Aligning Advertising & Marketing -Tracking Cost Per Sale (not cost per lead) in B2B Marketing

In an earlier post by my colleague Marijke Timmers, she wrote about the value of Aligning Sales and Marketing. Along similar lines, aligning Advertising and Marketing will allow both departments to understand bottom line ROI for their efforts, while also delivering more relevant and personalised content to their prospects and customers.

For businesses that are primarily B2B focused, cost per lead (CPL) is often the primary performance model and success metric for marketing and advertising departments. However, the bottom line for a business is sales, not leads. One of the major reasons B2B marketers use a cost per lead model is that they have traditionally struggled to attribute a sale that occurs outside of actions taken directly from marketing assets or from advertising that occurs outside of a set cookie expiration window.  

There is no longer a reason for marketing and advertising to not be more closely aligned to the benefit of both. The key to optimising to cost per sale is having the ability to connect all of your advertising and marketing activities to sales through your CRM system.

Let us use paid search advertising (SEM) as an example as it is usually one of the most cost effective channels for advertisers. Individual keywords are often evaluated and optimised based on a cost per lead model.

In a typical scenario, users evaluate campaign or account level lead-to-sale conversion rates over long periods of time and apply these metrics uniformly across an entire portfolio of keywords or campaigns to approximate what a final cost per sale metric would be. However, this method does not account for the quality of leads and variances in sales conversion rates for different keywords or variations of ad units.

For example:

  • Keyword A has spent $50 in advertising on Google and generated 10 leads = $5 cost per lead
  • Keyword B has spent $60 in advertising on Google and generated 3 leads = $20 cost per lead

Using a cost per lead optimisation model, Keyword A will be optimised to receive a far greater portion of the budget and impression share because it has generated more than 3x the amount of leads at 1/4th the cost of Keyword B. However, without connecting the leads generated from a keyword to the final sales that occur at a later date, keyword optimisation is guesswork at best.

Having a CRM that is integrated with your marketing and advertising efforts will provide clarity around the value of these keywords by attributing a final sale to each keyword.

You can do this by using hidden fields on landing page lead forms that capture query string values such as keyword and matchtype, or even other parameters that can identify display ad units or social media ads/posts.

Let us revisit the example keyword scenario again – this time with a system that allows us to attribute final sale into the equation.

  • Keyword A has spent $50 and generated 10 leads = $5 cost per lead

After 90 days, Keyword A generates 1 sale = $50 cost per sale.

  • Keyword B has spent $60 generated 3 leads = $20 cost per lead

After 90 days, Keyword B generates 2 sales = $30 cost per sale.

You can see that this tells a far different story, one that is more accurate in determining the value of each keyword. Keyword B has actually generated twice as many sales at 40% of the cost per sale.

Not only does connecting a final sale to paid search keywords allow for better advertising optimisation, but it also provides valuable buyer intent information for marketing that can be used to segment and personalise future email communications.

For example, if you were a marketing manager for a University hoping to increase student enrolment, imagine how much more personalised your communications with prospective students would be if you knew the type of degree a student was interested in.

By capturing a search term that a prospective student used to find your website such as “Bachelor of Software Engineering” or “Universities with graduates with the highest starting salaries”, coupled with Digital Body Language on the site such as visiting web pages about housing on campus, you now have the ability to create a very relevant and personalised email message.

Monitoring Digital Body Language (what specific content a user views on your website) allows a marketer to have an educated insight as to the type of product and service a website visitor is interested in. However, by using search intent data AND Digital Body Language together, marketers have an even better understanding of the needs of their customers.

Using an example of someone looking for vacation accommodations in Thailand, imagine the vastly different types of email content you would deliver to  someone who found your site from a search term such as, “Thailand luxury vacation rentals” vs a search term such as, “cheapest hotels in Thailand”.
Using an example of someone looking for vacation accommodations in Thailand, imagine the vastly different types of email content you would deliver to  someone who found your site from a search term such as, “Thailand luxury vacation rentals” vs a search term such as, “cheapest hotels in Thailand”.

Aligning advertising and marketing teams benefits both departments. Advertising can get accurate ROI and Marketing can gain valuable buyer intent that allows the delivery of more personalised and relevant content.

With digital marketing roles now requiring both skill-sets, the lines are blurring between Adtech and Martech. Do your technology solutions provide a seamless experience for you and your prospects?”

My Top 5 Tips for Aligning Advertising & Marketing

  1. Whenever possible optimise towards the final cost per sale, not cost per lead. Not all paid search keywords, Facebook ads, or display ads will convert to the same cost per sale, regardless of the average cost per lead.
  2. Have a CRM and marketing automation platform with the ability to add a final sale to a prospect/customer record either automatically or through a manual upload.
  3. Look at your advertising and marketing efforts over a longer period of time, not just the month-to-month cost per lead generated. This is especially true for B2B businesses with longer sales cycles.
  4. Use URL query string parameters to capture your traffic source, ad unit, keyword, match type etc as well as hidden fields on landing page forms to connect paid advertising, leads and final sales with your CRM and marketing efforts.
  5. Use search intent data as an additional layer along with Digital Body Language (what specific content a user is engaging with) to create the most relevant and personalised content to send to your prospects and customers. Think of the different types of email content you would send a user who searches for,  “Luxury vacation rentals in Thailand” vs a user who finds your site from a search such as, “Cheapest hotels in Thailand”.