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February 5, 2016

The Basics of Closed-Loop Reporting


Are you new to the world of closed-loop marketing? We've boiled everything down to the basics, focusing on what closed-loop marketing is and how you can integrate it into your marketing process.

What is closed-loop reporting?

At its core, closed-loop reporting means "closing the loop" between the data that marketing is collecting — usually in a marketing automation system — and the data that the sales team is collecting, which is generally seen in a CRM. This allows marketers to make decisions on actions that occur further down the funnel on what drives the greatest ROI for the business. A common example of this type of analysis is looking at what the best and worst lead sources are (we'll dive into this type of reporting in more detail later in the post).

What's the value of closed-loop reporting?

The value of closed-loop reporting cannot be overlooked. It is one of the most powerful tools that inbound marketers can utilize. It allows marketers to focus and report on their contribution to the business pipeline instead of solely top-of-the-funnel lead generation. According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 21 percent of B2B marketers are successful at tracking ROI — a shift to closed-loop reporting is a huge step in solving that challenge.

Download the Marketing Goals Calculator Template to find out how many leads you  need at each stage of the funnel

How To Implement Closed-Loop Reporting

1. Focus on the first-touch

With closed-loop marketing, you can identify which sources bring in the highest quality leads, and then focus on those channels and engaging with those leads to start moving them through the sales funnel appropriately. This is called a first-touch attribution model, where all revenue credit is given to the original source to show your ROI. For those just getting started with closed-loop reporting, this type of attribution model is a great place to start. 

2. Analyze and Plan for Success

For those of you familiar with HubSpot, this is the type of report easily viewed in the Sources report:

For example, looking at the report above we can see that direct traffic is our top performing channel, followed by referrals, email marketing, organic search and then social media when it comes to converting contacts to customers. As a marketer looking at this report, I can then focus my efforts on building relationships with other influential sites in my space to earn new referral links. As well as continue to invest in email marketing and strategies such as blogging to build organic search rankings and test social media to work to improve traction and conversion rates. In this way, a closed-loop report shows me clearly where, as a marketer, I should invest my time and budget.

Another great way to look at closed-loop reporting is to examine the first conversion that is driving the most business. For example, a great white paper or a webinar to guide which types of content are most effective.

As you can see, one of best things about closed-loop reporting is that it takes the guesswork out of creating new marketing materials and the decisions you make with future campaigns. It gives you the ability to use actual data and statistical analysis to influence the direction of your next campaign.

What's even better about closed-loop reporting is that you can start predicting the future. It allows you to analyze past and present conversion rates, giving you visibility into patterns that occur with your prospects, and helping you to plan for those changes with your future campaigns. Start taking advantage of this tool to direct your business in the right direction.

3. Understand your audience

We talked a lot about reporting in the last section, so we're going to bring it back to the greater idea of closed-loop marketing and how it relates to your target audience. With closed-looped marketing, you gain insight into your audiences' actions and behaviors, showing you exactly how they are interacting with your content and what content pieces/topics are generating results. You'll also be able to see the linear attributions that are driving leads down the funnel.

A large part of inbound marketing is understanding your buyer personas. Before developing any inbound marketing strategy, we always make it a point to identify who we are targeting, what their challenges/pain points are, and how we can provide solutions that meet their needs. But as time goes on, our buyer personas can change. Their industry might be evolving, and therefore their business challenges change along with.

Most businesses rarely revisit their personas, but that could be a big, wasted opportunity. Fortunately, closed-loop marketing can give us insight into these changes. Take a look at your lead history and you might notice there are new challenges/pain points that your prospects are exhibiting by their behavior–what blog posts they're reading, what white papers their downloading, are new marketing channels developing that are currently under utilized? Finding the answers to these questions will help you build more effective, on-target content in the future.

The final benefit of closed-loop marketing is that you can identify the exact steps your prospects take before becoming a customer. As a marketer, this type of intelligence will help you identify areas where your lead nurturing could be stronger or show you that your sales team actually should be reaching out to a lead sooner in the buying process than they currently are.

4. Identify your goals

We know we always bring this up, but setting marketing and sales goals is an important step of the marketing process. Without goals, how are you measuring success? With this infrastructure you can now set your goals based on metrics further down the funnel than visits or leads, and instead look at MQLs, opportunities and customers.

These metrics can then be rolled up into visitor-to-lead conversion rate and our lead-to-customer conversion rate, which we saw on the Sources report. By keeping a close eye on these numbers, we are able to see (almost real-time) what is working and what isn't. Was that the right offer to promote after that blog post? Did sending that email last week generate as many leads as we normally see?

The data you can gather from your closed-loop reporting will show you all of this. And what's even better is that you can adjust your goals when necessary to produce the best results and continue to improve your conversion rates. This will also allow for you to compare current and past performances.

5. Spend your marketing budget wisely

We know that you don't have an unlimited marketing budget. So how do you know where to invest your money? By leveraging closed-loop reporting data, you will be able to identify what channels are generating results for you - more specifically, what channels you should be investing in that will actually help grow your business. If you can understand which channels are bringing in the most leads and revenue for your organization, you can stop wasting your money on the tactics that aren't providing a return on your marketing investment. Eliminate the weak links and start focusing on developing content across the channels that are going to continue help you succeed.

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Tag(s): Reporting & ROI

Olivia Perek-Clark

Olivia Perek-Clark leads New Breed’s Learning and Development team. She is a seasoned Demand Generation and Inbound Marketing Strategist turned team trainer who has a passion for developing systems and content that help other New Breeders do their best work for our clients.


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