The problem with subjective feedback

A couple of weeks ago I read a post by Mark Ritson on LinkedIn, bemoaning people putting pictures of their dogs on a social channel normally propagated by the humble brags of recruitment consultants or bankers about to complete Tough Mudder.

Having just purchased a cocker spaniel puppy I was suitably informed that LinkedIn was not the place for her, which I have taken to heart. Oddly I decided B2B Marketing was the place for this conversation though, here’s why:

Like many other new dog owners, I diligently (my fiancé) went out and bought several books on puppy training. In these books there are several useful nuggets on how to ensure amongst other things, that said pup doesn’t have an accident on your new carpet. An old method for dealing with this would have included rubbing the puppy’s nose in it and as puppies have short memories they are unable to understand what they did wrong. As food is usually used to reward good behaviour in a dog, if you feed your pooch at the table but tell them not to beg, it confuses them, and they are unable to distinguish when they have done something well.

Feedback is the number one way in which both puppies, publishers and marketing professional learn. One of my key missions is to ensure, that in a digital world where it is possible to measure performance using a variety of analytics platforms, feedback is provided, and it’s not subjective.

Last year we bought roughly £4.5 million of B2B media on behalf of our clients and where possible we provided feedback to our suppliers. But there were several instances where it wasn’t possible, sometimes due to trust and sometimes because the client-side marketing team hadn’t effectively set up their tech stacks to enable effective feedback. Sometimes there was a disconnect between marketing and sales where sales weren’t entering pipelined activity. Sometimes nurture programs weren’t scoring multiple touches effectively, so too much weighting could be put against a repeat lead that sales were already heavily engaged with.

I am yet to meet any marketer in B2B or anyone working in an agency who hasn’t on occasion experienced one of these problems in their working lives. That the industry isn’t perfect is ok; what is not ok is failing to use the resources at our command to try to make things better. Likely due to a perception of being seen to have done a bad job, problems are never ever talked about. Without naming names, I’d like this to stop as otherwise our only knowledge of what is good in B2Bmedia comes from B2B award ceremonies where there is a worrying correlation between sponsorship spend and number of trophies won.

Feedback must go both ways to optimise campaigns. If you book a roundtable with a third-party supplier ‘we met some good people’ does not count as sufficient feedback. Content syndication campaigns require more than ‘there were some decent names on that list’. If you see this type of testimonial on a media-pack, I’d suggest you ask for more detail.

After the relevant interlude we can now return to puppies. The clear advantage that media providers have over puppies is that they can ask questions in order to learn. They can understand based on feedback from their clients what is working and what isn’t. Whilst the salesperson or your account might not have the requisite skills to action feedback provided, someone in the organisation will.

Publishers are nothing more than external content marketing platforms using their brand and data rather than yours to market your products. You wouldn’t blindly run campaigns to your own email data or social groups for years without making changes based on analytical feedback. Non-subjective feedback should also go both ways. Ask publishers for feedback on engagement, open or click rates where possible and provide conversion rate feedback in return. Many will be doing this already but for those who are not, feedback is the best way to ensure campaigns are optimised. Whether working: publisher, agency or client side; B2B marketers need to approach each campaign not as the perfect finished article, but as a learning experience that will ensure all future campaigns get better. A subjective response to a feedback request might seem easier, but longer term it will help no one.

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