Creating a “Road Map” for Closed-Loop Reporting
Sep 8, 2015
At the beginning of every journey, you start with a map. Without a map, you aren’t really traveling somewhere, so much as wandering towards (you hope) your destination. Your journey towards better analytics also starts with a map. Before you start purchasing software licenses, hiring administrators, and making a general mess of things, start with a road map to guide your organization towards a future of data-driven decision-making.
Imagine your journey to closed-loop reporting in three stages. Like a road trip, you can’t get to any stage without passing through the stage that preceded it, and skipping a stage will render your trip incomplete.
Getting Started – Audience Reporting
The first stage of your journey is “audience reporting” – the broadest level of reporting that you can do on visitors to your digital assets. Audience reporting is designed to gauge the popularity of your content, build a rough demographic profile of the people that are visiting your website, and determine which sources of traffic are the most valuable for your ultimate goals. Most people think of their audience reporting as being Google Analytics, although there are certainly other platforms like Adobe Omniture that can be used to pull similar reports.
In this stage of reporting, you are treating your entire audience as a faceless whole. You don’t yet have the ability to separate out individual users from the masses, since your audience hasn’t chosen to give you that information yet. Some of the insights that you might glean include the relative traffic to each of your web pages, whether some of your web pages are more commonly landed on than others, and what search terms people are using to reach your website.
Unfortunately, many companies choose to end their journey to analytics here. They set up Google Analytics, maybe throw in some event tracking, and then decide that the trip is over. They can tell roughly how many people visited each page, and imply the membership/popularity of different marketing campaigns, but how do they know where the actual MONEY is coming from? For companies that have long sales processes, like B2B companies, it could be months after a website visit that a related purchase is made. So Google Analytics can’t tell you whether a webinar visitor was more valuable than a blog visitor in terms of overall revenue generated. For that, you have to take another step on the journey.
The Marketing Funnel – Marketing Analytics
At some point, a portion of your online visitors will engage with your company in a way that allows you to start tracking them as unique individuals. They might fill out a form to register for a webinar, or sign up for a newsletter. Either way, they are providing you something of value (their contact information) in exchange for the content that you offer. This is one of the most important steps in the analytics journey because it allows you to build a long-term activity history surrounding these individuals.
Say, for example, that someone downloads a whitepaper off of your website. You know their name, their company, and their job title, and you can track their continued activity on your website because of a cookie that your marketing automation system placed on their browser. Over time, this person participates in many other marketing activities on your website. They download more content, they watch some webinars, and you start to build a picture of the type of products that they might be interested in. Since you have the activity history in a persistent database, you can use that history to automatically generate a buyer profile and send the person relevant content, an email nurture program, or even to determine what advertisements and banners they see on other sites around the web.
Marketing analytics from a comprehensive marketing automation platform like Marketo allow marketers to tell their superiors which programs were actually most successful at bringing in qualified traffic and at guiding that traffic along through the buying journey until they were ready to be passed to sales. This is a critical step of measurement for marketing because it represents an enormous leap in sophistication from using vague analytics terms (clicks, hits, etc.) that are too disconnected from the business reality of lead generation and sales.
The Sales Funnel – Sales Analytics
The last stop in the journey is the CRM system, or the analytics system that the sales team uses to define the dollar value “brought in” by each account that the company worked. For marketers, this is a valuable opportunity to glean data that assigns ROI figures to marketing campaigns, and that gives the marketing team a pipeline figure that they can claim as the “result” of their marketing efforts.
Ultimately, there are two types of pipeline figures that marketers are interested in. First, marketers want to know how much (in dollars) of a company’s bottom line is sourced through marketing, including which marketing-sourced leads ended up becoming closed revenue, and what programs specifically were responsible for those leads entering the system. Sometimes this revenue is split between multiple marketing programs – for example, if two different leads were vital decision makers on a particular account’s opportunity. It may turn out that the programs that initially appeared to be most successful in the Audience phase of the analytics actually had poor ROI and a low percentage of leads that ultimately became customers.
Next, a marketer also wants to demonstrate marketing-influenced revenue. This is a figure that takes into account all the “background” touches that a particular lead has with marketing campaigns during the entire time that they are sitting in the database. For example, after being contacted by the sales department, an important lead might still attend webinars, download marketing content, and generally browse the website, all influencing their ultimate decision to become a customer. Good sales analytics will break down the influence that each campaign had on a deal by showing how different leads within that deal interacted with marketing collateral and participated in campaigns. This gives marketing departments the ability to assign a value to programs that aren’t explicitly designed for lead generating, like nurture campaign emails.
Closed-loop reporting starts looking a lot more manageable once you break it into three sections. While these three sections all work together to create the overall reporting picture, they can be implemented in stages as you continue to develop your organization’s analytical capabilities.
In my experience, marketing automation is the part of the closed-loop reporting puzzle that companies are usually missing. Marketing automation ties the dollar signs in the sales reports with the visitors that interact with marketing campaigns – and it’s a valuable tool in the arsenal of a modern marketer.
Learn more about how to get started with marketing automation in this on-demand webinar.