Our B2B marketing analytics models tell us that over the past 18 months, the average number of candidates nurtured through our content marketing programmes has shot up by over 25%. Traffic on the websites we manage and monitor is up and landing page conversions are delivering better qualified leads than ever.
This is all great news: clients are happier and their sales teams are selling more stuff. Trouble is – we’re not sure we’re actually doing anything different.
Sure, we’re in the B2B content marketing game so we’re analysing content and web stats all the time to refine user journeys and make performance enhancements. But the truth is, everything just seems to be working better right now. Companies using our B2B content marketing and analytics services say their marketing has really started to deliver since they brought us in, and salespeople who have never rated marketing’s ability to deliver seriously good prospects are following up on the leads we pass over to them and becoming our best evangelists. So how come sales and marketing people got so effective all of a sudden?
It’s the economy stupid?
We’d love to take all the responsibility for the improved sales across our client base, but the truth is, for most of us in business in the UK, it’s the economic upturn that’s been driving more sales. Brits started to get really positive about the economy over the summer. The tipping point was around mid August when news that Britain’s economic growth had at last surpassed its (2008) pre-crash peak really did start to entrench confidence.
Don’t get us wrong: marketing in an economy that’s on the up is a lot more fun than marketing in a downturn, but it does highlight the problem of measurement. How do we really know our sales and marketing is improving when the economy is getting better anyway?
Here’s the science bit
Combining facts with judgment to create “proof” is what B2B marketers do. When we’re under pressure to demonstrate ROI for the creative stuff we cook up, no one should be surprised when we turn to slick models like MPM (Marketing Performance Measurement and management) or use analysis approaches like PEST to dazzle the board. Watching marketers run through marketing analytics models like these can be a little like watching Jennifer Anniston talk science during a Loreal shampoo commercial: The presentation is fantastic but the audience rarely cares enough about the topic to ask really difficult questions.
Don’t let B2B marketers get away with it
Let’s face it: marketing directors aren’t any different to anyone else in the workplace. From the CEO to the boys in the mailroom everyone’s under pressure to prove that the stuff they do for the company is the stuff that’s delivering all the difference. “Success” said John Kennedy, “has a thousand fathers. Failure is an orphan” (Kennedy wasn’t in the B2B marketing game so he didn’t actually say this. But what he did say was close enough – especially when you’re presenting to an audience that doesn’t care enough about your topic to ask really difficult questions).
But what if the audience does care enough? What if they did ask more difficult questions? The vast majority of measurement models available to B2B marketers are as robust as any used across the business ecosystem – so long as they are used rigorously.
What’s the point of PEST
The whole point of PEST analysis is to factor micro-economic influencers (like an economic upturn) into the measurement process. (A PEST analysis studies the external Political, Economic, Social and Technology factors most likely to impact any measurement process).
At best, many B2B marketers might mention PEST analysis to kick off a snazzy presentation, but the fact that external factors may have a positive influence is usually reluctantly communicated with clinical speed. In the same way that financial ads tell us our investment might go up or down, the audience is often forewarned but rarely reminded. Asking difficult questions makes this form of statistical hoodwinking difficult.
This blog starts off with a claim that the content marketing programmes we create for our clients are delivering 25% more leads than they did 18 months ago, but it’s incredibly naive to think that our programmes are actually 25% better than they were 18 months ago.
Conversions are up: because more people buy in an economy that’s growing; because more audience is turning to the social media platforms that spread our content every day; because more buyers are turning to the internet to research and compare propositions; because marketing automation is improving; and because Google’s search algorithm makes finding the right content easier every time it’s revised. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d say our programs are better because we understand these external factors and quickly learn to leverage them to make the marketing we do deliver more. If we’re honest with our customers, we’d say they should ask more difficult questions more often.