Vice President of Worldwide Sales for LeadsRx, responsible for driving growth of our impartial multi-touch attribution marketing software.
If you own or manage a business that supports a broader ecosystem of partners — such as Zillow.com does for its realtor network — then you are undoubtedly working hard to promote goods and services for your partners. It can be thankless work, and you are not alone if you feel a lack of recognition for all the conversions you drive on behalf of your partners who are spending their limited ad dollars on your network.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get full credit for the value you are delivering across the ecosystem? This is a real problem for network owners like online marketplaces, franchise parent companies and directory sites. These groups perform marketing on behalf of their trusted partners but can struggle to show the value of their efforts analytically.
In my experience, the issue stems from the fact that most of today’s marketing systems only work within well-defined silos and don’t capture customer actions across companies or websites. As a result, actions that drive customer acquisition for a network owner may not be seen by the analytics systems the final partner who makes the sale is using.
Here are some examples and use cases where marketers of networks are missing out on getting full credit, and oftentimes any credit, for promotions and marketing efforts they make on behalf of their ecosystem partners that make the final conversion.
Let’s break it down.
Marketplaces for automobile sales are great examples. You know all the big ones: Cars.com, CarGurus.com, Autotrader.com. These are popular brands that have built reputations as go-to sources for would-be buyers of cars, trucks, SUVs and such. Local and regional dealers advertise with the car marketplaces in hopes of garnering interest in the inventory of vehicles they have on their lots.
The auto marketplaces want to push in-market buyers to their trusted partners and show that they — the network owner at the front end of the customer journey — are indeed creating awareness and interest for the cars on their partners’ lots. To document it, they’ll produce reports showing they are in fact delivering top-of-funnel leads, but they’re grading their own homework, in a sense, and leave it to their partners to prove results are genuine.
But here’s what’s sometimes happening. A car shopper sees their dream ride on the auto marketplace website and either clicks directly through that posting to the auto dealer’s site (like Joe’s Country Dodge) — or, more likely, gets distracted, then later recalls the name “Country Dodge.” They type in “Ram 2500 Country Dodge,” find Joe’s site, see the black pickup with all-black interior is still available, call the dealer, schedule a test drive, visit the showroom and eventually drive off the lot.
Joe thinks the buyer found his dealership by an organic search for “Ram 2500s for sale near me.” Even if he asks the customer where they learned about the dealership, they will likely say they saw an ad on the internet and won’t recall that it was on “auto marketplace ‘x.'”
This scenario plays out over and over not only for auto marketplaces, but also for marketplaces that advertise homes for sale or rent; auto, home and life insurance; mortgage and other lenders; and more. For every Joe’s Country Dodge, there are a thousand more partners like him at the end of the sales line.
If the network selling the advertising can’t prove the linkage between their promotion and business sent to Joe, they run the risk of losing Joe’s advertising dollars. And, since Joe is able to measure the effect of other mediums, like Google and Facebook ads, it’s likely he’ll take his business to such channels.
The Franchisor-Franchisee Partnership
The same goes for franchises and franchise-like models. While it isn’t a franchisor, State Farm cleverly and consistently places its “Jake from State Farm” ads on the airwaves to market for the greater good of the company and all of its agents.
The call to action is for those seeking insurance to do more online research, eventually find an agent near where they live, then call or visit and sign up for a policy. How does that local agent know that the “Jake from State Farm” Monday Night Football ad indeed contributed to their eventual sale of a policy?
The problem is that the company and the agent may not be sharing the various marketing touchpoints that influence consumer action — and therefore the customer journey analytics are broken.
The Correlation Between Adoption And Measurement
Without the ability to transparently and accurately measure the effectiveness of ecosystem marketing programs, this channel could see shrinking ad dollars in 2021 and beyond. Measurement systems like marketing attribution are becoming the source of analytic proof for many marketers, and these systems must evolve to accommodate measurement across trusted partners. Until that time, ecosystem adoption could be hindered.
So what should network owners do now? Here are some suggested steps:
• Look inward. Talk to your sales team members and ask them if they are struggling with this lack-of-credit-where-credit-is due problem.
• Ask your customers. As a network owner, you should not be afraid to ask your seller partners what they want and how you can help. Open the door for transparency.
• Kick some tires. Investigate some marketing attribution providers; ask fellow marketers how, and with whom, they’ve had marketing measurement success. Ask what the benefits have been and what the challenges were.
• Check out the competition. Find out what other network owners in your ecosystem are doing differently, if anything. Are they marketing differently, and is it because they implemented an attribution platform or strategy? A competitive landscape review is always good.
The bottom line is that marketing ecosystems will likely experience greater adoption once measurements are in place to show their true value. When both network owners and trusted partners agree on what’s working and what’s not, true collaborative marketing will be possible with rewards for both sides.
Forbes Business Development Council is an invitation-only community for sales and biz dev executives. Do I qualify?