Finally! A Great Reason to Use a Sankey

A couple of years ago, I didn’t know what a Sankey diagram even was — and maybe you’re in the same boat. Essentially, it is a data visualization technique used to illustrate flow and pathway relationships. They look really cool, but I never had a compelling reason to use one. That is, until today! 


At Channel99, we just launched a technology to detect the flow and interactions across the B2B ecosystem, from advertising and social to search and email, back to your corporate website. The purpose is to understand the true impact and attribution of your digital programs, whether they occur on your site or off it. Enter the Sankey. It offers an intuitive way to visually understand the many digital pathways and appreciate how, for example, a simple display ad drives increased engagement in paid search, social, email, and other channels. It also underscores how evaluating click-through rate is only part of the answer. It’s way more important to look at the complete “view-through” and understand the targeting efficiency of your various vendors.    

The Sankey diagram below illustrates the flow of 100 interactions generated from a single digital ad. While 40 interactions came from direct clicks, the actual activity generated was 2.5 times that amount. A large portion simply typed the website domain directly into their browser – a segment that usually gets lost in a bucket called “direct” in most web analytics packages. But the influence of this ad goes beyond that, impacting other channels from search to social media to email. So all the math and attribution for measuring ad performance based purely on click-through goes out the window.


Targeting Efficiency 

Now let’s take this evaluation one step further and consider only your target audience. In this example, we look at only the interactions from companies we can sell to (our Total Addressable Market, or TAM). If we now overlay the flow of TAM accounts onto our Sankey, the universe narrows to only 58 accounts and the true impact of our digital ad can be measured.


The Technology Behind the Scene

Consumer marketers have been using tracking pixels and cookies for years to monitor publisher brand safety, understand human vs. non-human traffic, and assess ad viewability.  In B2B, however, what really matters to advertisers and marketers is the effectiveness of reaching specific companies in their target audiences to drive increased engagement, and, ultimately, more revenue. The Sankey diagram provides a window to understanding the “view-through” and digital pathway that leads to engagement. Combine it with our B2B technology,  and it is now possible to understand these pathways by account, audience, vendor, channel, or combination thereof. The result? B2B marketers have a single source of truth, full transparency, and a common set of KPIs behind all their digital investments.   


Why Now?

In B2B, detecting account-level information without relying on form-fill data or cookies wasn’t possible at scale until the emergence of the ABM (Account-Based-Marketing) technology category. ABM vendors have invested millions into real-time account identification using both IPs and cookies. Today, they use a variety of approaches to solve for “at-home” to “in-office” relationships. Rather than recreating the wheel, Channel99 partnered with multiple providers and networked the identification technologies together using “best-of” from each source. The result is a high-fidelity account identification network that detects accounts in real-time, whether ads are being viewed, websites visited, emails opened, searches conducted, or social interactions happening. This makes it possible to understand the digital pathways for individual accounts, target account lists, or entire campaigns. 


So, why has this not been done before? Two reasons: 1) the ABM tech category had to happen and mature first, and 2) an unbiased, independent party needed to bring it to life in a useful manner. Enter Channel99 and the Sankey diagram.  


Discover Your Digital Sankey

I encourage every B2B marketer to delve into the digital pathway for at least one of their digital programs. If you’re interested in doing so, you can register for free at and gain access to data that can enhance your understanding of whether your investments are really paying off.