Here's the backstory to our recent ABM In Action Article - ABM's Vanity Metric: Engagement
While a lot of account based advertising vendors have declared "engagement" as the new objective, there's a lot more to this story than an exciting keynote presentation or infographic. One of the world's leading media research organization, Nielsen, has researched this exact claim for nearly a decade and have consistently determined that it's wrong.
Reviewing billions of dollars of display ad spend, across the globe, they statistically determined that display ad clicks and resulting website visits have "No Strong Correlation" to offline conversion.
Wait, you say... then why is this being said in the ABM community? In the absence of being able to reconcile stronger actions, like conversions and pipeline movement, to media spend the only plausible metrics they have left simply relate to media activity (impressions and clicks), and the somewhat related measurement of website visits (acquired through their js pixel).
Given the inability of most vendors to do the required data and analytic heavy lifting, thousands of B2B marketers are running down the wrong path, trying to optimize their programs against the wrong KPI's.
An even more impressive challenge is a complete inability to defend revenue attribution for all of this activity. Heading down this path, marketers are told to optimize for media impressions and clicks, as well as website visits, and to set a rule whereby a predetermined quantity of this "engagement" would determine "Marketing-Qualified Account" status. This status would tell the platform to wait for an Opportunity in Salesforce... triggering the claim of marketing attribution of pipeline revenue.
If the relationship between media activity and offline purchase has been proven to be non-existent, how can they then claim revenue impact?
How will your C-Team evaluate this new metric?
Even if you have a great relationship with your CEO, chances are they view marketing with a suspect eye. In fact, research shows this true for 80% of all organizations. When you introduce your proposed KPI (engagement), their natural response will be to view it critically. It's a new measure for them, they'll need to digest it.
While digesting this new KPI, your CEO is going to look for "business quantifiable" and "business-measurable" outcomes. At issue, your proposed KPI is about the furthest removed from actual, measurable demand... let alone revenue. Not that ad clicks and website visits shouldn't be tracked, it's just that they don't hold water as a justification to shift investment so you can achieve them.
Consider this, your CEO wouldn't accept a recommendation from your CFO to guess at line items in your Balance Sheet, rather they should account for it. For the same reason, they shouldn't accept a recommendation from your CMO to rely upon leaps of faith to justify marketing investments. Like financial accounting, the business impact of marketing can and should be measured.
Why are platforms talking about "Engagement"?
Simple… It's hard for early stage vendors to build the right measurement functionality into their platforms. The underlying technical issue is that they can't reconcile and connect the media-driven response from a target account, like demo requests and registered form fills, to your underlying CRM or MAP. When they can't do that, you can't reconnect media investment to prospect activity / conversion, making it impossible to align this demand with downstream revenue impact.
So, what does all this mean?
I'd be hard-pressed to believe these "engagement" focused vendors actually believe this is a good measure, but it's the only thing they have to show you. So, when you're shown a slide that shows target account display ad clicks superimposed over website traffic, and are told that this "engagement" is the objective of ABM… run.
Is this conversion tracking stuff real?
This idea of aligning media spend to results isn't new. The display ad industry's been doing this for years.
Check for yourself... go to Google and search for some of these topics, all of which you need to know so you can better target your account based advertising...
- Conversion tracking concepts - research ideas like CTC (click through conversion) and VTC (view through conversion).
- Contextual targeting and brand governance - check out whitelist and blacklist strategies. These are often used to find better fit audiences while using more broad media targeting strategies. For example, while using IP targeting you could whitelist specific trade or business publications or blacklist low conversion publishers so your ads will only show on particularly relevant sites. These two strategies are often used to ensure the best possible brand representation in the market... making it so that your ads can't be served on whacko extremist or adult sites. Yes folks, without these tools, your ads may just end up on the wrong properties.