With a few small pieces of information you can be on your way to measuring (and improving) your thought leadership marketing efforts.
Most senior business leaders are demanding more accountability from their marketing investments. Talented marketers welcome this because they see it as a chance to validate the impact of the work they do. And, if we can prove that things are working it’s easier to secure more budget to have an even bigger impact.
Yet, measurement while simple in theory can sometimes prove difficult in practice. But, it doesn’t have to be. Ultimately, to determine the ROI of your thought leadership marketing efforts you really just need to routinely collect two pieces of information related to each person in your database — lead source and campaign source. While these are fairly simple fields in your CRM, over the years I’ve noticed they’re either not populated or not used correctly by a lot of firms. (Read this for more on marketing measurement).
The Difference Between a Lead Source and a Campaign Source
While these are pretty common fields in a CRM, I’ve noticed over the years they’re often misused. I’ll be honest, and admit that we used them wrong for a while before I caught the mental mistake. A person’s lead source is how they first became a part of your marketing database. It’s where you found them. Or where they found you. For this reason, you may hear this piece of information described as lead origination or first point of contact. A lead source is pretty straightforward.
By contrast, a campaign source can be a bit fuzzy. An opportunity’s campaign source identifies the marketing or business development initiative that had the most impact on the outcome of the business development opportunity once one emerges. It asks, what had the most influence? Campaign source is critical for firms that are looking to identify which marketing tactics have the most affect on winning a deal. This is often called revenue attribution.
The important things to remember are these:
- Every person in your database, regardless of where they are in the sales process, should have a lead source.
- Every opportunity in your database should have both a lead source and a campaign source.
This manifests itself on an Opportunity Record (in Salesforce) like this:
Typical Sources and How They’re Used
The sources for a lead and the sources for a campaign are usually quite similar (if not nearly identical). While it’s possible to identify hundreds of sources you could apply to your marketing efforts, usually it’s sufficient to have just a few handfuls:
- Web — This includes any leads that were derived online. It might make sense to be more granular by breaking down into subcategories for Search, Social, Webinars, eBooks, Research, Paid Media, etc.). But, it’s not necessary to do so. Simplify identifying the web as a source is sufficient for measurement.
- Speaking — This includes events where someone from the firm is a featured speaker.
- Events — And, this includes events where the firm is in attendance (possibly with a booth or through a sponsorship), but not in a speaking role.
- Client Service — This source embodies anything done by your existing account teams. Usually, Client Service would not be a lead source (after all, the client had to find you somehow in the beginning, and it probably wasn’t through an account manager). Client Service, however, is frequently a top campaign source because the key people in your firm managing a business relationship have the biggest potential influence in securing follow-on work. Generally, 80% of a firm’s annual revenue comes from existing clients. This would be represented by tracking those client relationships as opportunities with Client Service as a campaign source.
- Referral — These are people that are referred to you by a client or other trusted advisor.
- Business Development — This source is designed to encapsulate any outbound networking and relationship building done by your business development team.
- List Building — This source covers anyone that’s been added into your system via a list rental or purchase. While list building may be a frequent lead source it’s rarely identified as a campaign source because a list provider would rarely have much influence on the outcome of a sale.
- Paid Media — Paid media encompasses anything you might do from an advertising or sponsorship perspective to grow awareness for your firm or activate your thought leadership. If all you do is paid search you may choose to sub-classify that under the Web as noted above. But, if you’re investing in offline media or other sponsorships you might want to call it out as its own source. You may even want to create subcategories for event sponsorships,
SEM, display ads, outdoor advertising, etc.
While it can be useful to classify campaigns more narrowly (specific events, specific speaking opportunities, specific thought leadership programs, etc.), it’s not necessary to do so in order to measure the outcomes of your work. Even if you do, we normally recommend rolling individual campaigns up into broader campaigns along these classifications in order to simplify measurement and reporting.
Automating Assignment of Lead Sources and Campaign Sources
Okay. I know what you’re thinking. “This is just additional information to manage in my CRM and I don’t really want to do it.” Or, maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t even have control of that.” The good news is that much of the collection of this information can be automated:
- Whenever anyone completes a form on your website (whether it’s a subscription form, passing through a registration for a webinar or completing a contact inquiry), you can pass this information to your CRM via a hidden field. You can do this by using Salesforce Web-to-Lead forms. And, you can do this with any marketing automation system. The key is to assign each new person in the database both a lead source and to associate them with a relevant campaign at the point of conversion.
- This information can also be added whenever you import a list of leads into your database. To do this, simply add the lead source field to your data file. Then create the campaign in your CRM and import the list directly into that campaign.
Now, just because you can automate it doesn’t mean it will always be right. So, the final step in getting good information to measure ROI is to work with your firm’s partners and sales people and encourage them to do some active listening in their qualifying conversations. Encourage them to listen between the lines during the sale to find answers to questions like these — How did this person find us? What really shaped their thinking on this issue? They’ll use this information to update the data in the system as they learn more about the opportunity at-hand.
Using Lead and Campaign Sources to Inform Decision-Making
By collecting this type of data at the point of lead generation and during the sale, it enables us to answer some of the questions we often struggle with as marketers like:
- Which of our marketing channels generate the most leads?
- Which channels generate the most quality leads?
- Which of our marketing and business development activities have the most influence on sales?
We can develop visual answers to these questions from our CRM data by building useful reports and dashboards elements. The top graph shows opportunities won by lead source (at a granular level). And, the graph below shows opportunities won by campaign source (at a macro level). Note that these examples leverage fictional data:
And, we can use this information to modify our behaviors. Over the years, we’ve used the data that flows from our lead and campaign sources to:
- Improve our lead scoring models — We’ve determined that leads from some sources have greater potential to turn into new clients than leads from other sources.
- Modify our lead nurturing efforts — Certain marketing activities have much more influence on how our clients think than others. Those activities are more likely to impact the client’s buying process. We’ve modified our lead nurturing programs to encourage people to go through those channels at some point along their journey.
- Change our marketing strategy — Over the years, we’ve learned that certain marketing activities drive higher volumes of leads and others drive lower quantity but higher quality leads. So, we’ve adjusted our marketing mix to reflect this combination of quality and quantity in the things we do.
While measuring your marking efforts can seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. It pays to start small. Identify where most of your leads come from and build a pick-list in your CRM. Make a list of your major marketing activities and create each one as a campaign. Work with a developer to add hidden fields to your website forms to pass both pieces of information into the system. Then, just collect the data systematically for a few months while regularly encouraging business development managers to pay attention to the information they’re entering into the system. Within 5-6 months you can have a decent set of new, useful data you can use to inform your marketing efforts. For more on data-driven marketing, check out the Data Webinar.