Inbound Marketing Strategy: 3 Things Your ROI Analysis is Missing

It seems like ever since Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” marketers have had to work overtime to prove the ROI of their marketing efforts.

As an inbound marketer, you already know the power of customer attribution and closed-loop analytics—it’s the cornerstone around which you assess your marketing ROI. Beyond that, most inbound marketing platforms offer a wide range of standard ways marketers can choose from to report on their progress and assess the return on their marketing investment. These metrics span everything from basic funnel conversion metrics through to vanity social media metrics and everything in-between.

If you’re limiting your inbound marketing ROI reporting to out-of-the-box dashboards and standard metrics, chances are you’re not seeing the whole picture. Leads may be coming in (or sales could be closing) that aren’t attributed to your marketing tactics that are, in reality, a direct result of your inbound marketing efforts. If you want to really earn that gold star (or, those extra budget dollars), you’ll want to pull out all the stops and attribute as many conversions as you can to your inbound tactics.

Let’s look at 3 areas where leads and customers may be slipping through your ROI reporting net and make sure you’re getting all of the credit you deserve.  

1. Phone Tracking

While many inbound marketers are tempted to fixate purely online conversions in tracking their success, a huge amount of business is still done on the phone.

Unfortunately, when someone calls your sales team, the lead is now in their court and marketers often find that this is when their reporting trail goes cold. Without phone tracking in place, there’s no way to reliably determine the source of the often very sales-ready leads that phone in. To try to combat this customer attribution black hole, some businesses go so far as to ask people what prompted them to call. You can ask leads “How did you find us?” all day long, and the only thing you can be certain of is that they will not reliably remember (you need only look at legal issues with “eyewitness testimony” or ask NBC’s Brian WIlliams about his Iraq helicopter ride to understand this folly).

You can implement phone tracking in a few ways.

You’re likely already using Google AdWords, so that’s a good place to start. Google AdWords allows you to track calls that come from a visitor who reached your website after clicking an AdWords ad. All you need is an active call extension, a website, and the ability to add a conversion tracking tag to your website.

To move beyond call tracking of a single source like Adwords, call tracking and analytics software is available that allows you to track the steps a prospect takes on their journey to picking up the phone. Software such as Invoca brings the analytics and visibility you’re used to when dealing with clicks on your website to the calls your organization receives, attributing critical source information, scoring, and segmentation to your inbound phone leads. While these tools aren’t exactly inexpensive, they deliver a path to data-driven call optimization that you just can’t otherwise obtain.

But alas, if you find yourself fishing for change in the company sofa without enough budget to implement comprehensive call tracking, all is not lost. Simply using a different phone number on your website and tracking the calls received can give you a small glimpse into the number of leads your ROI analysis may be missing. While this “tip-of-the-iceberg” approach isn’t perfect and lacks the closed-loop data we all love as marketers, it will still give you some insight into the role the phone is playing in your lead gen efforts.    

2. The (Deeper) Impact of Blogging  

Most people assess the value of their blogging largely by measuring the impact it is having on organic search rank and traffic. And while blogging is an effective tactic for moving the organic search needle, your blogging may also be assisting in converting leads further down funnel—and that can be hard to see with your standard set of inbound KPIs.

If you’re not seeing dollar signs directly related to content marketing yet—it’s important to understand that it’s all part of a bigger picture. Research shows that B2B buyers view eight or more pieces of content from winning vendors, and 95% of buyers prefer brands that provide content throughout the buyer’s journey.

To help uncover the true impact of your blogging, use your inbound marketing platform to analyze the buying journey for every closed customer, and determine what percentage of them viewed blog content on their path to purchase. Depending on your inbound marketing platform of choice and configuration of your website, this reporting can often be automated (HubSpot’s Conversion Assist tool is particularly helpful here). Extending this reporting further to include marketing qualified leads will give you an even better sense of how hard working your blog really is.

You can also dive deeper into your social media sources reporting, and assess the extent to which blog content being shared in social channels is serving as a vital link back to your website. Often, the traffic attributed to social channels wouldn’t find their way to the site without promoted blog content. Make no mistake—the clients we work with who are more aggressive in the social media promotion of blog content see social channels develop into meaningful traffic sources that often over-index in lead conversion and quality.  

If your team has been investing in blog content for a while and you haven’t taken a deeper look at these impacts, it is likely you’re not giving yourself all of the credit you deserve.

3. Down-funnel Impact

So now you’re able to dig in and prove your content is driving traffic and converting visitors to leads—but have you considered how your content may be being used by your sales team or consumed by people who have never converted on your site?

As stated above, it’s proven that B2B buyers view multiple pieces of content before making a purchase decision. Additionally, the average number of stakeholders involved in a purchasing decision has risen from 5.4 to 6.8 over the past two years. That’s a lot of content being consumed by a lot of people during a sales process, and even the most data-driven marketer has to admit that some of that process is impossible to track.  

As surprising as it may be to those of us who never use a printer, a large number of people—particularly enterprise B2B prospects—will print and share sales content. If you were in marketing back in the days of print ads, you’ve likely been told by a print ad sales rep that each copy of their newspaper was read by 3.1 people or some such statistic. Similarly, your content has a life beyond its digital origins.

Many platforms track site visitors at an IP level, giving insight into how many different visitors your site is getting from certain corporate IP addresses. HubSpot’s Prospects tool is helpful here, delivering a glimpse into how your site and content is engaging target accounts and current leads beyond those contacts who have formally converted on your site.

It has been said that, as a marketer, you’ll know the content you’re creating passes muster when your sales team is actually using it during real sales calls. Promoting your content to your sales organization and helping them make use of it in real sales calls will not only help them close more deals, but the process of collaborating with them will make the content you create better.

And as wonderful as quantifiable ROI is for a marketer, it’s hard to beat the extra bonus of a sales team singing your praises and telling real stories about how your content helped move a lead to closed/won.

Still have some questions?

If even after considering these often overlooked metrics you’re still stressed about proving the effectiveness of your marketing work to your organization’s C-suite—it might be time to take a harder look at your strategy and rethink your measurement model.

The Epic Guide to Creating an Inbound Marketing Strategy is a great place to start. The guide is easy to understand and lays everything out in 12 simple steps. It also offers insight from more than 20 industry experts, all of whom have implemented super-efficient inbound marketing strategies that have seen huge results. Access your copy of The Epic Guide now and get the tools you need to create a thorough ROI analysis.

Join us in conversation…