B2B Marketing Blog

The 'Golden Path': What We Learned From All Customers' Web Session Data

By Andrew Nguyen
Aug 8, 2017

We are committed to better understanding the customer journey through data. That is the reason we do marketing attribution in the first place. Marketing attribution is the story of the customer journey told through touchpoints. Touchpoints are valuable online web sessions and offline engagements that drive brand discovery, form fills, demos and free trials. 

We get questions from marketers on whether Bizible can provide data on a specific customer journey: the Golden Path.

If B2B marketers could see every session (i.e. web visit, form fill, and email), and piece together the entire customer journey at a highly granular view, would they discover the Golden Path?

In this post we discuss this topic and show how Bizible’s Data Warehouse product can get marketers a step forward in thinking about the customer journey and the Golden Path.

What is the Golden Path In B2B Marketing?

The Golden Path is defined as the common path that prospects take to becoming a customer. The Golden Path is the sequence of touchpoints, from brand discovery to sales won, that most customers take.

Bizible’s Data Warehouse product allows users to connect to a database, query their data, and visualize it in a visualization program like Tableau or PowerBI. It provides access to the data tables that make up Bizible’s revenue reports inside Salesforce. These data tables include every touchpoint, every session and every pageview made by known and unknown users on your website.

It’s a lot of data.

One of the areas of interests is constructing a complete journey across every web session and touchpoint to find the Golden Path (the most common path taken by customers). The goal is reproducibility. Finding a model that works so that marketing can create the demand generation engine that runs like a symphony.

So let’s define how we would observe the Golden Path in our data.

Is the Golden Path A Golden Ticket?

Let’s say there are a total of 5 touchpoints between the following stages: Anonymous First Touch (FT) and Deal Closed Won. This is for example sake, to keep the numbers manageable.

Let’s also say there are 5 possible channels for each touchpoint. How many possible paths are there?

There are 55 permutations for unique customer paths. In other words there are 3,125 different paths a customer can take across a journey of 5 touchpoints and 5 channels. Now imagine hundreds or thousands of sessions between FT and Deal Closed Won. And now image you have have more than 5 channels. The total number of permutations grows exponentially.

The only way a Golden Path would exist in a highly usable sense is if the majority or plurality of customers took the same path. We believe that is unlikely to be true. 

But that doesn’t mean the idea of the Golden Path is wrong or unhelpful. Rather marketers may get more value from improving specific segments along the customer journey.

And you can do this with Data Warehouse.

Using Bizible Data Warehouse To Learn About The Customer Journey

To learn about the customer journey we start with counting the number of unique permutations for the paths between  FT to LC. We then count how many leads, MQLs, or opportunities took each path.

Using your favorite data visualizer you can edit a query, i.e. transform Bizible touchpoints data to get a table that looks like this:

golden path data table example 2.jpg(Click images to enlarge)

By counting the number of contacts who took each unique path we can better understand the complexity of the Golden Path.

This is touchpoint data so the dataset includes touchpoints where FT and LC are the same touchpoint, i.e the conversion happened during the same session.

The path column is simply a concatenation of the first touch column and the lead create (LC) column, separated by a comma and a space. The path column holds every path a contact has taken take first touch and lead create touch. Let’s look at the top dozen paths, shown in the chart below. The variables are coded as follows: the First Touch channel, Lead-Create channel. So Social.LinkedIn, Direct means that LinkedIn was the FT channel and direct web visit was the LC channel. 

There are 254 different paths between FT and LC for our data.

We can see LinkedIn Social and Direct web visit is a popular path. We can also see AdWords being a popular FT and LC touch during the same session.

b2b-marketing-golden-path-data-chart.jpg

But what’s the takeaway? This doesn’t necessarily mean shift all your budget to AdWords and LinkedIn. A better question to answer when exploring customer paths is whether there is action to take to improve the conversions on the paths we care most about.

Not included in this chart is the ability to look at problems in the marketing funnel, for example where FT equals Social LinkedIn and LC is null. These are the users who engaged with your ad content but did not convert. For campaigns where users are identified, such as account-based marketing campaigns, this data can help you identify areas where you need to improve.

Searching For The Golden Path Can Uncover Noisy Data

The chart in the previous example was a small subset of the thousands of paths taken by customers. We’ve shown that contacts took one of over 200 different paths between only two touchpoints: FT and LC. Visualizing all paths to search for the Golden Path will likely lead to very noisy data with few takeaways.

The below chart shows every path and the percent of contacts who took each path. You can see that there is no clear Golden Path, defined as a path that the majority of contacts took. You can imagine how noisy this chart would get if we added more touchpoints. Remember this is only the path between two touchpoints.

b2b-marketing-golden-path-chart.jpg

Using Data Warehouse we can look at every touchpoint, i.e. every session and every possible path, i.e. customer journey. But it will be noisy.

A More Intuitive Approach To Researching the Golden Path

A much more intuitive approach to exploring the customer journey and the Golden Path is to focus on specific stops in the customer journey. We can ask: 

  • What part of the journey can we influence or control? 

  • What can we do right now that will improve the velocity, conversion rate, or engagement quality?

With all sessions data you can track changes in where people go across your digital assets and properties. You can set expectations, make changes and monitor whether your actions are having the desired outcomes.

We can also append additional information to the groups of contacts who took a specific path. You can append information like geographic location, landing page, time/date, campaign name, keyword, and other information to get a better understanding of what may be going awry.

Conclusion

Golden path investigation begins with marketing attribution, specifically the touchpoints that are most meaningful to us. These touchpoints are influential in driving brand discovery, compelling users to submit a form, the last action before calling sales or signing up for a free trial.

Data Warehouse provides the ability to take a closer look at these touchpoints, exploring the web session data associated with each touchpoint. There is much more B2B marketers can do to learn about their customers with all session data.

Bizible data warehouse product.jpg

To learn more about Bizible Data Warehouse, request a demo today.

We’ve seen from Bizible data that customer journeys are complex and numerous. We’ve only scratched the surface with understanding it.

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Topics: Analytics, customer journey

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