The Top Marketing KPIs and Leading Indicators For B2B Companies

Written by Kathy Kassera Mrozek
People In B2B Marketing Meeting Looking over KPIs

For nearly all B2B companies we work with, the website is your most important marketing asset. Especially in today’s unpredictable environment. 

But with the top marketing KPIs and leading indicators we’ve listed below — along with lagging indicators like leads and revenue — you can easily see if your marketing tactics are working ahead of your uptick in leads.

What are you doing to track your leading marketing KPIs (key performance indicators) to ensure future success when it comes to your website and digital marketing

Leading marketing KPIs are even more important today, in a time of rapid change and disruption. Deals are taking longer to close. No one is finding you via trade shows. And fewer people are searching the web for anything that’s considered a big-ticket capital expenditure. Marketers are pulling back from aggressive, “always be closing” language and focusing more on tactics that share knowledge, build empathy and deepen relationships with existing customers. The idea is when marketing budgets open up, you’ll be top-of-mind and a trusted supplier your prospects and customers will turn to for help.

But, how can we know if what we’re doing is working, or at least moving in the right direction? Most B2B businesses have learned through experience that Facebook likes and traffic from too broad of an audience doesn’t result in closed business. Even if it looks impressive in your monthly marketing report. 

So, what are the leading indicators to focus on and prioritize improving? In today’s environment, we consider the following to be the top marketing KPIs.

8 Leading indicators — Top B2B Marketing KPIs

1. Engagement metrics like bounce rate, time on site and pages per session

If users arrive at your website and get confused, that’s a sign your content doesn’t match their intent when they click on a search result or ad. If they don’t find your content relevant or compelling, you’ll see a high bounce rate, low time on site and few pages viewed per session. As you make improvements to your website and digital marketing, you will want to see bounce rates go down and time on site and page views per session go up.  

2. Traffic — returning visitors

Look at the percentage of returning visitors vs. new users and you’ll see how many new people you’re reaching and how deeply they’re engaged in your site. You can increase the percentage of returning visitors by publishing content that educates your audience or helps them solve problems. You can improve this number by ramping up nurture and email campaigns. 

3. Soft conversions

Website visitors AREN’T always ready to buy. The reasons vary from simply being too early in the process, to not in the budget, to economic uncertainty. However, you have the ability to positively influence the quality and quantity of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) down the road. Use white papers, calculators, or e-newsletter or email subscriptions in exchange for contact information. The more compelling your content and offerings are, and the more you’re able to demonstrate and provide value to website visitors, the more likely you’ll convert them into subscribers and eventual customers.

4. SEO ranking and share of voice vs. competitors

A tool like Moz can help you compare how your content compares with competitors for a KPI called share of voice — a measure of organic SEO. Choose the keywords you want to rank for, identify a few top competitors, and then record how you rank for those keywords, as well as how your competitors rank. 

If you like crunching numbers, calculate share of voice for your keywords based on the average click-through for each position in the SERP (search engine results page). First position, according to recent numbers, averages a 31.7% click-through rate; and second position averages 24.71%. Learn more about performing these calculations in this article from Moz. If you’re more of a graphs and charts person, you can also use some of the tools available in Moz or Spyfu to get an idea of how you rank against your competitors. 

5. Engagement and conversion rates from PPC campaigns

If you have a high bounce rate on your PPC campaigns, the messages on your ads or landing pages aren’t resonating. Or you’re targeting the wrong keywords, or not tightening the reins enough and getting too many broad keyword matches. While attracting a lot of traffic from pay-per-click campaigns might seem like a good indicator when you have a long sales cycle and know that website visitors are doing research before reaching out, watch and improve engagement metrics to ensure that you’re delivering quality traffic through these campaigns. 

6. Open and click-through rates from email campaigns

The more soft conversions you receive from your website, the more subscribers you’ll collect for your email nurture campaigns. The result: As subscribers open and read your content while clicking through to your website, the more likely they’ll think of you when they’re ready to buy. Additionally, if you’re building your list with tools like ZoomInfo or GrowBots, segment your lists so you can personalize content and measure engagement by different job titles, company size, or geographies, which will help you improve engagement over time.

7. Social engagement — shares, clicks, and on-site engagement from social media

While many of our B2B industrial clients don’t see social media as the primary driver of their marketing campaigns, platforms like LinkedIn can keep you in front of your audience as a trusted resource of useful information. Experiencing broad engagement on these platforms shows that your content and positioning are resonating with your audience. Look to improve these metrics over time.

8. SEO benchmarks

As you might expect, there are plenty of SEO-driven leading indicators you should keep an eye on. Start with page authority, inbound links and relevant page-one keywords. Each of these reflects your positioning in your industry as Google sees it. 

Prioritizing the Marketing Channels that Perform the Best

Each of these leading indicators will help you measure and improve your marketing effectiveness. Keep in mind, also, that every B2B business has multiple sources for leads and referrals, including outbound initiatives, ABM campaigns, and digital marketing channels (Google Ads, email, LinkedIn, organic search and more). 

Always monitor which of these sources deliver the most engaged traffic, highest conversion rates, the highest quality deals, and ultimately the deals your sales team can easily close. And, which of these results in profitable work and high customer lifetime value 

Ask yourself — how can you increase effectiveness in the channels that are working, and cut expenses in the ones that aren’t delivering? Which referral sources are bringing in quality traffic, and are there others that are similar? 

Lagging Indicators that Help Improve Results

Remember the lagging indicators we mentioned earlier? There are a few of these you can use to complement leading indicators:  

1. Monthly (or weekly) new leads/prospects.

Use your CRM or pipeline management software to filter leads by date to review the number of leads that you received, and rate each one by quality. 

2. Hand raisers (form-fills from your contact or get a quote page)

When a prospect completes an online form, they trust you enough to share their phone number, email address and agree to talk to your salespeople. Technical audiences tend to only take this step once they’re convinced you can solve their problem and are certain they can derive value from talking with you. 

Form-fills or hand-raisers (people who’ve raised their hands to talk to sales) are essentially a lagging indicator of how effective your marketing is, but a leading indicator for sales. This is also a measure of what we call deal quantity. However, be sure to only count quality deals, not the form- fills from unqualified people, vendor inquiries and spam.

3. Deal quality

Of course, if your hand-raisers are unqualified, your salespeople will reject the leads. If this happens a lot, you have a deal-quality problem. You can monitor deal quality by assigning a numeric value in a spreadsheet or CRM; and, once your deals have a numeric value, you can work to improve this metric over time. You will find your highest-quality deals to be the best leading indicator of sales.

4. Time to close

Sales cycle length, or time to close, means measuring the time from the creation of a deal to the time it closes. This helps you calculate what we refer to as deal velocity. When the time-to-close KPI is combined with your close rate and average deal size, you’ll generate the goal for sales-accepted MQLs. An increasing time to close is a negative leading indicator; a decreasing time to close is a positive leading indicator. 

5. Close rate

Your close rate works jointly with the time-to-close KPI to calculate deal velocity. Measuring close rates for your deals originating from different channels helps you evaluate which channels are working, and which ones aren’t. 

Over time, you’ll learn far more from prospects around the deals you DIDN’T close, as long as you’re asking for feedback, which is invaluable. Use this “intelligence” to improve your marketing, sales process, pricing and offerings. 

Use Leading AND Lagging Indicators to Thrive in Today’s Environment

Within sales and marketing departments, we must pay attention to both leading and lagging indicators. And with the number of unknowns in the current economic environment, it’s more important than ever to have solid leading indicators, and then test the strength of those indicators based on lagging indicators. 

Looking for a fast way to boost your website and digital strategy performance? Check out our Digital Marketing Quick Start.