Measuring the Success of a Marketing Retainer
Entering a marketing retainer can feel like a leap of faith. Despite shiny case studies and testimonials, success is not guaranteed; every business is unique, and cookie-cutter strategies rarely hit the mark. That’s why it's critical for an agency to deeply understand your business and tailor their approach to meet your specific objectives.
Gathering the data
An essential step is understanding your core focus—whether it’s growth, launching new products, or optimization. Ideally, this should be done during the sales process. An agency should work closely with you to set clear objectives and budget accordingly, diving into your growth goals, sales values, and customer lifetime values, among other metrics.
It’s also crucial your new agency understands your current key conversion metrics.
Your agency may ask for:
- Current and forecast turnover
- Monthly sales goals
- Average sale value
- Average lifetime value
- Sales profit margins
- Monthly leads generated and key channels
- Website visits and leads per month
- Website conversion rate
- Lead-to-sale conversion rate
- Current marketing activity
Building a Performance Model
With this data, a predictive model can be created to project return on investment. It's important to set realistic goals; otherwise, both parties may face disappointment. A dynamic model allows for real-time tracking and ROI adjustments.
It may look something like this:
Any relationship should be built on strong foundations – it’s important that any agreed goals are SMART.
The last thing either you or an agency wants is to agree unobtainable or unrealistic goals, inevitably leading to disappointment.
Embracing Transparency and Collaboration
Success depends on ongoing collaboration and transparency. Agencies should work with you to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and adjust strategies based on actual sales and lead conversion data. Constant communication on data is important to ensure everyone is on the same page, lest targets are missed and the relationship sours.
Understanding Lead Attribution
Lead attribution, simply, is the process of identifying and assigning credit to the marketing or advertising channels that contribute to the generation of a lead.
Accurate lead attribution is challenging, especially with the complexity of B2B buying journeys. It’s important to recognize the multitude of touchpoints and influencers involved in every sale, which can extend beyond digital interactions.
For example, if a potential customer first learns about a product through a Google search, then later visits the company's website after seeing an advertisement on Facebook, and ultimately fills out a contact form after receiving an email newsletter, lead attribution would involve assigning credit to each of these touchpoints.
Like most methods, there are various ways to attribute leads—what’s important is using this information to determine which marketing channels are most effective at generating leads and optimizing marketing strategies accordingly.
The Challenge of Attribution
Attribution models can be biased towards digital marketing, often ignoring non-digital influences. This is compounded by the continued complexity of the length and non-linearity of B2B buyers’ journeys. Misattribution can lead businesses to invest heavily in short-term tactics while neglecting long-term brand building and demand generation.
It also doesn’t account for the fact a buyer’s journey may have started non-digitally:
For example, a prospect sees you exhibiting at a show, but does not visit the stand. Instead, they remember your name and do a Google search that results in a zero-click visit (doesn’t end up on your site) as a YouTube video shows up. They watch the video, and it impresses them.
Six months later they are in the market for your services, they remember your brand name, and so return to Google and perform a brand search.
They land on your site and complete a form. You, as a business, will wrongly attribute this to Google Organic search. As a result, you’ll tell your SEO agency that they have generated a lead through the work on optimisation they have been doing, when that wasn’t the source at all.
Adapting to Digital Measurement Challenges
With the digital landscape rapidly changing—like the demise of third-party cookies and updates affecting ad tracking—digital attribution requires careful consideration. It can be dangerous putting all your eggs in one basket.
Focusing on the Right Metrics
An effective agency will help identify the right KPIs to track, understanding that B2B leads and sales result from multiple touchpoints. The focus should be on the overall uplift and compound effects of marketing efforts.
It’s important to understand that each B2B lead we generate, and every sale made, is a combination of multiple touchpoints over time, with contact made by several stakeholders.
From lead generation and website performance to SEO success and paid advertising efficiency, a range of KPIs can provide insights into the health of your marketing strategies.
Ultimately, the partnership with a marketing agency should be grounded in understanding, adaptability, and strategic alignment with your business goals, ensuring that every marketing effort contributes to sustainable growth.
Below we have provided a non-exhaustive list of potential KPIs you might consider tracking. We have broken them down into useful silos to help you identify the ones that might be most useful to you.
Monthly new leads/prospects
This indicates the number of new leads acquired in the past month. A new lead can be someone signing up for a free trial or completing a form etc – these need to be nailed down before we start
Qualified leads per month
Monitoring the number of qualified leads shows whether your marketing campaigns are effectively focused on targeted leads or just generating traffic that’s not your prospective audience Prospects who have the potential to become a paying customer can be categorised into three groups:
Marketing qualified leads (MQL) – leads that the marketing team has evaluated and decided to forward to the sales team.
Sales-accepted leads (SAL) – prospects that the sales team has accepted and will follow up on.
Sales qualified leads (SQL) – leads that the salespeople consider prospective customers, leading to focused attention and moving the leads further into the sales cycle.
Cost per lead generated
Cost-per-lead shows the cost of acquiring a new prospect. Complemented with the cost-per-conversion metric, you can evaluate whether various marketing activities pay off the effort, time, and resources spent to attract new leads.
Cost per conversion
Cost to acquire leads that also converted to paying customers. While an advertising campaign can generate hundreds of leads for you, often only under 2% of them turn to a client. If the cost-per-conversion is lower than your customer lifetime value, your marketing strategy is wasting resources instead of generating profit.
These KPIs should provide us with the guidance we need for improving your marketing performance.
Monthly website traffic
In addition to overall traffic, we can also monitor the number of visits to multiple page categories such as your homepage, pricing page, blog and importantly landing pages.
We analyse those figures to evaluate which parts of your website have the highest conversion rate and apply the best practices to other pages as well.
Returning vs. new visitors
By measuring the percentage of returning visitors, you see how engaged your audience is. For example, a low return rate on a blog page might indicate that your content isn’t compelling enough for people to come back for more.
Visits per channel
Understanding your inbound traffic sources helps to determine the most profitable marketing channels.
Average time on page
This metric is especially important for organic search traffic as Google ranks pages based on their relevance. If a visitor leaves your website straight after arrival, search engines will know that the content they saw wasn’t what they were looking for.
The higher your website’s average time on site, the more likely you rank well on search results and convert more visitors to leads.
Website conversion rate
A page might be visited thousands of times. But if it doesn’t convert, there’s no use in directing paid traffic to this site.
Click-through rate on web pages.
CTR shows how effectively your site’s call-to-actions attract people’s attention and make them click for more information. It might be a CTA button or a link to another piece of content that’s clickthrough rate you’d like to increase.
Pages per visit
This marketing KPI shows whether your site navigation is set up in a logical order and includes compelling call-to-action. Moreover, you can see if visitors are attracted to your content, meaning that they’re more likely to return.
SEO metrics focus mainly on organic traffic and acquiring highly targeted leads.
Inbound links to a website
Measure only the quality links from pages with high page rank. The number of inbound links shows whether your content’s shared on other sites. It can also indicate whether you’re considered to be an industry expert in a certain field.
Traffic from organic search
This SEO metric shows the number of monthly website visits that come through search engine results from Google, Bing, etc.
New leads from organic search
Monitor the number of new leads that found your brand through a search engine query. This KPI indicates the performance of your SEO strategy. Track this KPI as a percentage of all new leads to assess the value of organic search to your sales and profits.
Conversions from organic search
See how many leads from organic search convert into paying customers.
This KPI shows whether your keywords that rank high in search engine results are linked to your value proposal. A low organic conversion rate indicates that you might have high-ranking keywords that confuse the audience and deliver wrong messages about your service or product offer.
Keywords in top 10 SERP
When people search on Google, they rarely go through the second page of search results. In fact, if position #1 gives you the average click-through-rate of 32.5%, ranking as #11 results in a 1.0% CTR. We also segment keywords by brand and non-brand as we find that branded search metrics can skew the true KPI of non-brand terms.
Rank increase of target keywords
We like to track the number of increased and decreased keywords to see whether your SEO strategy is on its course.
Number of unique keywords that drive traffic.
Monitor this SEO metric as a month-over-month trend to see whether your newest keywords start to bring more traffic.
Many businesses fail with paid advertising as they forget to evaluate their ROI profitability. Add some of the advertising KPIs to your monthly marketing overview to improve your ads and save resources.
Leads & conversions from paid advertising.
Monitor the number of monthly leads and conversions from cost-per-click advertising as a percentage of overall results. This way, you get an overview of your non-paid marketing performance.
Cost per acquisition (CPA) & cost per conversion.
As acquiring leads and customers through cost-per-click advertising can be quite expensive, it is highly important to monitor the ROI. You might even go as far as to include this metric among other financial KPIs monitored by your company.
You can also monitor the cost per acquisition, but it’s cost-per-conversion that reflects the actual profitability of paid campaigns.
Click-through rate on PPC advertising.
This advertising KPI gives you an overview of the effectiveness of your pay-per-click campaigns. If the CTR is low, it means that your ad content isn’t compelling enough for a person to click on it.
We monitor impression share to ensure we are getting enough of the available search market. If it is too low, we can make recommendations on budget increases based on ROI if applicable.