If you’re like most marketers, you love to count the impressions, clicks and the resulting web traffic from your digital campaigns. We live for it. Throw some creative content and a healthy budget into the primordial soup that is the internet, and life emerges. It's just like playing blackjack -- you may bust a few hands, but eventually, you’ll hit a streak.
I’ll never forget the time I was advising a company, and they were so excited about all of the advertising experiments they had run, each with its own set of metrics: impressions, cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM), click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), views, shares, likes, share of voice (SOV), content engagement scores and so on. They then asked me what they should do. Which program was the best?
The honest answer was that I had no clue, so I asked some basic questions: What were they trying to do? What accounts did they want to reach? Did they get those accounts to engage with their brand? What about pipeline?
It wasn’t the marketing team’s fault. Every platform has specific metrics designed to make us believe we’re about to win -- and win big. And there’s no lack of "case studies" where you read about other teams crushing it on some platform and think, "We’d better do that, too."
I encouraged the company I was advising -- and am now encouraging you -- to check your FOMO at the door and take a few steps back because the reality is the impressions, clicks and SOV only matter if you’re reaching the right audience and are able to drive engagement with your brand. Here’s what’s worked for us at 6sense:
Define your ideal customer profile
First, you must identify the accounts you want to reach by answering a few key questions. Why are those good accounts for you? What success have you had with similar accounts? Are these accounts in an industry in which you can be successful? Are they the right size? Right geography?
Without a defined ideal customer profile or, at a minimum, an account segmentation strategy to focus your ad budget, you might as well just take your ad spend to Vegas and put it all on 21 red. At least there you get free drinks.
Gain engagement insights
In the early stages of the buyer journey, accounts are doing research anonymously in what we at 6sense call the "dark funnel."
Many digital marketing approaches and platforms will have you believe it’s a volume game. Get enough impressions, shares, clicks and likes in the dark funnel, and you’ll eventually hit your target. Before the advent of account-based platforms (ABM), this was true to a degree. However, today’s ABM platforms leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to take the guesswork out of your campaign targeting.
AI and predictive analytics do the heavy lifting to determine exactly where each account is in the buyer journey, along with their level of engagement. Armed with insights about your target accounts, you can develop your messaging, timing and specific calls to action.
Determine your engagement goal and the appropriate strategy
Now, here comes another question: What is your program goal? To sell more stuff? Drive more traffic? Educate buyers? Take out a competitor? Your goal will likely change based on the insights you gain in the dark funnel. For example:
• Accounts showing no intent: Unless you’re a high roller, your goal may be to not waste any dollars here because they are under a rock.
• Accounts in early stage awareness: Your goal might be to get these accounts to connect with your brand and see you as a solution to their problem. So, investing in driving these accounts to your thought leadership content would be wise.
• Accounts who have visited your competitor's website but not yours: In this case, your goal could be to get them to your website in order to establish yourself on equal footing with your competitor's solution and incentivize them to take a meeting with you to compare solutions.
• Accounts with only a few personas engaged: Here, your goal might be to identify the entire buying team on the account and ensure all stakeholders are engaged.
Measure account engagement
This makes sense because, in the words of Kenny Rogers, “You have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." Traditionally, we used CPC, CTR and impressions to gauge when we were amassing a pile of chips or when we were playing with a short stack.
Unfortunately, those metrics don’t tell us the full story. After all, who in business-to-business (B2B) clicks on ads these days anyway? And, per the above ideal customer profile commentary, those goals don't ensure the clicks and impressions even matter to our business.
A good ABM platform has robust engagement metrics that take marketers from hoping to hit the jackpot to predictably printing pipeline.
For example, at 6sense, we track:
• Which accounts have been reached and engaged, including how many new accounts are engaging, how account engagement levels are changing and new personas engaged.
• How the campaign is influencing engagement with other channels, particularly something called the view-through rate (VTR). The VTR allows us to track an account’s post-impression engagement with our brand on our website, regardless of whether they clicked on our ad or not. Engagement is what we want, and VTR allows us to track it without needing clicks.
• Pipeline influenced. Calculated as dollars of pipeline from accounts reached, engaged and impacted by a campaign within a given sales-cycle time frame.
When we take the focus off of CTRs and start measuring how digital awareness campaigns are driving overall engagement, we begin to see a complete picture of how our awareness campaigns are performing.
So, go ahead and bet on black -- not the Vegas black, but the new black that is account engagement.
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