B2B marketers, if you’re measuring and evaluating “conversions” only — such as white paper downloads, webinar registrations, or contact forms — you are likely not seeing the big picture in terms of true return on your search marketing investment.
Today, savvy business marketers are defining search marketing success not just in terms of pre-defined conversions… but rather, based on the value of multiple, desirable online actions.
That’s right — they are thinking beyond the white paper!
4 Questions To Help You Evaluate Search Marketing Value
I urge you to ask these four questions when considering how to evaluate your search marketing efforts:
- What are the various actions prospects can take on your website?
- Do these actions indicate some level of interest in your company; your products and services?
- How might each of these actions relate to a prospect’s buying process?
- Is there some marketing value (even if it is small) associated with each of these actions?
This is particularly important for B2B companies selling high consideration, complex products or services, and companies with long sales cycles. B2B marketers at these firms need to think in terms of engagement and relationship building — not simply registrations forms.
Consider All Website Actions
In addition to the obvious tasks (i.e. conversions) such as form completions, evaluate all the other actions website visitors can take. For example, most business marketers would agree that there is definite value in getting a prospect to:
- View a product page
- Use an app such as a Dealer Finder, or a Product Selection Tool, or a calculator
- Access a client case study
- Read an analyst review related to your company
- Take a product tour
- Watch a demo
All of these actions are indeed valuable. All of these actions indicate interest. All of these actions involve some level of engagement.
et, most are not considered “conversions”, do not require a registration form (hopefully), and are not tracked nor evaluated in the vast majority of B2B search marketing programs.
Website Actions Provide Clues About The Buying Cycle
The website engagement process also provides clues as to where a prospect may be in the buying cycle.
- Early-buying-cycle prospects are in education mode. They are looking for general market information and basic industry knowledge. Assets that provide a good overview, or discuss broad market trends can be a great way to engage these visitors.
- Mid-cycle prospects who are already familiar with the industry, are typically evaluating options and vendors. At this stage, website information and downloadable assets like comparison papers or analyst evaluations are very helpful.
- Late-stage prospects are ready to select a vendor/partner and purchase. At this point, they are looking for specific information on packages and pricing, terms and conditions, and service contracts.
Business marketers, make sure your website offers information that is helpful and meaningful to prospects at all phases of the buying cycle. It is important to get your brand in front of potential customers early and often as they research, compare, select and purchase products and services.
Estimating Conversion Value
In terms of online registration forms and other conversions, typically B2B marketers start with the lifetime value of a customer and then work backward through the lead funnel to determine an estimated value.
For instance, the value of a white paper registration is probably based on:
- percentage of registrants who provide valid contact information
- percentage of these valid contacts who are target leads
- percentage of these target leads that are worthy of follow-up by your sales team
- then, high quality sales leads
- and finally… customers
The lead management and sales process described above can take months for many B2B firms.
Regardless of the time required, B2B search marketing leads can deliver big results.
Point in case: I work with a software firm that recently obtained a new customer. The initial sale was worth nearly half a million dollars. The origin of the contact was a $3.50 PPC click that resulted in a white paper download.
Estimating The Value Of Other Desirable Actions
Tracking and evaluating search-generated conversions can be difficult enough, but what about all those other online actions? We’ve determined that they do represent engagement and interest, and we know that these actions help prospects move through the buying process.
So, why wouldn’t you want to estimate the value? After all, getting prospects to take these steps is a direct result of your search marketing and website investment. But what’s the best way to estimate the value of all these possible website actions?
Here’s a crazy idea: Guess!
That’s right… estimate a small, but reasonable value associated with each web site action. Base it on other marketing efforts, if possible. Talk with your marketing team. Start with a very conservative value that everyone can agree on.
Ask yourself: what is it worth to your company to:
- Get your brand in front of a prospect (ppc ad impressions or organic listing)
- Have someone click through to your home page (or landing page)
- Go beyond this page and surf around your website
- Visit a product/services page
- View a case study
- View an online demo
- Interact with your Find a Dealer application
…you get the idea!
Perhaps a search engine impression is only worth a few cents. A search visitor is worth a few dollars. Getting the visitor to move beyond the landing page is worth even more; and viewing a product demo or accessing a case study – provides even more value yet.
I encourage you to assign small, estimated values to all of these actions – defined as goals or events via your analytics platform.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
We used to encourage online marketers to “think beyond the click”. Now it’s – “think beyond the conversion”.
B2B marketers should take these steps to estimate your true search marketing ROI:
- Make sure your website offers plenty of engagement options.
- Ensure that you are offering information and assets that aid all types of prospects across the entire buying cycle.
- Verify that you can isolate paid and organic search traffic in your analytics data.
- Track all desirable website actions using goals and events.
- Assign a small but reasonable estimated value to each action.
- Include the estimated value of all of these actions in your search marketing ROI calculation.
Tracking online conversions is important… but there’s more to the search marketing value equation.