How to Connect Digital Media Spend to Revenue Results

Digital media spend is likely one of the largest pieces of the budget. But is it being well spent? How can you tell? The media team and their agencies use a lot of new buzzwords to describe where it is being spent, but at the end of the day CMOs want to know exactly how much revenue that budget drove.

Besides content and labor, digital media spend is likely one of the largest pieces of the budget. But is it being well spent? How can you tell? The media team and their agencies use a lot of new buzzwords to describe where it is being spent, but at the end of the day CMOs want to know exactly how much revenue that budget drove.

Understanding the Media Spend-Revenue Connection

Before we jump to answer how to ensure you are tracking the spend, let’s review what we spend the budget on at a high level. This chart provides a simplified view of the most common channels in North America:

Major North American Media Channels
Credit: Pedowitz Group by Kevin Joyce

So let’s agree the media spend can be divided between paid search, promoted posts, ads, retargeting on social channels, and display and banner ads hosted on other advertising platforms. We don’t have to blind ourselves here with which particular advertising technology (AdTech) is being used to target ads, we are just looking to understand how we track media spend to revenue.

In the Old Days, It Was Simpler

10 years ago, most of our digital media spend was display ads and paid search.

Digital marketing 10 years ago
Digital marketing 10 years ago. | Credit: Pedowitz Group by Kevin Joyce

Back then, the expectation was that a prospect gave you their identity after just one click.

But once you paid for the click, and the visitor didn’t fill in your form, you had no further ability to interact with that person. So a lot of your spend was for naught.

But tracking the spend was easy. We used UTM parameters that were picked off by the forms on the website and this enabled connecting a lead source directly to the media spend. If our digital team was smart, we had all the UTM parameters and knew what campaign and ad generated the leads. All that was left to do was carry this info over to our contacts and accounts, and onto the opportunities and we had a media spend to revenue connection. Fast forward 10 years.

Channel Complexity From Digital Media on Social Platforms

The addition of extra channels, including the social channels makes tracking media spend back to revenue more difficult because there may be multiple interactions between a prospect and you, many of them paid for by you before they become known to you.

Digital marketing today.
Digital marketing today. | Credit: Pedowitz Group by Kevin Joyce

So now we can expect that a prospect won’t surrender their identity until they click eight or more times on your ads and content. But there is good news here. When they do click on an ad, or a blog post we are paying to promote, they get a cookie placed on their device. This allows us to target only people with that cookie with very specific ads (retargeting). So, it keeps our costs down, and those retargeting ads lead to forms that capture all the UTM parameters we talked about earlier. Also, if we are using a marketing automation platform, and that was the cookie we placed on their device, then all of their anonymous behavior is recorded and associated with the lead when they finally fill in a form.

Two important things happened in that last scenario:

  1. We got the ability to continue to market to individuals who clicked, but didn’t fill in a form by virtue of the social platforms providing the retargeting feature.
  2. We got to associate all the multiple interactions of an anonymous prospect, to our content, drive by media spend, because we were using a marketing automation platform.

Connecting the dots – media spend to revenue

So now the complete picture for showing attribution for media spend looks like this:

  • The top of the funnel focus is on getting people cookied (no form required here)
    • Once cookied we can track their behavior with our digital properties and content
  • The next step is to retarget those cookied people to get them to a form to identify themselves
    • Once we know who they are we connect their past anonymous behavior to the new lead
  • The next step is to start email nurturing to them with very targeted offers
  • Finally, they warm up, become SQLs, we connect them to opportunities.
  • All the UTM information, and the anonymous interactions captured in the marketing automation platform can associate your media spend with the closed won opportunities.

I simplified a few things, but the key point is this. It is possible to connect media spend to closed won opportunities. The proper usage of UTM parameters and your marketing automation platform can make this possible. Make sure your team can tell you how much revenue comes from the media spend and calculate the lag time.