B2B companies becoming media companies often run into an interesting challenge: how do we measure and track our efforts? This is an interesting question because, as only a handful of B2B companies understand they need to become media companies, the standard attribution fails to work here and we need a whole new system to measure, track, and define the right KPIs.
Intuitively, you’d think that if you want to build a media arm for your B2B company, you should measure it like media companies. And you’d be mostly right: you don’t want to measure it like you’d measure a (boring) ebook or (an even more boring) whitepaper.
But you also don’t want to measure it exactly like a media company because the business model is different. Media companies monetize the attention through ads, you want to leverage that attention to monetize it through your core business – it’s a different business model. The average net profit of a media company is 23%, for a tech company it goes up to 70-80%. That puts less pressure on how much attention you need to get ROI, which then changes what KPIs make the most sense and should be prioritized.
Instead, you need a specific system that fits B2B companies that are building a media arm. These are the exact KPIs we propose our clients use and we use internally at Influence Podium as well.
The cornerstone of our attribution philosophy is that “whatever you optimize for is what you’ll get.” B2B companies tend to optimize for MQLs so they run ebooks and whitepapers and gated content to get a ton of them… until they find out they need a whole team of SDRs and AEs to take care of them + they close at extremely low rates and, the ones that do close, take forever. Optimize for views and you’ll get views. Optimize for engagement and you’ll get engagement.
Or, optimize for the most valuable KPI, aka your northstar. And that should be inbound revenue.
Level 1 – The North Star: Inbound Revenue
If I was stuck in a desert island and my team could only send me one text every month with one metric about how our media arm is performing, I’d ask them to send me our Inbound Revenue. It all comes down to this. If this is working, the whole thing is working.
Now, two follow up things I have to mention:
Inbound Revenue doesn’t happen right away. Building a media company off your B2B company takes time and needs patience but, if done well, it’s transformational. I recommend waiting at least 3-4x your average sales cycle to even start looking at this metric. If you don’t want to wait that long, you probably don’t believe enough in why you’re doing this. And if you can’t wait that long, you probably have business issues you need to address before jumping in on this.
How you attribute Inbound Revenue matters. Excuse my language, but content and attribution is all fucked and that’s why the movement around Dark Social is a thing. I can give you a million examples:
“I read your content on LinkedIn, love it, google your company, and schedule a demo.” Your attribution? SEO. Reality? Thought leadership on LinkedIn.
“I listen to your podcast, love it, remember the email your SDR sent last week, answer it and schedule a demo.” Your attribution? Outbound. Reality? Podcasting.
My preferred way to close the loop is by asking one simple question on the form to schedule a demo: “how did you find us?” Make it a requisite to schedule a demo and leave it open ended (not multiple choice). You’ll get some very interesting answers and track those on your CRM. If you can get your salesperson to dig in further in the demo, even better.
Level 2 – Other main KPIs B2B companies should measure
Length of sales cycles:
Shorter sales cycles allow you to grow faster and get paycheck quicker from your marketing dollars. Compared to outbound and “old-school” marketing tactics like ebooks and webinars, leads that come through your content flywheel should have significantly shorter sales cycles. Track this and compare them, if sales cycles are getting shorter – it’s working.
Another metric you need to look at is your win rate from inbound-sourced deals compared to leads from the rest of your funnel. If you and your team are closing a significantly higher number, it’s a great sign that this is working and you need to double down.
SQLs (actually qualified)
In a world where most B2B companies count as MQLs, someone giving out their email for an ebook (that they’ll never read), you should be reaching inbound SQLs that are actually qualified and have intent. By intent I mean that they’ve gone to your website and clicked to schedule a demo/call to see if your product/service makes sense. You should be strict with this. After all, whatever you optimize for is what you’ll get.
Level 3: Tracking B2B Leading Indicators
Level 3 are leading indicators. These are important but complex. You want them, but you don’t want to optimize for them necessarily. They’re all the most easily trackable, so most companies optimize for this. That’s a mistake.
They’re guiding lights, but not direct indicators of success. They’re valuable, but not the end-all, be-all. Use them, but don’t let them control your strategy.
Arand hours are a great indication of how well your content is resonating with your audience. We’re all fighting for the attention of the market so we can leverage it for business results, and brand hours is a great way to see how you’re doing in that fight.
Another good indicator of content <> market fit. You can “game” your content for engagement so it’s not the ultimate sign but a good engagement rate is usually a positive.
Branded + direct traffic:
Most companies only measure total SEO performance, but it’s important to differentiate between SEO that comes from ranking for keywords through articles vs the one that comes from brand building (branded + direct).
Are how simple marketers (or organizations without CEOs that believe in marketing) measure success. They’re good to keep an eye on, but they won’t determine your success. Want impressions? Post some cat videos. Want inbound revenue? Post entertaining but valuable content.
Quantitative vs qualitative
This article is meant for quantitative metrics that you can track and measure. But I’d do you a disservice if I didn’t add that qualitative data points are equally (if not) more important. People mentioning on a sales call or a conference that they love your content is an extremely valuable sign that won’t show up on any data platform – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
Qualitative data will keep you going, especially at the beginning when quantitative data lags behind. Pay attention to it and leverage it to show the strategy is working.
That’s the 3-level KPI system we use to measure our performance. If you’re a B2B company that understands they need to build a media arm, we recommend you use the same system to see how you’re doing and show progress. If you want us to help you build a media arm for your B2B company, feel free to book a call to see if we’d be a good fit.