Everyone (including me) seems to be talking about tying your marketing performance to measurable business goals these days. And no wonder—with the plethora of available vehicles and channels out there, it’s more important than ever to choose those that work. Yet most marketers still rely on impressions, click-throughs, follower counts and the like because it’s not easy to measure the impact of your marketing initiatives—even with all the analytics available.

Why is measuring B2B marketing initiatives so hard?

It’s difficult to measure the impact of B2B marketing initiatives for many reasons beyond just available data. Here are some bigger challenges that make it difficult:

Long Purchase Cycle:
In most B2B instances, buying life cycles are long. The money you invest today may not have a measurable impact until sometime in the future when your prospect is ready to buy. For example, last month’s tradeshow may result in a sale a year from now. It’s important to consider how long it really takes to measure the success of that specific initiative.

Multiple Buyers and Multiple Touchpoints:
Most B2B marketing decisions are not made by one person. The more complex the purchase is, the more people are involved in the buying committee. Different marketing programs impact each decision maker in unique ways. Therefore, it’s difficult to know which program had the biggest impact with which influencer or buyer.

Most marketers say that it takes seven touches before you turn a cold lead into a sale. And 74 percent of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before talking to a salesperson. So you don’t really know which marketing vehicles and content your buyers have gone through prior to buying from you.

Other Variables:
Other factors such as economic trends, quality of sales reps, and even the current state of foreign affairs could affect purchase decisions. These are outside of marketing’s control and can significantly affect program results.

Methods to help measure marketing impact

Although measuring marketing impact is hard, there are various marketing analytics programs that provide you insight into the effectiveness of your marketing programs. Consider the following questions to gear up for measuring impact:

  • Identify specific objectives for marketing and how you will connect your marketing investment to incremental revenue or sales pipeline growth.
  • Set feasible goals.
  • Identify financial metrics that identify marketing’s aggregate impact on company revenue.
  • Identify business performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your goals. These will give you an idea of how your marketing initiatives performed.
  • Identify metrics that can give you a view of how you’re doing at present. These will give insight into your current performance, often by comparing to historical benchmarks.
  • Identify leading indicators. These are metrics that help you look forward and forecast future results.

After you’ve done all of that, you’re then in a place to define your own method to calculate overall Marketing ROI. The preceding link takes you through a how-to method for setting up your measurement system.