forrester_funnelNo one makes a million dollar decision based on one white paper, one email or one Google search.

The buying process may take 12 to 18 months. 20 different people may be involved in the decision. Peers, consultants and analysts will provide their input.

It is called a complex sale for a reason, but B2B marketers keep trying to fit it into a simplistic measurement framework: where did we get that lead?

The problem doesn’t begin with marketing though. In most B2B organizations, Salesforce.com or a similar solution is the system of record. If the results of your campaign aren’t visible in Salesforce, the campaign wasn’t successful.

As a results, B2B acquisition marketing often devolves into one of two places:

  1. Just getting a lead (really just some contact details, but I digress) into the marketing and sales machine. Beyond cold, these leads may frozen solid. But if your program is the one that put them in the system, your program gets the credit if they become a qualified lead in the future.
  2. Sweeping up late stage contacts. Tactics like buying branded search terms or running retargeting campaigns are particularly cost-effective on paper because only target people who have already shown a level of interest or familiarity with your solution. In short, they get the benefit of much of the work your other marketing efforts did.

Ultimately most B2B marketers focused on lead generation come to the conclusion that banners don’t drive leads, print advertising is ineffective or telemarketing still reigns supreme. The conclusions are true because of the system marketers are working within.

The solution isn’t simple. Yes, there are ways to more effectively measure the impact of marketing on your business, solutions that many mid-sized B2B marketers have access too.

  1. Measure the impact of your overall marketing mix using sophisticated statistical models.
  2. Assess the change in perception of your brand or product as well as the overall intent to purchase using attitudinal research (aka brand studies).
  3. Develop an attribution approach that assigns credit for leads to marketing they likely saw (for instance, using cookie data to see if they potentially saw a banner, known as viewthrough).

But your organization that is accustomed to measuring marketing by the value it delivers (in qualified leads or ultimate sales) versus the investment you made. Is your entire organization, not just the marketing department, ready to change how you measure marketing?

Usually, the near term answer is no. Changing how marketing is measured is a significant change and is, at its heart, a change management issue. For example, these are just a few of the areas it will impact:

  1. Business stakeholders throughout the organization (from existing marketing partners to sales to the executive team) will need to understand the new measurement.
  2. New marketing technology or service investment will need to be made, likely increasing the infrastructure cost of marketing.
  3. All existing marketing performance will need to be updated, triggering an extended period of testing in order to determine the most effective tactics based on the new measurement.

It is a complex sale, but most B2B companies will continue to use their simple measurement.

Your Turn

Maybe (hopefully) I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@wittlake) if you see most B2B organizations moving away from Salesforce (or similar) lead source as the primary measurement of their lead generation campaigns.

The image is Forrester’s reimagined sales funnel