Misreading Your B2B Metrics Can Lead You on the Wrong Digital Marketing Path
More than ever, metrics planning, tracking and analysis are helping digital marketing leaders transform businesses. The most-successful results are created by identifying the right customer, tracking the correct things, and being willing to adjust the plan when results need to be updated.
Keeping up with today’s competition means more than just capturing yesterday’s basic analytics. Today’s pathway to impact insights is driven by deep reflection on not just industry, market and competition, but also prospective customers, their perspectives and behaviors.
The foundation to developing deeper understanding is acknowledging that just as business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions are different, their marketing funnels are different and ultimately their key-performance indicators (KPI) for website performance are different.
B2C vs. B2B: Key Considerations
When evaluating the right metrics fit for your business, it’s important to remind yourself of the key differences between B2B and B2C. The marketing funnel is different because the transaction is different: the B2B cycle is longer and more complex when compared to the B2B purchasing cycle. The drivers and motivators are ultimately completely different.
A B2C transaction is typically very short and is often based on emotion, impulse and executed at a smaller scale and lower price. The B2B transaction is longer and more complicated, with more dollars involved and a more profound impact.
The core differences in these transaction types mean there are also core differences in how to track prospects through the interaction. Where B2C tracking might heavily weigh the volume of users and overall site traffic in measuring marketing campaign effectiveness and key insights may be derived by tracking metrics such as shopping cart abandonment and average sales, these are less useful in B2B metrics evaluation.
Core B2B Digital Marketing Metrics and Benchmarks from a Leading Agency
WebEnertia, a San Francisco Bay Area-based digital agency with more than two decades of experience in B2B marketing, uses a core set of metrics for B2B website clients and has identified a couple of specific key performance indicators for lead generation. With all B2B KPI, WebEnertia recommends careful and detailed analysis. These numbers need to be considered and weighed in the context of the digital marketing landscape as well as the competitive landscape to make sure follow-up actions are appropriate.
WebEnertia recommendations include the following core B2B metrics:
Pages per Session
Whereas in B2C a low pages-per-session number may not be cause for concern, in B2B it’s important to give this metric special attention.
When hovering on the low side, low pages per session may signal disruption or lack of clarity to path forward, that design is underwhelming or that the content isn’t engaging and encouraging users to take that next step.
Especially when combined with high visit duration, high pages is most often a key indicator of success in B2B website marketing — customers are learning and advancing in a clear, meaningful way. On occasion, a high page per session number may reflect user interaction or user experience problems — users drifting off-path trying to find what they want — but typically it’s an indicator of a transparent path and good usability.
WebEnertia has found that B2B clients with more than 20,000 users see average pages per session at nearly 2.25, with a median of 2.05. Top performers in the category range in performance from 2.8 to 4.7, with strong performers identified as any with an average page per session number exceeding 2.5.
Bounce rate is an important metric for both B2C and B2B businesses, though in the former case it’s evaluated in context of sales volume and interpreted in a different way. B2B’s long transaction cycle and high comparative lead-generation cost means a high bounce rate is of much higher cause for concern.
A high bounce rate often translates to a disconnect between what the user expected to find and what they actually found when arriving on the website. Common causes include content problems and marketing issues upstream that are driving prospects off track. At times, a high bounce rate does not equate to user frustration or difficulty, however, and rather indicates that prospects found exactly what they expected and left satisfied. Still, even in that positive light, they indicate a missed opportunity to hold the user’s attention and advance in the purchase relationship.
Conversely, a low bounce rate indicates that the user was engaged properly. This is a common indicator of page content and design that support the user at their particular point in the purchase cycle.
WebEnertia reports that its B2B clients with more than 20,000 users see an average bounce rate of 60.55 percent, at a median of 60.85 percent. Metric leaders range from 30 percent to 45 percent. Any bounce rate 55 percent or lower is considered promising in the B2B space.
Average Session Duration
Where B2C businesses are often driven by fast, low-cost transactions, the B2B business relies much more heavily on extended engagements that support customers through complex purchase processes and higher impact decisions. Thus, average session duration is a critical data point in evaluating performance of a B2B website.
B2B website laggards in the session duration metric could be experiencing important content disconnects from users, design challenges, technical website performance problems, or other critical issues. On the other hand, session duration leaders are typically seeing these results by escorting users through an optimized purchase process that not only captures, but sustains customer attention.
WebEnertia reports that larger B2B clients see session durations that average a little over 2 minutes, with a 1 minute, 44-second median. While top performers at times see session durations as high as 6 minutes, these are typically driven by specific factors in context. In general, session duration above 2 minutes is an indicator of success in B2B website performance.
Sessions per User
Where the fast, impulsive nature of many B2C transactions typically means a lower sessions per user metric, in the B2B website landscape, more sessions are usually required for a prospect to reach the bottom of the marketing funnel and initiate a transaction. The sessions per user B2B KPI can be an important indicator that the digital marketing strategy is working as expected or that some kind of problem has developed.
Lagging in sessions per user may reflect design or interface problems, content relevance issues, suboptimal product-market fit, or even technical issues on the website. Leaders in the space are typically seeing effective B2B results, with prospects locating, learning, deciding and purchasing along the expected path.
An average of 1.45 sessions per user is seen across WebEnertia’s larger B2B clients with a 1.42 median. Top performers see sessions per user ranging from 1.5 to 1.7 and, at times, higher.
Other B2B KPI to Keep in Mind
Beyond the four metrics that make up its B2B KPI core, WebEnertia recommends a couple of secondary metrics to monitor with an eye toward maximizing lead conversion.
When conducting a standard website performance review with B2B clients, WebEnerta invests the time to make sure conversion paths are reviewed. If conversion paths don’t reflect what’s expected, evaluation and optimization of user personas and expected journeys are often considered.
In cases where the conversion paths are significantly different from what’s expected, a deeper research effort may be launched to understand the variance and evaluate whether a core market change has occurred. Often, these developments signal that assumptions are not aligning with actual results and need to be re-evaluated.
In the extended, complex sales cycle that prevails in B2B, getting that initial customer engagement is a priority. Conversion rates reflect a first step, the start of a sales relationship, and are therefore a noteworthy B2B KPI.
Trailing or lagging conversion rates often indicate ineffective promotion or marketing of the form or asset, or could indicate a problem with market interest in the product or service as offered. Low conversion rates may also be caused by layout or design problems with the form, or by technical issues.
Strong conversion rates usually indicate a product and/or service strength supported by a quality user experience, design, and content.
WebEnertia is a full-service Silicon Valley digital agency with offices in San Jose and San Francisco. With 20+ years of experience in delivering award-winning results for its clients, WebEnertia specializes in building strategic digital brand and web experiences for B2B technology companies.