Most people in Marketing are skeptical when the topic of using dollars to measure the results of brand marketing efforts comes up. Many believe it’s just not possible.
So instead, we tend to accept metrics like impressions, improved sentiment, and other “soft” metrics in brand awareness surveys. While these all have a purpose, they don’t tell you a whole lot about how your efforts are concretely driving business value. How much additional revenue is a 2% lift in brand awareness worth? Or 5 million 30-second brand impressions?
In this post, we’ll walk through how we measure the ROI of brand marketing with attribution -- the questions we ask, the metrics we look at, and how we analyze our results.
Now we certainly don’t want to understate how important brand marketing is. In fact, we believe that a strong brand is one of the most important and valuable assets a business has. But it is a lot easier to continue to invest in building and promoting your brand when you have hard data (especially incremental revenue numbers) to back it up.
This year at Bizible, we plan to continue to invest in brand marketing, but to do so confidently, we had to look back at our past efforts. First, we wanted to know if our past efforts had paid off. What was the ROI? And secondly, we wanted to identify the marketing channels where we were seeing success, the areas where we could improve, and the areas where we should cease to invest.
So we went looking for answers.
Where can we expect to see the impact of our brand marketing?
The obvious place to start is the brand survey that we run every 6 months in target cities, but as we discussed earlier, we aren’t able to confidently connect that to revenue. We should, however, be able to see the revenue impact of effective brand marketing in our data for select marketing channels. If more people have heard of Bizible and know what we do, we would expect to see an increase in direct traffic -- people typing in ‘bizible.com.’ We would also expect more people typing ‘Bizible’ into their search engines, resulting in increased organic search traffic. And because we have effective attribution, we are able to see how this traffic turned into leads, sales opportunities, and then eventually revenue.
As we go a little bit deeper into our metrics and attribution data, we would also expect improvements in velocity from first-touch to lead creation (a shorter amount of time), as people are more familiar with us and trust us more from the get-go.
We have all of this data because we have effective attribution. Attribution data connects our marketing efforts to downstream outcomes, like sales opportunities and revenue. Because we can see how first time visitors turn into leads and then go on to become opportunities and customers, based on the channels they interact with, we can accurately attribute a percentage of customer revenue to each specific marketing activity.
Each set of data is a piece of evidence, which combined, will paint a story of our brand marketing’s success or failure. Ultimately, what matters is figuring out the impact on incremental revenue.
Brand Survey Results
In the five months from July to December 2015, our brand recognition increased nearly 30% (from an admittedly low beginning). More specifically, 16% more respondents reported being “moderately familiar” with Bizible and there was about a 7% increase in respondents who were “very familiar” or “extremely familiar.”
While all of these numbers are good things, we can’t say anything about their direct impact on revenue. Honestly, I have no idea how much a 30% increase in brand recognition means in terms of revenue. It’s just a good thing.
Brand Marketing’s Impact on Direct
Here’s what some of our attribution data looks like for Direct. Ok, that’s a lot to take in at once. So let’s break it down.
Here’s how many leads were attributed to Direct per month in 2015:
Overall, there is an upward trend, which is what we’d expect -- we’re a growing company! It’s also what we’d expect to see if we had successful brand marketing. More people are interested in what we do and more people know the name Bizible, so more people are typing in our URL and coming to our website directly. If our conversion rate remains constant, an increase in direct traffic would result in an increase in leads. That’s the first step. The next is figuring out how many of those leads continued on to become opportunities.
Note that the timeframe is based on the date of lead creation, so if a prospect became a lead in January and then converted to an opportunity in February, that opportunity would show up in the January column.
Somewhat surprisingly, the chart has no apparent trend direction. However, it’s important to keep in mind a couple of things. First, because we are a B2B business with a buying cycle greater than a month and because the data is based on the date of lead creation, November and December data are understated. Leads from November or December may convert to an opportunity today or tomorrow or next month. When these conversions happen, they would contribute to the opportunity figures in 2015.
As we move to the revenue graph, the same is true. We expect the numbers in November and December (and maybe even October) to continue to increase over time.
Still, despite the understated amounts in November and December, there appears to be an upward trend in the graph.
When looking at attribution data for Direct, it’s important to note that Direct isn’t really a marketing channel like Search and Social. Meaning, marketers don’t have direct levers to impact Direct in the same way that spending more on LinkedIn ads will impact traffic, leads, etc. from Social. However, we can say that Direct is impacted by brand marketing efforts. As we mentioned earlier, the more people know about Bizible, the more they type your URL into their Internet browser. For example, having prominent billboards that promote your brand may generate curiosity and interest, which in turn gets people to type your URL directly into their browser.
Going back to the data, even with a remarkably successful June (helped by seasonality) and far from complete revenue numbers in November and December (sales cycle lag), revenue generated from Direct was greater in the second half of the year. Furthermore, making the assumption that December ends up following the annual trajectory, H2 2015 revenue from Direct will be nearly 15% greater than H1 2015.
Brand Marketing’s Impact on Organic Search
Organic Search is the other channel where we’d expect to see a bump due to effective brand marketing. Here’s our Lead, Opportunity, and Revenue attribution data for Organic Search:
Pipeline growth from Organic Search, however, will reflect many factors, not just our brand marketing efforts. Take our content marketing for example. When we write great content, it ranks higher on search engines and we get a lot of traffic that way.
So to isolate brand marketing, let’s take out all leads, opps, and revenue for Organic Search where the landing page was blog content. What we’re left with is results from people who search for and land on information pertaining to our brand and product -- “Bizible” or “Bizible marketing attribution” or some variation of that.
Again, this is a lot of data to take in at once, so let’s break it down individually. Here’s how many leads were attributed to Organic Search, after removing anything with a landing page that contains “blog.”
With the exception of a particularly successful early summer, the chart looks like slow, steady growth. As our category (B2B marketing attribution) and our brand grows, we expect to see this type of steady growth in Organic Search. More people are searching for keywords that are relevant to our category and more people have a chance of being exposed to our brand marketing efforts, such as our billboards during Dreamforce, our booths at conferences, our digital display ads, etc.
Now looking at opportunities, we must again note that due to the long buying cycle, we expect November and December to continue to increase, as leads created in those months continue to convert into opportunities today and in the future.
The graph of our opportunities generated from Organic Search paints a less optimistic picture of our brand marketing success. If our brand is steadily getting stronger, why was there a dip from April to August? These are all pieces of evidence for or against our brand marketing success. Fortunately, once the opportunities from December come in, it looks like the positive trend is back in the second half of the year.
Of course, the most important data is revenue. If we’re generating more revenue from Organic Search and our brand marketing efforts, that’s all that matters.
This is a great sign for our brand marketing. As we continue to invest in brand marketing, we’re seeing real returns in the form of revenue from Organic Search.
When looking at the actual numbers, with December adjusted to follow the annual trend, total new revenue from Organic Search (blog traffic excluded) in the second half of 2015 is 2.3x as much as the first half of the year. This is from people organically searching for our brand and our products. People who come to us via Organic Search are converting to customers and creating real business value for us. From at least this piece of evidence, our brand marketing is paying off.
Brand Marketing’s Impact on Velocity
The last piece of evidence that we look at when determining the success of our brand marketing efforts is its impact on marketing velocity. If people are familiar with our brand and trust our brand, we would expect them to convert faster from anonymous visitor to lead.
Visitor to Lead Velocity
It’s important to also note some of the other factors that impact our marketing velocity. In the middle of 2015, we introduced an advanced feature to our product that also increased our price point. All else being equal, an increase in price should lead to a decrease in our velocity. So the fact that we see an increase in velocity, is evidence that our brand marketing efforts are paying off and contributing to a faster visitor to lead transition.
Immediately, we see that the majority of our leads converted on the same day as their first touch. According to the trend line, we consistently saw 75% of our leads per month converting immediately or near-immediately throughout the year. What did change, though, is that throughout the year, ‘More than 15 days’ decreased at a similar rate that ‘1 to 15 days’ increased. This is good news -- it’s evidence that our pipeline velocity is increasing. Due to our efforts, in which brand marketing plays a big role, we are able to convert more visitors to leads in under two weeks, when previously, many took longer than two weeks.
So What Can We Conclude?
Our brand survey showed that our brand marketing was working, but it’s hard to say what impact that has on business value. It’s good to know, but that information likely won’t help us negotiate more of the budget for brand marketing efforts. After all, if we spend X amount of dollars, what increase in awareness or sentiment would make it a successful return on investment?
Next, we looked at the pipeline impact from the marketing channels where we know that brand marketing has an impact: Direct and Organic Search. While the lead and opportunity data didn’t always show an impressive amount of growth, both revenue reports showed impressive growth throughout the year. Unlike the survey results, the incremental revenue will certainly be useful in making a case for more investment.
And finally, the velocity reports also showed an improvement throughout the year. Despite our move to a higher price point, our same day lead conversion stayed consistently high, and we were able to convert more leads in less than 14 days, when it may have taken 14+ days previously. While the impact on revenue is less direct, increased velocity means that we lose fewer people through the funnel, and it makes our sales team happy.
To measure the ROI of our brand marketing and make reports like these, we relied heavily on our attribution data. It gives us channel data (and more specific data, if we want) at every stage of the pipeline, which allows us to measure our marketing’s impact throughout the entire funnel as well as create velocity reports. Check out the guide below to find out how advanced marketing attribution does it.