Measuring Customer Engagement: Managing the Attribution Challenge

Heather Higgins , Global Marketing Leader, Strategy & Analytics, IBM and I spoke last week at an ITSMA event on the importance of customer engagement strategies. We shared examples of how IBM is building a very deliberate customer engagement approach targeted at the top level CXOs from its largest and most strategic client relationships.

During the discussion ITSMA presented research that showed 81% of B2B marketers indicate that customer engagement programs are important to their overall business strategy. Yet 70% of the same group are not satisfied with the results they are achieving. The research also showed several obstacles preventing success including difficulty connecting customer engagement strategies to overall business performance and challenges in measuring and reporting results.

Clearly, it is difficult to connect your strategy in any meaningful way if you are struggling to find measurements that are effective. Often, we find marketers give up the battle before figuring out the right things to measure because the need to show attribution gets in the way.

Here are three tips we have used effectively with our clients to overcome some of the challenges in linking client experience strategies to business performance and finding the right things to measure:

  1. Co-create your measurements with your clients and focus on measuring areas that connect to their overall business performance. This will not immediately link to your overall business performance, but in the majority of the cases, by helping your client’s performance you are likely to experience renewal and upselling opportunities.
  2. Elevate your program to the CEO’s office. This isn’t easy and it isn’t a one-conversation deal – but most CEOs care deeply about the shift that is happening today with their customers; if you can create a multi-client program that has a compelling value proposition and deep insights about the future of your business, your CEO will care. Once you have this buy-in, the linkage to business performance will become clearer.
  3. Measure the downside as well as upside. Typically we focus on the upside revenue opportunity available with each client. But, according to Gallup, actively disengaged customers represent a 13% discount in gross margin and sales growth. Focus on identifying and quantifying the revenue associated with those customers you risk of losing to show the value of the client engagement programs.

Attribution will always be a challenge for programs that cannot draw a direct connection to revenue generation and marketing will never be able to show 100% attribution. By engaging your clients and your CEO, the attribution argument will lose its power.

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