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What the Eff Test taught me about measuring B2B campaign success

What the Eff Test taught me about measuring B2B campaign success
Evaluating the effectiveness of business-to-business campaigns requires a smart strategy, says MGA's Katherine Sheen.

I recently took the IPA’s Eff Test – a qualification designed to help agency planners learn best-practice techniques to measure campaign effectiveness.

The curriculum was fascinating. Agency folk learn from day one that we should show positive results for our efforts – nobody is doing this just for the good of their health.

However, the IPA Eff Test rationalised and contextualised the theory of effectiveness practise into a series of road-to-Damascus moments of enlightenment for me.

There is an incontestable core logic behind the need to improve standards of measurement: measuring effectiveness effectively helps clients to put a value on the impact of marketing activity.

Our clients are constantly challenged within their organisations to justify their annual budgets. With data indicating a solid positive correlation between marketing activity and company performance those discussions become far easier.

Effectiveness measurement: why some of our B2B clients find this hard

So much of the measurability of success is based on profit impact. ‘Hard’ business measures of campaign effectiveness like expansion of the client’s market share, increased relative sales volume and reduced price sensitivity are all campaign outputs that can allow the client to calculate a tangible return on marketing investment (ROMI).

Gathering output data like this is far easier in the business-to-consumer (B2C) sector. Lots of data-points for sales of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) like supermarket items can be compiled and the tiniest variations analysed and attributed to a specific burst of advertising.

In traditional B2B communications, the scope of measuring effectiveness is not much different to B2C.

Most B2B clients offer products which to some extent can be sold in volume to a large audience; whether these are financial products, software, components, or office supplies. Impact of marketing can be tracked through the effect on sales uplift and amount and quality of sales leads.

MGA’s B2B clients, on the other hand, offer things like national civil engineering infrastructure, military aircraft, and enriched uranium. These are products that need more than just a mouse click or a meeting to buy. Investment in advertising and marketing by our clients will not result in a trackable impact on their bottom lines within a defined time period.

We often get flummoxed during submission of our campaigns for marketing awards when we come to the ‘Results’ section of the entry form. When one of our campaign’s most celebrated results is a reported comment from the Minister that he or she was “very impressed” – how do we put a business value on that versus the cost of the campaign?

Now – we are not negative people at MGA. We don’t believe that the lack of sales data for our clients means that measuring effectiveness is impossible. We just have to be smarter and help our clients with intelligent campaign planning. Cleverer strategy and campaign composition enables different measures of output value to be built in from the start.

Planning for effectiveness for our tricky clients

Sales data isn’t the only valid data to measure the value of campaign activity. Here are a few steps that we follow to help our specialist B2B clients with smarter campaign planning for effectiveness:

1. Agree what the campaign or activity is trying to achieve

This process often results in me sounding like an irritating toddler:

Client: “We need a brochure for this trade show.”
Me: “Why?”
Client: “Because we’re going to a trade show.”
Me: “Why?”
Client: “Er… good question. I think we allocated the budget for it last year…”
Me: “But whyyyyyy?”
Client: “There will be potential customers there that we need to try and meet, and we need to summarise our product portfolio in a brochure to give them when we meet them.”

So, suddenly, instead of the objective being “a brochure”, the objective upon which we should be focusing is to drive potential new customers to the client trade stand, educate these potential new customers, and then secure and monitor their interest following a meeting with a company representative. Performance against this improved objective is a lot easier to quantify, too.

2. Identify valid KPIs

A more eloquent objective also means that the output value of the activity doesn’t need to be measured using disassociated metrics like sales impact. A good objective gives us a portfolio of behavioural targets that will offer a multifaceted picture of the activity’s effect.

For example, if our objective is to drive potential new customers to the client trade stand, educate these potential new customers and then secure and monitor their interest, our KPIs might look like this: 

Component of objective KPI
Drive potential new customers to the trade stand Volume of visitors to the trade stand
Educate visitors during their visit to the trade stand Number of visitors engaging with key informational content
Secure interest and monitor after the event Number of connections created which then allow further dialogue

3. Construct a campaign composition which works for these KPIs

At this point the question arises about what media and techniques will deliver an effect against the stated KPIs. Now – we love a good brochure at MGA, don’t get me wrong – but sometimes a glossy piece of cardboard can only offer a limited value within a complex task. It’s time to select specialist tools for special jobs.

Expanding the number and variety of potential touch-points with the target audience multiplies the opportunities for them to be reached by the client message:

KPI

Media

Volume of visitors to the trade stand

Advance notice: pre-event emails, advertising, social media

At event: trade show publications advertising, news stories in event media, content pushed out on event’s social media channels

Number of visitors engaging with key informational content

Interactive activity on the trade stand, like touchscreens

Brochures & take-away information

‘Show stopper’ presentations and keynote talks

‘Added value’ dedicated information on company website

Number of connections created which then allow further dialogue

E-newsletter sign-up station & incentivisation

Social media groups sign-up invitation & incentivisation

4. Create campaign activations that have measurability built into their executions

To reach the third step above sometimes feels like enough of an achievement in itself. We have reached a stage where an integrated, muscle-bound campaign is ready to kick some trade show visitor ass. However, unless the campaign’s constituent parts each have their measurability built into their function, measurability can often get forgotten, and performance data not captured. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds:

KPI

Media

Measurement technique

Volume of visitors to the trade stand

Advance notice: pre-event emails, advertising, social media

Footfall on stand measured using crowd-counters. Performance benchmarked against historic data if available.

At event: trade show publications advertising, news stories in event media, content pushed out on event’s social media channels

Number of visitors engaging with key informational content

Interactive activity on the trade stand, like touchscreens

Software compiles number of users engaging with content, and their behaviour using the content.

Brochures & take-away information

Number of items taken from stand displays.

‘Show stopper’ presentations and keynote talks

Crowd numbers, plus social media ‘buzz’ generated.

‘Added value’ dedicated information on company website

Website visitor behaviour tracking and engagement with target content vs. pre-trade show results.

Number of connections created which then allow further dialogue

E-newsletter sign-up station & incentivisation

New sign-ups to e-newsletter database.

Social media groups (e.g. LinkedIn) sign-up invitation & incentivisation

New sign-ups to social media groups.

5. Sit back and smugly present the proof of campaign effectiveness to your colleagues

We don’t know whether our clients sit and practise their smug faces in front of a mirror in private in advance. Collectively and cumulatively, all the data-points above would show a multipart delivery against the original objective. Everyone is happy, and our client’s budget is recognised as money well spent.

6. Learn from the data, and make campaigns even better in the future

Compiling an ongoing picture of the effectiveness of campaign activity allows learnings and outcomes to be fed into future briefs. Assessing the relative impact of different campaign components allows tighter planning in the future – which elements performed best? Which areas need up-weighting or more investment?

The other benefit of effectiveness tracking is the legacy of campaign performance enhancement it enables.

In short: clear objectives result in clear outcomes 

This whole process was enabled by delving deeper into the initial stated objective. By setting clearer targets for what activity needs to achieve, results are clearer to identify.

Campaigns that deliver real results also deliver real value to our clients’ businesses. With the ultimate result that advertising and marketing activity can be recognised for the incredibly powerful tool it is.

The Eff Test learning programme is available free online to all IPA members. The next exam (£250 + VAT) is on 20th March 2014. 

Last updated 29/11/2013

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