Marketing Attribution: What it is and why it’s essential for B2B marketing

By Chuck Leddy

In this first of three posts on marketing attribution for B2B marketing, we’ll explain what the term means and why it’s so essential. In post two, we’ll explore where marketers are now in their readiness to implement and leverage marketing attribution, and how they can take the first steps. In the third and final post, we’ll describe the many opportunities that marketing attribution provides marketers, offering an illustrative “success story” of implementing marketing attribution from a long-time Sojourn Solutions customer.

John Wanamaker (1838-1922), who pioneered both the modern department store and modern advertising, once famously said: “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted, but I just don’t know which half.” The problem Wanamaker highlighted a century ago remains with marketers today. Without marketing attribution, they can’t connect marketing investments to ROI. A troubling blind spot persists in attributing revenues specifically to top-of-the-funnel activities (driving awareness) to middle-of-the-funnel actions (driving leads), or to bottom-of-the-funnel activities (driving sales opportunities and revenues).

Marketers are forced to play a frustrating game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, with blindfold on, pin in hand, and only a “generalized” sense of where the donkey’s backside (i.e., revenues) might be located.

Marketers Can’t “Hack” Their Way to Attribution

As John Wanamaker’s truism implies, when we can’t attribute marketing activities/investments to revenues, we’re left with a dizzying array of bad options: guessing and groping in the dark, assuming false attribution that leads to bad decisions and wasted money, power plays and finger pointing between marketing and sales over who’s responsible for what (sounds constructive, right?), and multiple, ad hoc forms of guesstimation and “voodoo metrics.”

Marketers who can’t accurately attribute activities to revenues may rely upon metrics from Google Analytics or other channel-specific analytic tools that they believe serve as proxies for revenue (visitors, leads, conversions, etc.) but that might not actually be connected to revenues. Marketers may assume, for example, that some chosen percentage of visitors will become leads and that another chosen percentage of leads will become warm leads, and so on down the line toward making “reasonable guesses” about how much revenue is being driven by what specific marketing activities.

The lack of precision in these ad hoc attribution methods is another form of searching for the donkey’s backside while blindfolded, tail held in one hand and Excel spreadsheets in the other.

Defining What Success Looks Like in Marketing Attribution

Marketing attribution, at its most basic, is about connecting marketing and sales data, showing the link between marketing actions and revenue generation (i.e., pinning that tail of the donkey’s rump). As Bizible’s The CMO’s Guide to B2B Marketing Attribution (2017 Edition) explains, “[b]y connecting marketing to sales data — where deals close and revenue metrics are held — the marketing team no longer has to guess their revenue impact. Every deal can be tied back to specific marketing actions.” Equally important, marketing attribution allows marketers to follow the data in a dynamic way that optimizes what’s working and eliminates what’s not. You can try, you can learn, you can apply learnings in order to make adjustments, and you can find better ways to drive revenue. This is the Big Data opportunity represented by the omnipresent phrase “data-driven decision-making.”

The issue of marketing attribution goes to the effectiveness and credibility of the entire marketing function. In 2018, being able to “connect the dots” between investments and ROI, and doing so in a way that continually optimizes marketing processes, is what business success looks like.

Why Marketing Attribution?

Because marketers, like everyone else, need to follow the data, transforming it into actionable insights that serve dynamic, improved decision-making. You can’t guess or assume your way to success or C-suite credibility.

Today’s marketers also know that customer experience (CX) has never been more strategic. Being able to map that CX and understand what marketing activities drive what customer behaviors (and revenues) is essential. As The CMO’s Guide to B2B Marketing Attribution (2017 Edition) notes: “Marketing attribution, especially in the B2B space where the customer journey is long, complex, and requires both the marketing and sales team to work in tandem, tells the most complete and accurate story of the customer journey.” Marketing attribution allows marketers to tell (and live) a richer, more engaging story that ends in more satisfied customers, better collaboration with sales, and revenue growth.

Giving Credit Where It’s Due & Gaining C-suite Credibility

Marketing attribution gives credit where it’s due, to the customer-impacting touchpoints that drive revenues no matter where they happen to occur within the funnel. Marketers need a more precise representation of the customer’s journey and how their various activities impact that journey. You’ll know if your top-of-the-funnel nurturing is actually nurturing and whether your bottom-of-the-funnel activities are overvalued or not. No more blame-gaming, groping in the dark, and finger pointing due to a lack of accurate attribution, meaning better collaboration and better customer experiences.

As marketers, our investment options are almost infinite. When you don’t have visibility into what works, you’re prone to pin the tail on the donkey’s face or against an empty wall, investing in everything under the sun and accepting a high degree of waste (“spraying and praying”). With marketing attribution, you know exactly what’s working, can figure out why, can optimize and better coordinate your activities, and can make ongoing changes that better reflect the story your data’s telling you.

Finally, you come into the C-suite with metrics that prove ROI, boosting your credibility and enabling you to better coordinate with sales and with your entire organization. Are you ready to rip off the blindfold and gain visibility into which of your marketing activities are driving revenues?

To find out more about how to get started with marketing attribution – or how to better manage your current marketing attribution model – reach out to us today!

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