Key B2B Content Marketing KPIs to Monitor Performance
In the end, your B2B content marketing KPI is one metric: increasing revenues at an acceptable cost. So your focus needs to be on the conversion of people from unknow audiences to loyal customers. In between these two extremes, there is a broad spectrum of stages or steps measured by a range of B2B marketing KPIs – from likes to subscriptions, followers, leads and prospects.
So to measure the performance of your content marketing efforts, key performance indicators (KPIs) are important. By monitoring and interpreting B2B content marketing KPIs, decisions can be made to improve performance, such as optimizing titles and user interfaces, aligning better with your target audience, optimizing per device and making better use of visuals.
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When to set B2B Content Marketing KPIs
As B2B content marketer it’s important to define B2B marketing KPIs before you start spending serious media budgets during the campaign. You can also set a range (with a for instance a ‘minimal acceptable’ and a ‘ultimate target’ score) for your KPIs. Focus on some media experiments first, and then set final KPIs. But you need a way of monitoring and measuring your success, as this will be part of the evaluation a continuation of the relationship. Evaluate your B2B content marketing campaign performance in set time intervals. Depending of the type of campaign, you can evaluate per week, per month or per quarter and discuss improvements, success and failures with you customers. This will improve your campaign, expectations and ultimately your relationship.
B2B Content Marketing objectives versus KPIs
The success of an online marketing initiative can be measured in many ways: from visitors to page views, from social media engagement to number of qualified leads. The end objective is always to support the company’s revenues and b2b marketing strategy. So ideally, the way in which content marketing contributes to the company’s strategic goals should be measured. Revenue and profit goals are the most obvious parameters for measuring a company’s success. However, strategic objectives can also include the following:
- brand engagement
- brand recognition
- thought leadership
Different types of conversion can be examined depending on the objectives. The most frequent types of conversions, and thus B2B content marketing KPIs, are:
- Clicks, views and visits – The number of page views and (unique) visitors are the most obvious KPIs to monitoring in online marketing. Furthermore, opens and click-through ratios are also important when it comes to email marketing.
- Likes, fans and followers – The effectiveness of a campaign on social media is often viewed in terms of the acquisition of likes and followers. This exposure only carries limited value in social media as it says little about the interaction. So, more and more attention is paid to engagement ratios as KPI to follow.
- Engagement ratios – Engagement ratios give an indication of the involvement of fans and followers. Simple examples of engagement ratios for Facebook and Twitter are displayed in the figure below. By periodically calculating the engagement ratios (say, on a weekly basis), it becomes apparent whether engagement is rising or falling.
- Subscribers – The first and most straightforward step in developing the relationship from unknown profile to known profile is a subscription to a newsletter, social media account, an app or an RSS feed.
- Response and leads – Often, the conversion in an online campaign is measured by response. Response should not be confused with leads. Response is the reaction to a campaign like when a visitor downloads or requests something or registers to take part in a webinar. Leads are the profiles that fulfill certain criteria, indicating their relevance as potential customers. These criteria are company-specific and can be based on:
- organization size
- site behavior
- investment plans
- Order – The customer relationship is sealed at the moment an order is placed. It’s an important conversion moment but not the final stop.
- Promoter – When a customer recommends the service or products of the organization, a significant measure of loyalty has been achieved. For this reason, organizations are increasingly using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a KPI.
- Churn – Beside positive conversion, you also have negative conversion. Customers who cancel their subscription to the service go from customer to market. This negative conversion is also referred to as churn (the percentage of customers that stop engaging with you). Churn is relevant B2B marketing KPI as it focuses on existing customers to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.
The leaking funnel
To manage the conversion process from market to customer, a tool known as the sales funnel is often used. This is the funnel of potential customers that have been identified within the sales process. The following classifications are used:
- Market: the entire market in which the organization operates
- Suspects: the potential customers within the target market who fulfill numerous specific criteria
- Leads: potential customers that have indicated that they could be interested in the products and services of the organization
- Prospects: potential customers that have shown a serious interest in the products and services of the organization
- Customers: customers with whom there is an established customer-provider relationship
With each step in the conversion process, the likelihood that a potential customer becomes an actual customer increases. More and more customers, though, drop out of the sales process, which is called leakage. Specifically, this leakage could be because the customer:
- has no need for the service or product
- doesn’t seek contact with the organization
- opts for a different provider or solution
When there is a good overview of the percentages of this leakage, sales management can better adjust the sales process through KPIs. For example, when it’s known that 50% of prospects opt for something else or 50% of qualified leads do not seek any serious form of contact, a better estimate can be made concerning the number of quality leads required to generate a sale. The organization can take steps to improve these conversion ratios, and content marketing can play a role in this. Depending on the specific situation, sub qualifications can be added to the sales funnel management.
The sales funnel is mirrored as soon as the sale takes place. Conversion takes place with existing customers: positive conversion with repeat business (another sale) or additional services and negative conversion when the customer breaks the customer-provider relationship. Satisfied customers can be converted to fans. The ultimate scenario is that they promote the organization and recommend products and services actively.
- Repeat: the number of customer that repeat buy
- Churn: the number of customers that cut ties
- Fans: the number of customers that reach a particular level of high customer satisfaction
Looking at lead management KPIs
There’s often a long way to get from incoming responses from content marketing initiatives to a customer. Since content marketing uses the buyer journey of the customer, the first contact (or conversion) can happen at an early stage of the buying process. When a suspect downloads a trend report, it can be a signal that in the coming year there will be a demand for certain products or services. At this early stage of the buying process, it can still take a long time before there is any need for a quote or contact with an account manager. The follow-up on content marketing leads needs to take into consideration the lead status.
In this early stage of discovery, the potential customer can still be busy trying to figure out their actual need in the situation. Content that helps them along in this process is relevant. A solid content B2B marketing program can help the potential customer via a newsletter, white paper or webinar. Helping potential clients, without requiring them to currently buy, is also known as lead nurturing.
The theory above is hard to manage in the real world. The trend report that you planned to help business decision-makers in the discovery stage could be requested by a technical decision-maker in the consideration phase. Or organizations that are regarded as prospects can suddenly delay the procedure or even call the whole thing off. The reverse can also happen in which unfamiliar parties suddenly convert to hot prospects: They had sought out information elsewhere but want to see what alternatives there are and display an actual need for a service or a product. In short, what appears to be a well-structured view into your sales pipeline one minute can be completely outdated the next. Lead management is a dynamic process in which actual insight into the lead status of potential customers is essential.
Lead scoring and account scoring as KPI
There are certain lead scoring techniques to gain valuable insight into the lead status. Lead scoring is a method that rates potential customers against a sliding scale in which the value of the lead for the organization increases. Depending on this lead score, subsequent steps can be determined within the commercial process. If the score is low, then a program of lead nurturing can be implemented and the lead can be invited to an event or a webinar. If the score is high, then the sales team can be called upon. So measuring the amount of leads with a certain leads lead scores can be a great B2B marketing KPI.
The best techniques for lead scoring make use of explicit, as well as implicit, information. Explicit scores are based on information about the lead, such as the size of the organization, the industry or role. Implicit scores are based on the behavior of the lead, such as the websites they visit, the emails they open and the white paper they download. A new lead score is based on activities of the leads on social media, which is known as the social score.
Many investments involve more than one decision-maker within one organization: the decision-making unit. It is relevant to make known the activities of individual leads from the same organization surrounding the same topics. When a marketing manager, for example, downloads a white paper about the integration of email marketing and CRM, and the IT manager in the same organization downloads an article about CRM as a service, this can indicate that a CRM project is taking place with the company. Account scoring brings all these signals at an organization together in the account score.
The gap between marketing and sales
In the funnel management process, somewhere between generating a lead and a successful sales meeting, the lead passes from the marketing team to the sales division. To determine the timing, a division can be made between KPIs: marketing qualified leads and sales-qualified leads.
- Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) – These are leads with a low account score because they are in an early phase of the buying process. This pool of leads lends itself to lead-nurturing initiatives. It is the marketer’s primary responsibility to develop these leads further. When the lead or account score reaches a certain point, they are taken over by sales.
- Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) – When there is an actual need, the function is relevant and the lead fulfills the necessary criteria, it is a case of a sales-qualified lead. This is the moment the lead is passed to the sales department.
The coordination between marketing and sales is crucial for good conversion. It should be clear to everybody when a lead is passed on from marketing to sales. Besides that, the follow-up by the sales division needs to be in place and tightly managed. Leads can cool off quickly and evaporate.
B2B Content Marketing KPIs for your campaigns
In summary, the choice in B2B content marketing KPIs depends on the content marketing objectives of your company. Additionally, the KPIs differ with each phase in the buyer journey. The table below gives an overview of the most common occurrences.
Measuring ROI in the (too) short term within the B2B marketing process is not always sensible as the following aspects need to be taken into consideration:
- B2B marketing activities are aimed at the entire buyer journey. When marketing leads are generated at an early stage in the buyer journey, resulting in relatively little sales-qualified leads, the turnover cannot yet be measured. The period for measuring turnover should be aligned with the buyer journey.
- When setting up B2B marketing, there will be a limited amount of content in the start-up phase. In subsequent periods, previously created content can be capitalized upon, which has a positive effect on the ROI.
Finally, it should be taken into account that turnover cannot always be assigned to one channel. A B2B marketing lead could have converted to a customer by recommendation from another customer or a customer that enters upon recommendation could have regularly read a particular blog without this fact being included in the methods for measuring. The method and the timing of measurement are somewhat arbitrary if no foolproof systems and definitions are used for measurement purposes.
Based on the B2B content marketing KPIs you set, you can for instance plan a quarterly review with your team. Prepare the metrics of your performance, and discuss them. This is especially important when results are disappointing. It provides the opportunity to discuss potential mismatches in content, media or assumptions and introduce alternative actions or radical changes when needed. When its clear early on that something is not working well in your campaign, have the courage to hit the break early and plan a review asap. Nobody will be happy spending more money than needed on something that’s not working.