Monday, October 08, 2007

One way to tackle closed loop marketing

Now that the summer is behind us I feel that I have a few extra pounds from the BBQs and beers on the patios. I've promised myself to go for at least 2 morning runs during the week and a trip the gym on the weekend. I'm still working on the 2 runs per week but I'm getting there. I know that if I don't go, I see the results of the hamburger that I had for lunch the next morning on the scale. When I do go for a run I see the positive results - great motivation to keep on exercising.

If I compare my exercise achievements to "closed loop marketing," I get half-way as I am able to track if I've lost weight on my scale but I don't know what exactly contributed to this weight loss. Was it the distance and intensity of my run or was it my avoidance of the free donuts that are passed out at the office? It's this unknown factor that contributes to your success that is the "magic number" or as Rod Tidwell in Jerry McGuire would call it "the Quan".

This post is not meant to define or re-define the term "closed loop marketing". It focuses on a few methods that are used to track various marketing initiatives which can be rolled up to larger marketing reports and/or dashboards. This type of reporting can guide marketers to determine which campaigns and channels are more successful then others by tying marketing initiatives to closed deals.

Closed Loop Marketing And Query Strings

Query strings are those weird characters you see in a URL. Here's an easy example: Go to Google and type in "Toronto Maple Leafs". On the right hand side, you'll probably see a StubHub ad (unless they removed it after people reading this clicked on it too much which I highly doubt). Click on the ad. Don't get alarmed at how expensive the seats are - that's not why you are here. Check out the long URL:

The query string part of the URL (typically found after a "?" or "&") is gtse and gtkw. The query string values are "goog" and "Toronto%20Maple%20Leafs". In this case it seems that StubHub is tracking the search engine which is Google and the search engine keywords which are "Toronto Maple Leafs".

In a finely tuned closed marketing system, StubHub will save the search engine and keyword query string data to the profile of the people that purchase tickets. StubHub can then evaluate which search engines and keywords resulted in the most sales and invest appropriately.

Closed loop marketing seems easy eh? It isn't. This was a fairly straightforward B2C transactional example. What about the other marketing channels like email and my website? Query strings can help out there as well!

Moving Beyond Search - Query Strings and email, website, online ads and direct mail

You can take the example above and use it for your other marketing channels. For example, on your website, consider using query strings for links on your home page or category pages. This will allow you to track the source if web visitors downloaded a white paper or purchased a product. The same goes for email. If you add a query string to your web links, you can save the query string data to the web profile of the email recipient, if they click through and fill out a form.

They key to this closed loop reporting method is:
a. Having a marketing team that is bought into using this method. This includes the bandwidth to create query string values to track each individual campaigns
b. The technology to capture the query string data so that it can be reported on

Closed Loop Marketing, Query Strings, B2B, and Your CRM

With B2B, many sales cycles are prolonged and may take weeks or months before a deal is closed. In addition, your sales are not transactional - i.e. responding to an email and buying some Leaf tickets. Therefore, the deals take longer to close, more individuals on the client side are involved and you typically have your sales force that you need to work with (however, I'm focusing mostly here on online lead generation).

In this case, you need to sync up your query strings values to an object in your CRM - typically called a campaign object. Campaigns can represent an online webinar, a trade show, a demo or case study download, a request for contact etc... With the CRM, you can associate Campaigns to a Lead or Contact. Campaigns are then associated with Opportunities (potential deals) and when they are closed, marketing gets the credit if a Campaign was associated with the Opportunity. Which Campaigns get associated with the Opportunity is way out of scope for this post.

Here is the takeaway: You can use query strings to represent campaigns that can be recorded in your CRM. You can then implement closed loop reporting as you can run reports on the opportunities that closed and the campaigns that were associated to them. Again, you need a marketing and sales team that has bought into this concept, the resources to create campaigns and query strings that are integrated with your online strategies and the technology that will allow you to capture this data and easily sync it with a CRM.

Are there easier ways to do this? Definitely and the technology is constantly evolving. In fact, I should have an update for you soon on different ways to perform closed loop marketing. As I mentioned, I wanted to present one way to do this.

Now that I may have confused some of you, I'm going for a run.

Chad H.

PS - Here are some additional resources on closed loop marketing:

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