By Brianna Valleskey
What’s your favorite misconception about B2B marketing?
I have a few.
B2B Marketing Myth: Brand Doesn’t Matter
First, that brand doesn’t matter because we’re in B2B—which is, of course, untrue because even in B2B your buyers are still human beings, not soulless corporate entities. Emotions and homo sapien psychology play a part in our purchasing decisions.
Take the mere-exposure effect, for example (also sometimes called “the familiarity principle”): a fascinating psychological phenomenon where people develop a preference for things simply because they are familiar with them.
Building a brand and driving awareness for it lets potential buyers know that you exist. Remarkable brands ensure that people remember what you do, how you’re different, and why you matter.
And the more people are exposed to your brand, the more they’ll like it. Science!
B2B Marketing Myth: Brand Isn’t Data-Driven
There’s also the misconception that brand marketing is this purely creative endeavor powered by random acts of artistry. And that’s not true either. Brand building is a very strategic and data-driven undertaking.
Any question you have about brand can be answered with data. What kind of brand should you build? Start by interviewing your team members. What do they value? What sort of traits or ideas do they want to convey? True branding is your company’s identity authentically expressed.
Then look at your target market. Gather qualitative data on what brands they gravitate toward, beliefs they hold about themselves and their work, and the values they look for in vendors they work with.
So, now you have a brand. Great. But how do you know if it’s working? There’s data for that, as well, my friend. Which brings me to …
My Favorite Myth: You Can’t Measure Brand
The biggest misconception around brand building, by far, in my opinion, is that you cannot measure brand. And that is simply not the case.
Sure, quantifying your brand’s effectiveness and ROI is not as easy to measure as demand generation or lifecycle marketing. You won’t be able to reach a 1:1 correlation of exactly how much revenue you brought in from one very specific PR initiative.
But the truth is that you simply cannot quantify every revenue-driving activity.
What’s the dollar value of an email or a phone call from your sales rep? You don’t know. But you know whether they’re hitting quota or not, and you can look at other metrics to figure out if emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages, etc. are effective.
The same is true for your brand.
So how do you actually measure brand marketing? Dear reader, I’m glad you asked. I’ll cover metrics for your brand campaigns in part 1 of this series, and then measurements of your overall brand effectiveness plus KPIs to show your C-suite in part 2. Ready? Let’s dive in.
How to (Actually) Measuring Brand Campaigns
For the sake of keeping this article a (somewhat) reasonable length, I’m going to focus our campaign metrics on three specific owned and earned media channels: PR, social media, and SEO.
Are you relating to your public?
An effective way to get noticed and build awareness is with PR. But once you’ve announced your round of funding, new product, proprietary data, or strategic initiative, how do you know if it’s reaching your audience?
Newswire services often give you a “visibility report” with metrics on your press release like total reach, PR pickups, etc. And while there may be some schools of thought that disagree with me on this, I don’t believe those metrics actually matter.
Those press release metrics are looking at the number of publications that have automatically published your press release on their website. I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked, your potential buyers and not digging through Yahoo News trying to find your press release.
You should still put out a press release—each of those pickups gives your website a little SEO lift with that backlink, and when someone puts your company in a search engine, it never hurts to have Google automatically pull up a recent news hit.
But ultimately what you want to be measuring here is placements: How many publications picked up your news release and actually wrote something about it themselves? And it doesn’t always need to be (and certainly won’t always be) a tier 1 Wall Street Journal or New York Times pickup. Pickups in tier 2 outlets and trade publications are valuable.
The goal here is to get pickups that occurred because of your campaign initiative. Did you see a week over week, month over month, or quarter over quarter increase in your overall total earned media placements that you can correlate with the campaign? That’s great! Those changes demonstrate a correlation between your efforts and the public’s appetite to learn more about your brand.
If you really want to get into the data (which you should, because it’s informative and awesome) — go into Google Analytics and see how much referral traffic came to your website from those placements. Or better yet? See if you can use a marketing automation tool like Marketo to track form fills that landed on your website from the URLs of your PR placements.
The real secret to measuring your PR campaigns, though, is to tie them to demand generation campaigns as much as possible. This is less about your ongoing PR program and more about specific “lightning strike” moments. For example, take a recent industry report you released and pitch it to some relevant publications. Then you can measure the number of placements you received in addition to content downloads through your website (and, if you’ve got a solid attribution model, the pipeline and revenue influenced by that content).
How social is your media?
Your social media campaign doesn’t have to go viral for you to see meaningful results. I’ll say it again for the people in the back: You don’t have to go viral for something to be successful!
To understand the performance of your social media campaigns, you can focus on content consumption, organic mentions, and engagement. “Impressions” generally just measures the number of people who saw your post, but in the age of scrolling content consumption, I find it hard to trust a metric that is measuring something that “could” have been viewed.
So instead, look at metrics like the number of video views. LinkedIn waits three seconds before counting a view, which, in my mind, is enough to at least leave an impression. Trigger that part of the brain that’s like, “Santa! I know him!”
Another great metric to look at is organic employee posts and mentions. Social media channels, of course, want companies to buy ads. So organic posts from company pages are generally de-prioritized in your newsfeed. But posts from your employees, your advisors, your buyers, and customers are not. Targeting them to promote any brand campaigns can be especially effective. (And while you may have to manually track the results via a spreadsheet, which I have done many times, you can tell people to either tag your company or use a specific hashtag so that it’s easier for you to find and track those posts).
The last metric I like to look at for social media campaigns is the number of engagements. By engagement, I mean any action taken: like, comment, retweet, and so on. And if your company is big enough to have a dedicated social media manager, I also recommend using social listening tools to track organic brand mentions.
And then if you have a really revenue-focused team, which I feel like most companies are moving toward, you can utilize UTM tracking in order to do attribution for pipeline sourced or influenced by people who clicked on links from your social media posts that took them to the website from a specific social media campaign.
Where are you optimizing your presence?
A good overall brand awareness “health metric” metric is web traffic: How many people are coming to your website directly, from organic search engine results, or via referral traffic? Your website is your digital storefront after all, and you want to be looking at how many people are coming through the door. Mainly, you want to look at all traffic that’s not paid traffic. (You can look at who’s coming through by way of social channels, but I find the UTM tracking that we covered in the previous section to be a more reliable method.)
(Side note: I have heard some people argue that organic traffic is a vanity metric to look at, and that is true if your goal is to measure demand generation and pipeline. But this is brand awareness we’re talking about here! People who don’t fill out a form on your website might become a customer in a year, in their next role, or indirectly by mentioning your brand to a colleague or coworker. Don’t get so caught up in trying to solve for everything with a single metric that you end up measuring nothing.)
Another metric to look at in the realm of search engine optimization is branded search volume, which can show you how many people are actually searching for your company. (Google Search Console is your friend here.) From a competitive standpoint, you can even look at your SEO Share of Voice on page on search results vs. your competitors: Of the keywords you want to rank for, how many are you ranking above your competitors for?
And finally, if you really want to impress your leadership team (which I am, of course, here to help you do), you can calculate the equivalent CPC value of your organic search rankings (basically the amount of money you’re not having to spend on paid search results).
But, That’s So Many Brand Metrics!
I know. Take a deep breath. The good news is that you do not — and should not — be measuring every single one of these metrics for every single one of your campaigns. I’ll go into more detail about how to decide when to measure which metrics (and the tools you can use to do so), along with how to measure your overall brand effectiveness and KPIs to show your C-suite in part 2 of this series.
In the meantime, you should start debunking your own favorite B2B marketing myths. Challenge conventional wisdom! I dare you.
Fearless Thoughts are my insights on marketing, entrepreneurship, startups, business growth, creativity and whatever else comes to mind on any given day. Writing is how I make sense of the world.