixels installed for all active marketing platforms.
Here’s a quick checklist of data sources:
- Social media (organic)
- Paid media campaigns
- Email marketing
- CRM system and revenue data
- Customer feedback
- Call tracking
- Offline touchpoints
- Third-party data providers
- Self-reported attribution is most valuable when free text only.
- B2B buying decisions usually involve multiple people, so it’s better to track the customer journey at the account level instead by combining individual user data.
Step 3 - Bring in the Necessary Data Capabilities
Marketers need to have a deep understanding of marketing concepts and principles to be able to set up effective attribution models and make data-driven decisions.
You will need access to strong data analysis skills to be able to set up, manage and interpret the data for customized attribution models. Some technical knowledge is required to select, set up and configure attribution software tools, integrating them with existing data sources and systems. Knowledge of statistics is also necessary to understand, interpret and communicate the results of attribution models.
If in-house attribution data specialists are not in budget (or available), It can be more economical to use specialized data agencies to support you.
Step 4 - Chose + Activate Your Data Tools
Available resources are a big part of your consideration here. You’ll need to consider what is within means for your company in terms of ease of use, data integration capabilities and subscription cost.
There are 2 options here:
- Off-the-shelf attribution software
There are several software tools available that can help marketers combine marketing attribution data from different sources.
Tools with in-built machine learning and AI are better suited to help you analyze and weigh the contribution of different touchpoints and channels in your custom hybrid attribution model. This will give you more accurate insights.
Google Analytics (or Campaign Manager 360) are the best known off-the-shelf providers. However, data integration from other sources can be much more of a challenge with GA. Some other off-the-shelf options which offer better data integration capabilities include Northbeam, Wisely, Adobe Analytics and Improvado.
However, the drawbacks are that you’re still handing over power to a platform that uses its own proprietary algorithms, not always allowing complete visibility or flexibility in how rules are applied or data is weighted.
- Build your own custom modeling
Depending on your resources, building custom modeling offers the greatest control and visibility of exactly how data is being weighted and analyzed for each scenario.
If you’re doing this independently, you’ll need a data connector/warehouse solution to import and store your data from across your multichannel data sources. Custom coding and statistical tools can be utilized for advanced capabilities, allowing for layered algorithms and models tailored to any specific need or data set, including fully customized weighting criteria for data sets such as self-reported attribution.
The benefits over any other solution is the most accurate attribution possible, with completely granular insights depending on any criteria you’d like, allowing complete flexibility as variables such as channels, campaigns and customer or market dynamic shifts, and fully aligned for any goal you set.
With customized approaches, you can get journey clarity at the individual level. For example, you could isolate a new customer to see that their first website visit was 9 months ago, and they were exposed to 37 ads across 5 platforms. You can also use heat map tools to confirm how channels work together in order to predict where prospects will go next, targeting content messaging accordingly.
Step 5 - Integrate Your Data Sources
Using your selected attribution tools, start collecting and integrating data from your multichannel sources.
This involves setting up data integrations between the attribution software and the data sources, whether through configuring API connections (recommended) or importing data files.
Automate the most relevant model-based analysis into dashboards, reporting on each of your specific marketing goals whether by revenue, channel, journey stage, customer segment, etc.
Step 6 - Test and Iterate
Continuously test and refine your attribution model, adjusting the weights and methodologies as necessary. Monitor the performance of your model and make data-driven adjustments to improve its accuracy and effectiveness over time.
For example, data capture often relies on UTM tags, which requires links to be clicked before they are reported. This means some early-journey channels that rely on impressions rather than clicks (mainly social media and display advertising) will be underrepresented without qualitative self-reported data and weighting adjustments. Lift tests need to be run to help assess weighting criteria.
To test the influence of unclicked impressions, which is common for early-journey touchpoints and channels, you can use lift tests. Lift tests use test and control groups, only showing adverts to the test group. The difference in conversions between the two groups is known as lift, indicating the channel's real impact, and providing a helpful weighting metric. (Audience sample size and segment characteristics are important for statistically valid comparisons.)
Incrementality is a complementary metric to lift.
The Main Takeaways
Marketing attribution is critical to understand the impact of different touchpoints on customer behavior and conversions.
While various simplistic attribution models exist, building customized data-driven models provides marketers with the greatest control and insight accuracy for their attribution analysis. This is essential to ramp up marketing spend with certainty of generating the required revenue results.
Custom data-driven attribution models offer several advantages over on-platform and Google Analytics reporting:
1. Report Against Goals - Marketers can tailor custom models to their specific business goals, customer behavior patterns, and available data sources. This level of customization enables a more accurate reflection of the complexities of the customer journey and the unique dynamics of the market.
2. Understand Touchpoint Influence Across Whole Journeys - Custom data-driven models empower marketers to attribute credit to touchpoints based on their true contribution to conversions, rather than relying on predefined rules or assumptions. And by integrating multiple (hybrid) data sources that include online and offline interactions, marketers can operate with a significant competitive advantage to drive growth forwards.
3. Allow Flexibility For Refinement - Custom models also provide the flexibility to adapt and refine the attribution process as the business evolves. You can more easily incorporate new data sources, update algorithms, and fine-tune attribution rules to ensure the model remains aligned with changing market dynamics and marketing activities.
Implementing a custom data-driven attribution model requires robust data integration and advanced analytical capabilities. However, the benefits of improved accuracy, granular insights, and informed decision-making make the investment worthwhile, potentially adding millions of dollars of additional annual growth. Particularly where larger advertising budgets are involved.
By leveraging the power of custom attribution modeling, marketers can achieve industry-leading business outcomes.
If you need any support scoping, setting up or managing your attribution analytics, the team at Half Past Nine are here to help. We live and breathe marketing data! Just reach out.
What To Read Next:
- The New Era of Personalization Explained; A Guide to Building Profitable Customer Journeys With Digital Intent Signals
- Marketing Data Visualization To Fully Leverage Your Sources of Truth
- Switching to First-Party Data: It’s Time to Stop ‘Renting’ and Start Owning Customer Data
Imagine a future where paid media actually adds real and welcomed value in people’s lives.
Where the information someone needs appears at exactly the right time to help them find what they want. Or while they’re browsing, learn about something that they weren’t aware could solve a pressing need.
And in the process, brands spend less money putting content in front of people who don’t want or need it, radically driving up the profitability of media spend to deliver maximized revenue growth.
This future is possible, even without third-party cookies. It will be built on a mindset shift, where the rigid parameters of the sales funnel are no longer paramount, and dynamic customer journeys become the north star.
Where as marketers, we can cater to real people who don’t behave in linear ways, with empathetic understanding of what their goals might be and providing real value when it’s wanted.
If your goal is to improve customer engagement and fuel new revenue growth, this article is for you. Let’s explore how to build highly profitable customer journeys using digital intent signals.
Building Personalized Customer Journey Architecture
Our job as marketers is to get the right touchpoints and messaging in the right place to progress our prospects from first introduction to converted and loyal customers.
The basics of the customer journey remain the same under the tried-and-true framework of Awareness > Interest > Consideration > Decision > Retention > Advocacy.
The 3 journey stages for customer acquisition are:
- Early Journey (creating awareness)
- Mid Journey (nurturing interest and consideration)
- Late journey (prompting action)
However, customers can move through buying stages in very different timelines. They may regularly loop back to previous stages, with pauses in-between. In our digital era, journeys can be incredibly fragmented across devices and platforms, and many journeys are completely unique.
The typical customer journey today is actually a 3-dimensional process that can shift in any direction, rather than a straight line from A to B. They can resemble pyramids, diamonds, or even hourglasses, rather than a linear funnel.
A linear sales-funnel philosophy fits with the old approach of the stereotypical sales-led company. It’s not that a sales-led approach isn’t right for any business - but an overemphasis on sales goals can cause counterproductive tactics. For example, immediately jumping to harassing prospects with unwanted phone calls or emails, or running a generic sales ad to the widest audience possible and having to pay above average CPM/CPC due to poor engagement.
That’s why the most successful approach to fueling revenue growth is a dynamic and responsive customer journey framework, rather than a funnel approach.
It allows for the individual to engage with relevant content while on their own unique path, maximizing the number of conversion routes and potentials at any one point in time.
Naturally, the simplicity (or complexity) of a typical journey will vary greatly by the value and importance of the purchase being made.
For ecommerce brands, a customer could leap from awareness to an impulse purchase in the space of 5 minutes in the right circumstances. Or a B2B sale could take many months from initial touchpoint. (Learn more about the B2B customer journey and buying process.)
Regardless of journey timeframes, marketers building any type of customer journey architecture will still need to understand:
- What are the common challenges, needs, goals, and desires of each audience segment?
- What channels and platforms have best reach for the target audience at the specific journey stages?
- What corresponding messages will work best for each journey stage and platform?
- How do cross-channel and platform touchpoints work together to facilitate complete journeys for each segment?
Learning to Read Behavioral “Tells”
How can brands really get to grip with personalization across platforms?
Firstly by recognizing that the old way of building a sales funnel - assuming everyone who enters it will behave the same way - doesn’t reflect reality. We can’t assume that all people in a target market will be relevant leads, use the same platforms, automatically be ready to consider buying after showing interest, or that their consideration process will always follow the same path.
It’s the equivalent of walking up to a colleague in the middle of a phone call and expecting them to answer your question immediately. Or approaching someone perusing the vegan section of a store to offer them a promotional ham sample, then continuing to follow them around after they’ve said “No thank you”.
The need for observation, active listening and empathy applies as much to marketing and sales activity as it does anywhere else in life.
That’s where intent data comes in. Intent data is the marketers means of observing what people are doing, before we “decide” if and how to approach them.
Using intent data to target users will outperform targeting by demographics alone. Users who show intent are typically closer to making a buying decision, making them high-quality leads. By targeting these users, businesses can increase the likelihood of conversions to generate quicker and higher ROI.
And the more digital and mobile customers have become, the more helpful intent data they generate for us. Of course, it still depends on a brand’s ability to manage and analyze the data… But with a solid data strategy, brands can tap into intent data to engineer hockey-stick moments of sustainable growth.
Introducing Digital Intent Signals
Just like in life offline, the key is to observe people’s “body language” within their digital world, building a picture of what might be happening for them in the moment.
We call these digital actions “intent signals”.
Being able to read them allows us to connect with only the most relevant people, using tailored messages that are most likely to resonate in that particular moment.
The majority of buyer journeys start with some type of intent. Although…, your ideal prospects might not always start out directly looking for your type of solution or product.
For example, a person Googles healthy meal recipes. Their goal is to improve their nutrition and lose weight. They aren’t looking for complete nutrition shakes. But if we were to reach the user with content highlighting the quick and easy benefits of complete nutrition shakes to improve health and lose weight, we’re far more likely to capture their attention and create intent to buy.
These types of people with relevant but indirect intent may represent a large portion of your serviceable/addressable market.
Demand is much easier to create with the right message that talks to a pressing goal, at the exact time a person has that goal front of mind. It’s always the goal we need to understand and talk to.
And to be clear, intent signals aren’t KPIs or “vanity metrics”. We use intent signals to deduce intent, and then target or exclude people accordingly. Intent signals should actively inform real-time content targeting when used correctly.
Types of Digital Intent Signals
The intent signals we can gather spans internal and external sources. It crosses organic and paid content, to owned and third-party platforms.
- First-party Data – CRM, website, app and email data (learn more about first-party data)
- Second-party Data – Audience interaction on non-owned channels (E.g. Facebook)
- Third-party Data – Data Companies (E.g. Nielsen)
Some signals can be very overt. Especially at late journey stages, such as filling out a contact form or adding an item to the basket. Whereas other signals are less obvious, like running a Google search to learn about a related topic, or following a competitor’s social media account.
The type of intent signal can give you clues about a person's journey stage to build real-time customer segments. It’s helpful to identify which intent signals feature most prominently at each stage of your brand’s customer journey paths.
Split targeted signals up according to the campaign goals they fit with, whether that's demand capture (late journey) or demand creation (early journey) campaign goals.
For example, if a website visitor is behaving like a user that typically converts after another couple of weeks, you can target them with the right tone of nurturing content accordingly. But if you were targeting someone showing an interest in a competitor that hadn’t been included in your campaigns previously, you could show them content that introduces your brand with the comparative benefits of your brand/product/solution over the competitors.
Here are the most common intent signals that can be tracked:
- Reading or viewing content related to specific products or services.
- Downloading or sharing content.
- Commenting on or liking blog posts or social media content.
- Subscribing to a blog, newsletter, or YouTube channel.
- Searching relevant keywords.
- Searching for reviews or comparisons related to a product or service.
- Searching for the brand name or specific products.
Social Media Engagement:
- Following or liking a brand's social media pages.
- Engaging with posts by liking, commenting, or sharing.
- Mentioning the brand in posts or comments.
- Clicking on social media ads or sponsored content
- Clicking on digital ads.
- Video ads watch time.
- Clicking on retargeting ads
- Registering for webinars or online events.
- Participating in trade shows or conferences.
- Engaging in live Q&A sessions or forums.
- Traffic source
- Visiting a website multiple times (yours or competitors).
- Spending a significant amount of time on the site or on specific pages.
- Checking product pages or service descriptions.
- Downloading content such as ebooks, whitepapers, or product brochures.
- Returning to the website after a period of inactivity.
- Using online tools, calculators, or configurators.
- Completing quizzes or self-assessments.
- App downloads.
- App usage patterns and content engagement.
- Search queries.
- Abandoned carts.
- Registration or subscription.
- User reviews and ratings.
- Adding items to a shopping cart or wishlist.
- Repeatedly viewing a specific product or service.
- Starting but not completing a purchase process.
- Checking the availability or location of a product.
- Opening marketing emails.
- Clicking on email links.
- Responding to surveys or filling out forms.
- Forwarding emails.
Customer Support Interaction:
- Contacting sales.
- Using live chat or chatbots.
- Requesting a demo, quote, or more information.
How to Use Digital Intent Signals to Inform Customer Journey Architecture
The process for incorporating intent signals into real-time, personalized media targeting requires the following steps:
Data Collection and Analysis
The first step is to collect data on your audience’s behavior across your channels, including offline touchpoints where possible.
This data needs to be analyzed to identify patterns and understand what specific actions might indicate a user's intent to purchase or engage further. What are the main actions taken within journeys, and what conversion goals can help you qualify people at each stage?
Data tools such as connectors and warehouses will help you merge data from multichannel sources for more holistic understanding and analytical power, whether historical or predictive.
A note here on data collection. User tracking and targeting across multiple advertising platforms can be achieved through more than one method. This means that what a user does on one platform can be used to target them appropriately with relevant content on another platform via:
- First-party Data - Advertisers can import their customer segments into an advertising platform using Customer Match targeting. This matches identifying information that customers have shared with the advertiser, such as an email address, to target specific ads to those customers, and also other people that behave like them (look-alike audiences). This allows advertisers to narrow in on the highest intent/value customers.
- Cross-device Targeting - Also known as people-based marketing, this approach uses Device IDs or User IDs to anonymize user data while still allowing people to be targeted individually (without cookies), so advertisers can track and target a user across multiple devices. Pixels are used for this type of targeting.
A combination of these data collection methods will give brands the most precise targeting power and best results.
Once you've identified key intent signals and conversion goals, you can segment your audience based on their behavior.
For instance, users who have abandoned their shopping carts might be in one segment, while users who have spent a significant amount of time on product pages might be in another.
Each segment will have different needs and will be at different stages of the customer journey.
Create personalized paid and organic content for each segment, addressing their specific goals or challenges, guiding them towards the next step in their journey with defined conversion goals for qualifying. Content that matches keywords and the audience’s language directly performs best.
Leverage Media Technology + Automation Tools
There are a number of built in AI and automation tools within the bigger ad platforms for marketers to take advantage of.
Setting campaign goals and conversion goals allow platforms like Google and Meta to automatically optimize targeting to achieve them. Dynamic ads can use AI and machine learning to improve their targeting and optimize ad copy tailored exactly to user search terms. And machine learning already drives real-time programmatic buying, where advertising inventory is bought and sold via an instantaneous auction.
There are various independent solutions that can be used for paid media targeting, such Blueshift and 6sense, including intent data for account-based marketing (ABM) needs.
Testing and Optimization
It's important to continually split test and optimize your campaign creatives and targeting based on performance.
Look at which intent signals are most predictive of conversion, and which types of content are most effective for each segment. Use this information to refine your targeting and personalization strategies. How you use attribution modeling is also a crucial part of your media optimization process.
Recognizing and leveraging customer intent signals in the creation of personalized customer journeys is not just a valuable strategy - it's a business imperative for advertisers seeking to drive revenue growth.
As the advertising landscape becomes increasingly digital and competitive, the brands that will rise to the top are those that truly understand their customers, meeting them where they are and providing what they need at every stage of the journey. By harnessing the power of customer intent signals, marketers can enhance customer experiences, build stronger relationships, and ultimately, achieve sustainable revenue growth.
This shift towards a more customer-centric approach rooted in data insights is not just the future of advertising; it is the present.
If your team needs support gathering, analyzing and incorporating intent signal data into your media strategy, Half Past Nine would love nothing more than to help you realize their transformative power on your bottom line. It’s what we get out of bed for! Just get in touch.
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