What Does Success Look Like for an Outbound Marketing Program?

Learn two ways to evaluate the success of a marketing program that supports outbound business development efforts.

The goal of marketing in private equity is to:

  • Create conversations
  • Differentiate your firm
  • Build a relationship
  • Stay top of mind

Relative to those objectives, a common question I hear is: "How do you measure if your marketing program is successful?"

Let me show you.

Understand Each Channel's Objective

How you measure success will be different for each channel.

For example, for an outbound email campaign with the goal of creating new conversations, the ultimate metric for success is of course the number of new conversations resulting from that campaign. (I'll give you an example of what I typically see for my clients who engage me to manage their outbound email program.)

For channels like LinkedIn paid advertising and marketing newsletters, the metrics for success are more related to engagement (i.e. are the people you care about reading, watching, or listening to your content?).

Below I share typical outcomes I see in working with clients for each channel.

Biz Dev Email Outreach

Based on the cost of running an outbound email campaign, the ROI here can be very high. If you're a private equity firm reaching target companies, the cost to create enough conversations to close a deal is very small compared to the value.

Here's how I typically think about determining ROI of an email outreach program.

  1. Identify how many deals you would expect to close out of 100 conversations with interested prospects (1 out of 100 isn't a bad estimate for PE firms hitting a highly targeted list).
  2. Determine your ability to create those conversations, and the marketing investment required to do so

When my clients engage me to run an outbound proprietary search on their behalf (for either new platforms or add-ons), we're typically surfacing 1-2 new interested prospects per week, and the cost is $1800-2600/month to run the program.

LinkedIn Ads

All marketing in private equity should be account-based marketing, meaning that every marketing dollar is spent with the goal of putting your content in front of a specific group of people (the people in your CRM).

With LinkedIn Paid Ads, you can actually export your CRM of contacts and upload that list directly into the LinkedIn Ad platform. So as long as you have high confidence that the people in your CRM are worth reaching, and you focus your marketing efforts on putting content in front of them (as opposed to an anonymous or unqualified audience), then to understand if your LinkedIn ads are successful, you just need to determine if the amount of time, effort, and money to create and promote content is worth the level of engagement that campaign produces.

Here are real outcomes I’ve seen with my clients when running LinkedIn Paid Ads:

LinkedIn Ads: Case Study #1

A Canadian fund-of-funds produced a written article and promoted it via LinkedIn paid ads to a list of 3000 financial advisors they wanted to reach.


~$1000 to create an article

~$600 in advertising budget for a 3-week campaign


~5000 impressions

~100 clicks

~100 minutes spent on the website

~$16 per minute of engagement from their target audience

LinkedIn Ads: Case Study #2

A San Francisco-based investment bank produced a piece of video content and shared it via LinkedIn paid advertising.


1 hour of script practice by the managing director

~$500 to record and edit a 1.5 minute video (among a batch of 3)

~$400 in advertising budget for a 2-week campaign


100 minutes of video watched

~$9 per minute of video watch time on LinkedIn

How do we know if this is a good outcome or not? For these clients, these outcomes were great for them because the audience contained individuals that they wanted to nurture a relationship with beyond their traditional biz dev activities. They were willing to spend up to $30-40 dollars to get the attention of these high-value targets.

This is a heuristic approach to measuring success, but firms often conduct this same type of ad hoc analysis when thinking about whether or not attending an event was worthwhile (i.e. were we happy with the level of engagement given the time, effort, and resources required to attend).

Don't Ignore Anecdotal Evidence

One of the best indicators of success is qualitative comments from your target audience. Here are some real examples of messages shared via email with business development professionals who had reached out to lists of founders:

“M___, thanks for reaching out. Would be happy to chat, I have enjoyed the content you are creating and putting out there.”
“Your organization has been emailing me for some time (5+ years I believe). Recently, I’ve been contemplating what an exit might look like, and…I’ve also found ____’s informative articles educational and helpful.”
“I have been spending a fair amount of time on your website and very much appreciate your content section.”
“I just read/watched a lot of the content. You guys did a great job with that. I really like how it was laid out."
“I’m happy to connect. Good video content you’re putting out there.”
“Your content producer or scheduled content generator on LinkedIn is fantastic.”
“Thanks for sharing this guide - there goes my thanksgiving. Looking forward to staying in touch.”
“Listening to your podcast, I am open to hearing more.”

This qualitative evidence will come infrequently (and much of it will be shared verbally), but both it and the touchpoint-level metrics are great indicators that you’re making a positive impression in building awareness of your brand.


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