Guest post: Eoghan Henn on Universal Analytics in B2B Online Marketing (Part I)

Last week we proudly shared with you the first guest post on the Freespee blog by one of of our brilliant customers, Bob Moree from Propeller IM. Bob wrote an amazing article on Mastering path-to-purchase, focusing on the importance of making inbound phone calls part of the equation when making decisions about ad spend and placement.

This week, we are continuing to shed light on our customers’ excellence. One of our most advanced customers, Eoghan Henn , shared this piece on Universal Analytics in B2B online marketing that he posted on the rankingCHECK blog, and we must admit this is, hands down, one of the best articles we’ve read recently.

In his post, Eoghan is taking a 360 degree overview of B2B online marketing, looking into the following aspects:

  • Definition and delimitation of “B2B online marketing”: online sales vs. lead generation
  • Challenges for web analysts in B2B online marketing
  • Use lead management tools to track conversion from lead to customer
  • Tracking of inbound phone calls: an important factor in the online path-to-purchase for B2B companies
  • Trilateral exchange of data between Google Analytics, call data and lead management
  • Analysis of the collected data: multi-channel ROI reporting with Google Analytics
  • Web analytics for B2B companies: conclusion and outlook

In this instalment, we will look into the first three stages of the B2B Online Marketing circle:

  • Definition and delimitation of “B2B online marketing”: online sales vs. lead generation
  • Challenges for web analysts in B2B online marketing
  • Use lead management tools to track conversion from lead to customer

Universal Analytics in B2B online marketing by Eoghan Henn 

Universal Analytics provides new opportunities for B2B companies that do not sell their products and services directly online, but rather use their websites to generate leads that are passed on to the sales team for further communication.

Before the introduction of Universal Analytics, it was very difficult for companies of this type to collect meaningful data about the ROI (return on investment) of various online marketing channels.

With Universal Analytics, it is now much easier for B2B companies to apply data-driven marketing decision-making. I would like to show in this article how the linking of Google Analytics, the tracking of inbound calls and lead management can help B2B companies  evaluate their marketing campaigns in more detail and make better budget decisions for the future.

Definition and delimitation of “B2B Online Marketing”: online sales vs. lead generation

First of all, it is important to outline the concept of “B2B online marketing“ in more detail. Every reader will certainly have a slightly different idea of ​​what B2B (business to business) is, and what it is not.

If you look at the mere meaning of the words, “B2B online marketing” is the sum of all online marketing activities of companies selling services and products to other companies. These companies are thus distinguished from companies that offer services and products to consumers (B2C, business to consumer). In the B2C sector we mainly find ”off the shelf” products, while in the B2B sector, customised solutions that meet individual requirements are distributed. Amazon, for example, is a classic B2C player that sells a variety of standardised products for consumers. The entire purchasing process takes place online.

On the other hand, we see companies like ourselves, rankingCHECK. We are a B2B service provider and our services are far from being standardised. Most importantly, the “buying process” never takes place online. However, the discovery process does, meaning that our clients turn to the Internet to do their research before selecting a service provider like rankingCHECK. Hence, the first contact is the result of an ​​online visit to our website, although the purchase decision takes place offline, after several conversations between the prospective customer and our sales team. The entire sales cycle, from the first contact until the deal is closed, often takes weeks. This is much longer than it is normally in the B2C sector.

Here I would like to draw the line between B2B and B2C online marketing. In the B2C segment, online sales are the primary goal of most online marketing activities. In B2B, sales come primarily from lead generation with subsequent sales and consultative interviews. The services that are offered in the B2B sector are often tailored for each and every customer. If nothing else, the price is tailored and the buying decision process is supported by intensive consultation. The primary goal of online marketing activities in the B2B area is thus the generation of leads.

There are grey areas in between. An online shop for office supplies, that only sells goods in large quantities to business clients, is a pure B2B player, but uses similar online marketing just like most B2C companies. An eye clinic that performs highly specialised laser treatments on patients, is clearly to be classified within the B2C sector, but has more in common with B2B companies, as every purchase decision often comes with consultative support.

In this article, “B2B online marketing” refers to online marketing efforts of companies whose primary goal is to generate inbound leads for the sales and marketing team. This team helps the lead through the decision process with a clear goal – to close a deal. The sales process is more likely to take weeks than days, hours or even minutes.

Challenges for web analysts in B2B online marketing

For anybody who operates an online store, it is fairly easy to capture sales in Google Analytics and then attribute them to different online marketing channels such as SEM, SEO, newsletter or display. Once your ecommerce tracking is set up correctly, you can gain wonderful insights using the multichannel reports from Google Analytics. Based on these insights, you can make important decisions for your future marketing planning.

For B2B companies that mainly generate inbound leads on their websites, which are then passed on to the sales department, online marketing is often guesswork. The standard solution for this kind of website is often to track completed contact forms as conversions. However, this inevitably leads to some awkward questions:

–                How much is a completed contact form worth? Was my AdWords campaign a success if it cost 5000 euros and 25 of the AdWords visitors filled out my contact form?
–                I receive a number of inbound phone calls every day, but where do these leads come from? Is that the result of my recent newsletter, or is it my current AdWords campaign?
–                Who actually fills out my contact form? Are they really all potential customers? Does it make sense to track every contact form as a conversion?
–                How long is my sales cycle from the moment I receive a lead through an online form? For a sale that takes place 60 days after an online form is completed, can I track that back to the online form?

You will quickly realise that simply tracking completed contact forms as conversions provides data that is far from meaningful. As a B2B company, if you want to evaluate and plan your online marketing efforts properly, you must be able to capture sales in Google Analytics, just like the online store I previously described. To ensure this, a lead management tool can help you identify leads that turn into sales, and then push this data back into Google Analytics.

Use lead management tools to track the conversion from lead to customer

Using a lead management tool, you can classify leads, assign the right sales people to the lead to nurture the sales process, and finally convert the leads into paying customers. Many companies already use a variety of tools that satisfy these purposes.

If you want to collect sales in Google Analytics as a B2B company, data has to be exchanged between Google Analytics and the lead management tool. First, the lead has to be entered into the lead management tool. Many tools come with an integrated online form that you can place as a widget on your site, but the information that Google Analytics requires to identify the visitor also needs to be passed on to the lead management tool.

After the lead process ends with a successful sale, this event has to be pushed back from the lead management tool to Google Analytics. This data push includes the sales value, and the Google visitor identification protocol. This event is recorded in Google Analytics as an actual conversion, ideally also with a corresponding order value. This approach provides far more insights than just tracking the simple number of leads.

Implementing the process described above should not be an impossible challenge for most of the manufacturers of lead management or CRM tools. If your system does not support this and the manufacturer is not willing or able to implement it, looking for a better supplier might be a good idea.
The main requirement to capture true sales in Google Analytics is thus established. The next thing to do is to ensure that all leads that are generated through the site are correctly captured and registered in the lead management tool, otherwise you would risk having a huge tracking leakage. Time for the next important building block for successful B2B online marketing: Tracking and attribution of inbound phone calls.

Stay tuned with us next week when we post Part II of Eoghan’s article here!