Marketing has a clear mandate to prove ROI; we’ve heard this time and time again. Similarly, we’re now hearing the mantra “closing the loop” as the main way to validate our marketing spend and optimize it for future campaigns. Far too much gets written on the “Why,” yet the “How” is rarely addressed.
Closed-loop marketing typically refers to marketers’ ability to track a buyer all the way through their journey, from original lead to closed customer (all of your leads become customers, right?), and then attribute sales revenue back to the originating data sources, channels, creative assets, tactics, etc. However, in my experience, different organizations have different business models, strategies, agreements between marketing and sales for lead handoff, etc. — all of which influence the most effective points to initiate a closed loop.
Marketing orgs should in fact initiate several loops at different points along the buyer’s journey. Timing is key. If the loop is closed too soon, it results in a dearth of relevant insight; too late, and the data will likely be inactionable (this is particularly true in B2B where sales cycles can last over a year). Again, timing is everything.
This closed loop is too soon
Movement from MA to CRM
This point of transition could work nicely as long as you have a very detailed nurture track set up within your marketing automation (MA) system, requiring specific interaction by the customer prior to passing the lead to your CRM (more on that in a minute).
However, more often than not, “sales wants leads.” So what does that mean? It means that we often see an extremely high percentage of leads moving straight into the CRM, with marketing automation simply performing minor data validation tasks before CRM importation. If such a high percentage passes through this stage, then the analytics are useless. We won’t be able to gain useful data on lead-source and tactical performance if almost all leads make it through this step.
Lead Score is > X
Have you seen B2B lead filters lately? Before I left my last job at a large B2B publisher, I managed a campaign request for 100 leads targeting US-only CEOs in two specified industries — they may as well have been targeting 5’2” Peruvian-born NBA players. The point is that targeting requests are getting extremely specific, which means that those leads you do acquire will almost always arrive in your MA system at or above previously set lead score targets. With that in mind, the same principle we discussed above comes into play. If too many leads pass the test, the data is irrelevant.
This closed loop is too late
Ok, everyone calm down and stop yelling at me, hear me out first. Yes, we want to close the loop all the way to the sale. That is, after all, how we ultimately show marketing’s impact on the bottom line.
However, many B2B sales cycles are incredibly long — we’re talking one year plus. In today’s agile marketing world, this is just too long to do anything with the data. We’re renewing, extending and adjusting budgets for quarters upon quarters or even entire fiscal years before learning that zero final sales resulted from Publisher A’s leads or that our search marketing efforts are generating the highest percentage of purchases.
That information is important to know, but we need to be gathering other data along the way that can be attributed back to lead source for quicker optimization. It’s the difference between forcing a single pitcher to throw an entire nine innings and allowing for numerous bullpen substitutions along the way. Closing those shorter loops is what can help us maximize our spend and increase the percentage of leads that ultimately become sales.
This closed loop is just right
Lead status change
The CRM usually allows for a variable status to be assigned to each lead. Various actions performed either by the sales pro or the prospect themselves elicit an adjustment to that status. These changes are a great time to close the loop. For example, when a prospect is successfully engaged by a rep and perhaps a demo is scheduled, this could change their status from “lead” to “opportunity.” Tracking a change of that nature back to each lead’s source is a very useful metric. While the close of that sale may take another year, in the interim we can determine higher value tactics/sources by measuring the percentage that advance from “prospect” to “lead,” “lead” to “opportunity,” etc.
As I alluded to earlier, using the point of transmission from MA to CRM as a loop-closing point can be of little value if no actual nurturing occurs. However, if leads go through a robust nurturing process before CRM importation, then those nurturing triggers can be an ideal time to close the loop.
Actions such as downloading a second white paper or joining a webinar signal further movement down the funnel. This is typically a good time to tie that lead back to the source or specific tactic (creative, channel, day-parting, etc.). Those instances indicate genuine interest and usually occur early enough in the buyer’s journey to optimize campaigns quickly. Understanding which creative assets and data sources are generating the highest converting leads is essential to optimization.
Hopefully, this post provides a basic framework for setting up your closed-loop reporting process. Make sure the data feedback is based on an actionable metric and accessible early enough in the buyer’s journey to maximize the value of required campaign tweaks. Analyzing lead sources and tactics according to close rates is obviously important, but having other checkpoints along the way provides even greater value due to the in-game changes they allow you to make. Timely feedback at several points along the buyer’s journey is what will help maximize the ROI on your current marketing budget and earn an increase for next year’s!