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The best and worst online metrics for B2B

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Posted Aug 23 2010 02:51 AM

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing overlaps with the business-to-consumer (B2C) world in a basic sense: Marketers targeting either realm are focused -- at their core -- on converting a customer base.

Web 2.0 Expo New York - 20% off with code RadarBut that's pretty much it for the similarities. B2B marketers can't treat business customers like consumers, and they can't (and shouldn't) use consumer metrics to define online success.

Tami Dalley, director of user experience at ROI Labs, will dig into B2B marketing and its associated analytics in a workshop at next month's Web 2.0 Expo in New York. Dalley discusses the best and worst online B2B metrics in the interview below.

Here's a few of her conclusions:

-- Dalley says it's hard -- sometimes impossible -- to draw a straight line between online efforts and offline sales. That's why B2B metrics should focus on engagement; things like lead generation forms, video views, and white paper downloads.

-- The top movers metric is one of Dalley's favorites because it reveals "trends even when they're occurring outside of your normal focus area." And "mover" goes both ways: pages and topics that drop precipitously offer important data points.

-- Which metric should be ignored altogether? Total visits. Dalley says workplace distractions often stop users in their tracks. If a "time out" window expires, that same visitor gets counted twice. (No, that's not a good thing.)

The full interview follows.

Tami DalleyWhat are the most important online metrics for B2B?

Tami Dalley: If you're struggling to get insight into your offline sales -- or have pretty small online sales -- then I'd suggest taking a looking at your "soft" conversion points. Submission of a lead generation form, video views, white paper downloads, engagement with click-to-chat features. Really, anything on your site that's a measure of engagement.

What are the least important metrics?

TD: Total visits. With B2B traffic, we often find that it's mostly people searching from work. But visitors have so many distractions -- emails, running off to meetings -- that they'll start their research but never really finish. "Time-out" occurs fairly regularly. This can make it look like you have a lot more visits than you actually do. I'd recommend taking a look instead at visitors, rather than visits.

Along those lines: B2B companies should consider modifying their web analytics "time out" settings from the standard 30 minutes to something a little longer. It has its pros and cons but it's worth looking into.

Also, it's not so much a metric, but I'd certainly caution against placing too much emphasis on looking at session data in isolation. Instead, you really want to be moving to an analytics view that ties together multiple sessions to get the most accurate insights into how multi touch-points work together to create a conversion story.

What are the differences between B2C analytics and B2B analytics?

TD: B2B analytics present a host of unique challenges. For example, longer sales cycles with multiple touch points can make attribution difficult. Add because a lot of B2B sales are closed and offline, it becomes even harder to connect money in your pocket to online efforts. Most web analytics tools focus more on their B2C features and functionality, to the detriment of B2B.

Why is the "top movers" metric important? What does it reveal?

TD: Top 10s never change. It's like the medal count at the Olympics, it's always going to be China and the US. But looking at top movers means you can identify trends even when they're occurring outside of your normal focus area.

Tip: Don't just look at the guys climbing, look for ones falling at a great pace, too.

A lot of interaction now happens beyond the boundaries of a website. How can companies measure outside engagement?

TD: Well, this is a tricky fellow, truth be told, and there is no one right answer. If metrics are your thing, then check out David Berkowitz's blog. He lists 100 things to measure.

Social sites are also getting better at opening up their data thru APIs. So, when possible, push this data into your analytics tool. Omniture has a cool Twitter integration feature and Webtrends is also doing some interesting stuff with Facebook.

This interview was condensed and edited.

Tami Dalley will lead the "Practical Analytics for B2B Marketers" workshop at Web 2.0 Expo New York (Sept. 27-30). Save 20% off registration with the code webny10mca.


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