This is the 2nd post of a 50 article series for beginners building marketing at B2B startups.
Marketing is now a data game. Successful B2B marketers are highly data-driven and speak in terms of A/B testing, conversion metrics and trackable marketing journeys. This maniacal focus on data enables marketers to solve the classic problem of understanding which marketing strategies actually work to drive leads, and which ones are a waste of time. The answer to solving that problem is a concept known as closed loop marketing. As we kick off this 50 post blog series on startup marketing, this concept is exceptionally important for all of us to understand.
Closed loop marketing is simply a set of strategies that give marketers access to data on where a lead came from, and what specific marketing activities converted them from target to lead to MQL (if those terms are unfamiliar, read this post). Closed loop marketing is a required strategy for effectively growing a B2B marketing organization. Let’s walk through how it works:
1. It starts with an inbound content strategy
The epicenter of inbound and closed loop marketing is your website. This is what attracts visitors to read valuable content, download special offers (ebooks, webinars, etc) and be nurtured towards being sales ready. When you install marketing automation and analytics software (we’ll talk about that in the next post), the system installs a tracking cookie – a legal, small piece of computer code that anonymously tracks visitors’ interaction with your website. This tracking cookie stores data about their interactions with your content: which pages they visit, which links they click and the time they spend on each.
2. Next, we connect visitors to leads
When you just have visitors on your website, the tracking cookies we discussed above are tracking anonymous data. That might be good to show you trends, but it doesn’t help track specific lead journeys. This is where our content strategy really comes into play. When a visitor fills out a landing page form to download a piece of content, their contact information is attached to that cookie and tracked in your marketing automation software. This connects their contact record to all of the online activity they have engaged in since you started tracking.
3. Then, we track activity as they move through the funnel
Here is where closed loop marketing gets really cool. Once a contact is being tracked with a cookie, marketers can see this beautiful timeline of every interaction the lead has with us, from their original entry source (e.g. searching for us on google) through the time when they fill out a demo request form to become an MQL. Here’s an example:
Example of closed-loop reporting in my team’s implementation of Hubspot.
This timeline is a marketer’s best friend and can provide incredible insight into a target’s journey. This is literally a visualization of the funnel journey from target > lead > opportunity > customer. The cookie combined with marketing automation software is making this timeline happen. We’re tracking website visits, content downloads, email clicks and funnel stage conversions.
The target in this example ultimately came to our website via a Google search (which is listed in an earlier month in the timeline), visited our website multiple times, provided us with her contact information (thus making her a lead), joined our email list, and clicked on our emails.
Ultimately, when this lead converts to an opportunity, the sales team will directly ask how they heard about our company and log that data as well. Combining all of these data points “closes the loop” on the person’s journey through our funnel. We now understand how they entered, what they did in the middle and ultimately what marketing activities helped enable them to become a customer.