How to Use B2B Advertising Data to Grow Your Company
May 16, 2022
May 16, 2022
Right Side Up and Right Percent recently hosted a webinar on how to use B2B advertising data to drive growth and increase ROI, led by Kevin Lord Barry, co-founder of Right Percent, a Right Side Up venture. Kevin covered everything you need to know to understand in-platform and CRM insights from common ad platforms. Watch the full webinar for all of Kevin’s B2B ad data wisdom
Marketing data from ad platforms and CRM tools can be incredibly valuable for growing your company. But the wealth of data available from these platforms can have a fire hose effect—if you don’t know how to control and direct it, you’re likely to get washed away by the flood of information.
To help you get a handle on this powerful knowledge stream, we’re going to explain how to identify the most useful data from your B2B ad funnel. We’ll also break down what conversion events to establish as indicators of revenue, why you should rely on click-based attribution for conversions, how to track the way leads move down your funnel, and how to determine broad trends from your B2B ads data.
Sources of B2B Advertising Funnel Data
There are two main sources of B2B ad data that you should be looking at: ad platforms and CRM/databases. Ad platforms include sources like Facebook Ads, Google AdWords, and LinkedIn Ads, while CRM sources include Salesforce and HubSpot.
Regardless of your data source, you should focus your efforts on data that is actionable and connected to revenue.
B2B Ads Platform Data
This type of data comes directly from the ad platform you’re using, which means that platform can see your data and report on it. It likely includes:
- Ad spend
- Top-level metrics, like clicks and impressions (and costs per each)
- Conversions, which are events created by the advertiser to signal important visitor activity in the funnel
Which ad platform metrics are most important?
Although top-level metrics—like cost per thousand impressions (CPM) or cost per click (CPC)—have traditionally been the gold standard in marketing for measuring and adjusting campaigns, that simply is no longer the case. In modern direct response marketing, you should almost always ignore these metrics. All ad platforms use black box algorithms to show your ads, and often ads with the highest CPMs and CPCs have the best cost-per-conversion and sale, skewing the true drivers of your results. That means those metrics are useless at best, and at worst, will give you misleading insights.
“Top-level metrics are misleading,” explained Kevin Lord Barry, who hosted the webinar. “They’re useful on a giant platform-level view to see trends, but they’re not very useful for decision making.”
So what should you use instead? Conversion events. This metric is key because it helps marketers make good informed decisions about campaign and ad performance and it trains AI to find the right kind of clickers who will generate revenue for your business.
How to learn the most from your main conversion events
The main conversion signal you use should be correlated to downfunnel revenue as much as possible—it should be a leading indicator of revenue. Your conversion metric should:
- Be an event that happens within one day of a click
- Generate 30–50 conversion data points per week per ad set
- Have a balance of event value and quantity for your budget
Besides your main conversion events that you optimize, we recommend creating events for any important activity on your website or app for all of your ad platforms. This requires a bit of work upfront, but is well worth it to make sure your campaigns are doing their best to drive revenue for your business.
“The important thing to note about conversion events is that AI is dumb and it’s smart, both at the same time,” Barry said. “If you tell it to optimize for a particular event, it will do that, even if it’s not a good idea for your business. So if you say to optimize for step one in your funnel, and it’s all bots filling out your form, the platform will happily continue to serve you those conversion events, regardless of whether it actually leads to anything meaningful for your business.”
Click-based vs. view-based attribution
The bigger your company is, the tighter your attribution should be to ensure you’re only counting incremental sales. For large companies, it’s best to use 7-day click. Smaller companies should consider 7-day click + 1-day view, since the chance of Facebook taking credit for coincidental conversions is lower. Keep in mind that the more you rely on view-through attributions, the less reliable the Facebook algorithm will be.
CRM and Database Data
This type of data comes directly from your CRM or sales funnel database. The most important thing you’ll want to do here is track the journey of a lead or sign-up to understand how they got there.
For sales-driven companies, you’ll want to focus on leads, including opportunities and Closed Won (CW) customers. And for self-serve driven companies, it’s all about accounts created, and users engaging with and purchasing the product.
What you should be tracking for each lead in your CRM or database
Understanding the path of your leads is key. To do that, you need the ability to store marketing tracking data associated with every lead in your CRM or database as they move downfunnel.
Specifically, you should be tracking the following for every new lead or sign-up that came to you through an ad:
- Ad set
- Form download source
So once you have that information, how do you measure lead and sign-up performance downfunnel? The most obvious way is to track how far leads generated from those campaigns go down the funnel. That will allow you to compare campaigns by cost per lead, cost per opportunity, and cost per Closed Won, for example.
But be sure to watch out for two big downsides to this approach:
- It can take time to get enough downfunnel conversion data, either due to the events being rare or the events taking a long time from lead to sale.
- For self-serve businesses, sometimes leads that will never become customers can be very engaged with the product, giving misleading signals.
Here’s an example of what your data might look like.
What does this tell us? They all have the same cost per Closed Won (CPCW). But Campaign B is likely the best, as it generates the most opportunities. However, at this volume of data, it’s not statistically significant. So what else can help us make decisions with limited funnel data?
Collect lead information up front for greater insights
If you’re dealing with limited funnel data, consider gathering more information about your leads during the sign-up flow or initial form, including:
- How many employees do they have?
- What is their budget?
- What is their title?
- Do they have intent to buy within three months?
Asking these questions early is vital. It lets you judge campaign quality more quickly and flexibly, working alongside the standard metrics of funnel stage.
Understanding time to vintage for your leads
Do you know how long it takes for a lead to become an opportunity? What about how long it takes for opportunities to become Closed Won? And does that vary by channel? The answers to these questions are key for understanding how your funnel works (and if it’s working).
If your Closed Wons are happening this week, but your time to vintage is two months, then you're seeing the results of ads you ran two months ago. That’s why you need solid leading indicators of lead quality. When you know your time to vintage accurately, then you can confidently predict your future revenue.
Which type of attribution should you track?
Ideally, your internal system should track all prospect touches—first-, last-, and multi-touch attribution—so you can manually slice and dice the data to meet your needs. For instance, if you look at customers from Facebook Campaign X, your data might include:
- 10 customers with first-touch attribution
- 7 with last-touch
- 12 with either first- or last-touch
- 16 with any touch
And when it comes to determining your source of truth, for mature clients we recommend first-touch for prospecting, with partial credit given for any touch before the close date. For earlier stage clients or those just starting out, we recommend looking at any touch to get learnings faster.
What about third-party multi-channel attribution tools? There are lots of vendors out there who claim they can analyze all of your clicks to give you a big picture view of how you should attribute sales to different channels. Does that sound too good to be true? It is. In B2B, there’s almost never enough downfunnel conversion data to make this work, so these tools are not worth investing in or setting up.
To analyze multi-channel attribution, the best first step for most companies is exporting a comprehensive spreadsheet of all touches for customers that interacted with paid ads and then handing it off to an analyst who can break out the most common patterns.
Best Practices for Using your B2B Advertising Data Effectively
Now that you understand what types of data you should be tracking, it’s time to dive into how you should use it. When reporting out on campaign metrics, we often jump to the tried and true dashboard approach. But in most cases, particularly at the beginning of campaigns, we’ve found that dashboards actually create more work for you and yield confusing (or misleading) noise for your clients. Here are our biggest gripes with using dashboards too early in a campaign:
- Early advertising campaign performance indicators will change too often as you test conversion events and landing pages.
- You won’t know time to vintage yet, which makes it difficult to interpret dashboards.
- Without downfunnel events populating yet, a dashboard focusing on funnel events may cause your team to focus on the wrong things.
- Campaign structure and naming conventions will change over time as you figure out what’s needed for your business.
Instead, we recommend weekly updates with bullet summaries that are easy to pass upstream. Even for mature accounts, we recommend the same weekly updates, plus a weekly updated table of performance, like the image we’ve included above. These updates should include:
- Spend, conversions, and cost per different type of conversion by each campaign in the past week
- Commentary on what the current data means in each campaign and what the next steps should be
- A conversation about what the quality of current sign-ups and leads looks like
For more mature businesses, we’ve seen success using a weekly table that includes spend, leading indicator conversion, and cost per leading indicator conversion. Where applicable, it should also have downfunnel conversion, but this should be set up as a vintage measure that automatically updates over time. We’re not total dashboard haters though—monthly or quarterly dashboard charts can be helpful for illustrating broad narratives.
The Big Picture of B2B Advertising Data
Sorting through the sometimes overwhelming amount of B2B ads data from your ad platform or CRM/database doesn’t have to be a constant challenge. By identifying the key data points at the top and bottom of your funnel, you can start to understand the lead path. Compiling all of that into a weekly tracker will allow you to capture your most important metrics while accounting for time for leads to vintage into customers. And once you have the timing piece solved, you can graph broad trends on a monthly or quarterly basis to get an accurate feel for your account progress.