Measuring marketing’s contribution to revenue should be a function of customer acquisition and installed base growth—but usually isn’t, says a new report.

Business-to-business marketers are feeling the heat these days to provide metrics that justify their activities and budgets. They aren’t very good at it, however, and they know it’s time to change course, Forrester Research Inc. says in a new report.

B2B marketers are aware of the shortfall in their ability to measure: 77% of global B2B marketing decision makers say that lacking the ability to measure results is one of their top marketing concerns, up from 58% in 2016. The data comes from the Forrester Data Global Business Technographics Marketing survey, which Forrester conducted in June and July.

Marketers need to measure a lot of things to understand what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, many get stuck measuring activity, not value.
Allison Snow, senior B2B marketing analyst
Forrester Research

The consequences can be far-reaching, writes Forrester’s Allison Snow, senior B2B marketing analyst and principal author of a report that draws on the Technographics survey, among other Forrester surveys and resources. “When B2B marketing execs can’t definitively quantify what their company gets in exchange for the money it spends on in-person events, sponsorships, advertising and sales support, CFOs see marketing as a cost center, sales execs see it as a resource diversion, and CEOs don’t consider it a strategic part of the management team,” Snow writes in the November report Metrics That Matter For B2B Marketers.

Marketers need to measure a lot of things to understand what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, many get stuck measuring activity, not value, Snow writes. One tendency among B2B marketers is to rely on quantity over quality through such measures as inbound traffic volume, the number of attendees at events and number of social media followers, to benchmark the results of their marketing activities.

Snow notes, for example, that 52% of global B2B marketing decision makers whose companies target mainly businesses that sell to consumers use marketing-qualified leads to assess lead performance in their business—the most of any metric. “While these metrics can make marketing look good, lead conversion rates (managed routinely to evaluate marketing health by 36% of B2B marketing decision makers at B2B-focused firms), customer retention (35%), and customer experience metrics (7%) better prioritize programs that result in strong sales opportunities among both prospects and current customers,” she writes.

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To improve measurable outcomes, B2B marketers can take advantage of new methods of monitoring and analyzing marketing performance, Forrester says.

The report provides examples of what top B2B marketers do to measure their activities:

Connect data across programs and platforms. One desired outcome is to quantify the financial contribution of each marketing program and add the ability to model future changes that can improve performance. “To get there, work toward creating a single view of customer interactions throughout their lifetime; this is essential to understanding cross-channel behaviors, the impact of campaigns on creating audience or demand, and the relationship of individual decision makers to the account as a whole,” Snow writes.

Deploy dashboards that visualize facts and follow the buyer’s journey. Numbers and data are the basis for marketing measurement, “but marketers must work to interpret what they reveal about campaign performance and how buyers want to buy,” Snow writes. “Rather than rely on static reports that become dated quickly, move marketing metrics into secure dashboards that operate in near real time while keeping pace with changing buyer interactions and purchase intentions.”

The Technographics survey included 1,138 respondents in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States from companies with 500 or more employees except for Brazilian respondents, which have 100 or more employees. Snow’s report also draws on Forrester’s Q1 2017 International B2B Marketing Panel Online survey. That survey was conducted in January and February 2017 and produced 270 completed surveys from B2B companies. The largest group of respondents was made up of individuals who work in business software (35%).

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