A colleague and I were recently invited to speak at a B2B advertising conference on the best way to develop an online measurement strategy. I’m very interested in this topic, so I jumped at the chance.
As we discussed what exactly we want to accomplish in this upcoming workshop, one central theme became increasingly evident. One of the largest challenges companies are facing today is not developing online measurement strategies but developing strategies that take into account on- and offline activity. Only by combining the results of interactions through each point of contact with potential customers can companies assess how successful they’ve been in developing new relationships or strengthening existing ones.
This approach to integrated marketing is certainly not new, and I don’t pretend to be unearthing some long-forgotten secret of effective marketing. Companies have long used multiple channels to advertise to audience segments. However, the challenge is in understanding the impact of each channel-specific campaign on the overall value of the relationship. A tricky proposition, no matter how you slice it.
A Simple Approach to Integrating Efforts?
Think of B2B advertising efforts (which are largely messaging oriented) as support for your sales and marketing efforts (which should be highly interaction oriented).
While B2B advertising initiatives may not be using the online channel as extensively as their B2C counterparts, the online channel is a, if not the, primary information source for many decision-makers. Consequently, it is by developing compelling and targeted messaging focused on assisting these decision-makers in their role that you can come to understand the success of the interaction, not just the message.
Integrating these efforts in a manner that allows you to understand their interdependency is still a challenge, though, isn’t it? Well, it’s a difficult problem, and quick and easy solutions are just not available. This one is going to require some elbow grease.
A Few First Steps
Determine who you’re communicating with offline, where your ability to evaluate performance is limited, through traditional means. Above all else, it should be your aim to craft the opportunity for a discrete interaction with a prospect. That first interaction will allow you to recognize an individual and actually provide him or her with a unique identifier that will persist throughout his or her entire relationship with you. In some cases, this will even be a cookie.
This identifier allows the relationship to be evaluated not just from an advertising, sales, and marketing perspective but from a customer service and operations perspective as well. The goal of developing truly integrated efforts is simply not possible without a piece of information to tie everything together. Focus on establishing that, and a major hurdle can be overcome. That identifier should then be on every piece of targeted advertising utilized and used to track every response received.
Now comes the hard part. Two sets of data about a set of similar people are always a hassle to work with. Leverage every database marketing lesson you ever learned to correlate the identifier you have developed with individuals you are targeting as potential customers. You won’t make a perfect fit, but what you do have will be more valuable than what you started with.
What Is Success, Anyway?
Advertising initiatives should be thought of or evaluated not as discrete messaging opportunities but rather as part of an overall marketing strategy. The smaller and more focused audiences in B2B markets allow us to better understand overall relationships with key players. Success should be judged based on your ability to drive sales, increase market share, reduce per-customer cost, positively affect brand perception, and maintain a level of service that provides for competitive advantage — all things that can be quantified.
In a few paragraphs, it is certainly not plausible to think that your advertising and marketing challenges can even be summarized, least of all solved. I encourage you to begin by identifying customers and determining how you can consistently track the relationships you have with them throughout the entire enterprise. In my next column, I’ll take a look at a few of tools that can help you do just that.
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