After I reviewed several marketing dashboards recently, one thing became clear: Online metrics abound—from website metrics such as site visits, pageviews, open rates, and click- throughs, to social media metrics such as fans, followers, likes, and online authority rankings such as those from Klout and MOZ's Social Authority.

Some companies have found ways to link online activity to the pipeline, such as visit-to-conversion or engagement-to-conversion ratios, which populate their dashboards as well. But B2B marketers, who often face a long and complex buying cycle in which buyers may follow and visit over an extended period, need to focus and report on metrics that connect customer behavior to business results.

B2B customers typically name numerous site visits and early visits represent a part of the evaluation and consideration phases. Those online visits are a precursor to action. As a result, consider exploring how to link online metrics and data from programs to how well you've created preference and consideration in the customer's buying stages. Doing so will require research and A/B testing to track which areas of your marketing efforts best support your customers' buying process.

The key is to develop a way to understand how the customer behavior you can monitor influences the buying process. The more you can connect customer behavior, online or offline, that relates to engagement, experience, consideration, preference, and consumption, the more likely you'll be able to increase profitable sales.

Here are three areas to monitor and how to tie them to more outcome-based metrics.

1. Experience

In today's environment, face-to-face contact with a customer may come later rather than sooner. Customers experience your company various ways—your website, your emails, your phone conversations, and, hopefully, face-to-face encounters.

The interactions include those you can control (your website, your blog, your emails) and those you cannot control (reviews, comments, and tweets). Therefore, the more ways we can monitor and measure experience and create opportunities to help customers with critical steps in the buying decision, the better.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM