Help! I Have to Start Attribution

Hi Jo,

My company wants to start doing attribution, so I’ve been asked to put together a plan. Here’s the problem: I have no idea how to do this right.

I’m uncertain about the practicalities my plan should account for, or what results to expect. What kind of commitment is attribution really? How do I create and carry out a plan that works?

Thanks,
Attribution Amy.

 

 

Amy, it’s good that you’re thinking critically about this. Years back, when my Marketing team first took on attribution, we were very excited by all the models and ways of understanding how people engage with campaigns. I was under the impression it was a plug-and-play type deal: three months down the line, it’ll spit out numbers that tell you exactly where to spend, hands-free.

What actually happened: three months in, I had nowhere near a confident grasp of how to use different models and data setups, nor was I taking any decisions to optimize spend. My Sales and Marketing teams were frustrated—the results we thought were coming were nowhere in sight—and so was I.

From that experience, I learned something important: attribution isn’t magic. It’s a gradual process that takes long-term refinement, consistent methodology, and clear communication between Marketing and Sales to really work for your business.

That understanding is your plan’s guiding star. Here are some tips to go the distance:

– Use a dedicated vendor: Unless your entire job is attribution, there aren’t enough hours in the day to build this effectively on your own. There’s no native ability in CRMs to pivot campaign memberships against opportunities, which is how you start to calculate ROI.

– Establish common terminology: Marketing and Sales needs shared definitions of what it means to source, touch, influence leads, the same classification of sources vs mediums, and a mutual understanding of how your CRM accounts for revenue and opportunities. This helps to keep your data clean and for Sales to set accurate goals.

– Clear data collection: Use UTMs wherever you can, and be consistent with tagging traffic coming into your website.

– Get your tools in sync: Many attribution platforms use Salesforce campaign objects; to keep accurate data flowing, check that these are synced correctly with the relevant Marketo programs.

– Get your processes in order: Make sure that Sales is using opportunities in Salesforce and regularly reporting pipeline and revenue in there; you’ll need these updates to sync to Marketo.

– Figure out spend: You might think organic traffic is free—but how much are you paying someone to update and optimize the website? Agree with your boss how to factor in less obvious expenses; even estimates are useful to arrive at accurate ROI calculations.

– Budget for time: Your platform might take 6-12 months to launch. And if it’s a 2nd or 3rd gen platform that offers website cookie tracking, implement that collection right away if you think you’ll need it in the future.

– Small goals = achievable: Set goals as part of a gradual roadmap that incorporates more robust models only as you get more comfortable with attribution. Small wins that you actually achieve are better than grand plans gone off the rails.

Attribution is a complex business. You want to go far, not fast.

You’ve got this,
Jo.

Attribution – Your Value, in Black and White

TLDR: Attribution is concrete evidence of your precise value to your organization as a marketer, and discussing it with leadership can help you gain the recognition you deserve.

“I heard there’s this tech that can get us better ROI like magic!”

Among the many misconceptions surrounding marketing automation, there is none quite as pervasive—or annoying—as the belief that automation does our jobs for us, with the wave of a magic wand. When it comes to Tough Talks Made Easy, a lot of topics have touched on the need to dispel this ‘set it and forget it’ assumption, in order to explain what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Enough magic; let’s get real. Discussing attribution with your CMO or CFO isn’t a talk you should dread: it’s a talk you can turn to your advantage. That’s because attribution isn’t only the process by which your organization assigns credit for MQLs and sales—it’s also concrete evidence of your precise value to your organization as a marketer.

So let’s talk about how you can explain your attribution maturity in a way that emphasizes your expertise and earns you the recognition you deserve (and perhaps an increased budget, down the line).

 

EXPLAINING ATTRIBUTION DATA DECISIONS

The challenge you’re facing in this particular Tough Talk is clear: you need to communicate the function and value of attribution modeling, without effacing the importance of how you analyze and react to the data you have available.

For starters: attribution assigns credit to how much revenue a specific marketing tactic produces, letting you calculate the ROI on each and every dollar you spend. Attribution arms you with the data you need to optimize your programs and spend over time—and to clearly report your results in a way that lets your organization buy into your vision.

But it isn’t quite so simple as spending more on what’s working and less on what isn’t! Having the data at your fingertips is only part of the battle. Finding the balance of your spending and assessing your company’s tipping point for any given channel is both an art and a science. Let’s walk through an example:

Let’s say you’re spending $100K on a channel with 5 to 1 ROI; if you instead allocate $200K, you should make a million! But not so fast: ROI isn’t constant and every channel can have diminishing returns. where a certain amount of spend changes 5 to 1 ROI into 4 to 1, or less.

If your 5 to 1 ROI only holds true to $150K before dropping to 4 to 1, you have a choice on your hands. 4 to 1 could still be your best bet—but that’s a decision that automation can’t make for you. It’s your expertise that allows you to find the tipping point and determine your next course of action accordingly.

 

THE COMPLEX BUYER’S JOURNEY

That example covers the ROI balancing act, but attribution itself is rarely so simple or cut and dry. While it’s great to attribute a sale to a particular tactic, customers can have hundreds of interactions with a brand before deciding to buy. Sure, when the time came to pull the trigger, they may have visited your website. but they could’ve been persuaded by an excellent white paper you offered last quarter… which came to their attention thanks to a CRM email… which they signed up for thanks to a social lead gen ad over a year ago.

That’s why attribution platforms offer increasingly complex models, accounting for Member Statuses in many campaigns at different points in the buyer’s journey. It takes multiple programs across multiple channels to make a deal happen; complex attribution modeling can reveal the marketing history of every touchpoint but it’s up to you to determine the impact of each status and channel on the final deal itself.

That determination is a sign of your Attribution Maturity.

 

KNOW THY COMPANY

If attribution provides the data, Attribution Maturity is your outlook on that data. Attribution platforms provide high-end data-rich attribution but that’s only as valuable as how you parse and leverage that data—and if all we’re using it for is explanation and description, we’ve definitely got some maturing to do.

Fortunately, many of these platforms scale with you as your attribution outlook matures. Do you want to track a program for everyone who registers for a webinar, or one to track only those who actually attend? Your specific needs and interests can be fine-tuned to arm you with the data that’s most pertinent to your future goals. So how do you know what programs to implement? You need to know your own company.

Different attribution models answer different questions—so what questions are you asking? Wondering which campaigns are sparking initial interest? You’ll want a First Touch attribution model. How about which campaigns are taking leads from awareness to opportunity? A W-Shaped model can scratch that itch. Or maybe you’d like an overall holistic approach, to give the CMO a full update on all stages of the lifecycle? Then Full Path is the way to go.

Whatever questions you are asking, attribution modeling gives you the ability to target accordingly. From there, it’s a matter of time, testing, and analysis to arrive at the answers your company needs.

 

BE THE ONE WITH THE PLAN

No matter how you’re targeting your attribution, you require a Data Utilization Plan to go from description to determination. Timelines, key data points, what you’re measuring, why you’re measuring—clarifying a plan based on your team’s needs and using attribution to get it done makes you an immediate MVP.

These sorts of plans take time; build in benchmarks from month to month and year to year, to measure where you plan to be and the spend you’re going to make to get there. And if your higher-ups bristle at the long-game, simply explain that they will never truly know the value of any spend without attribution… and without a savvy marketer such as yourself handling their modeling, along the way.

Hopefully, this helped you get out of your own head and out of the weeds when it comes to communicating attribution to those who need to know. Remember: when it comes to making the most of your modeling or progressing on the Attribution Maturity Curve, Revenue Pulse’s experts are here for ideas, guidance, and support.

Multi-Touch Attribution: Help Your Marketing Leadership Spend on Impact

TLDR: Marketing’s out to spend on the campaigns and channels that return the largest bang for buck. Discover why multi-touch attribution is vital for making those decisions.

Here’s a puzzle for you. Someone visits your website. Weeks later, a blog post shared on LinkedIn brings them back to your site and registering for a webinar. Several emails down the line, this person’s buying what you’re selling. Congrats—now how do you proportion credit for that deal?

Many customer journeys comprise multiple interactions with your brand, but the prevailing view on attribution in B2B is to credit one single touchpoint with driving revenue. If that’s the approach of your Marketing team, then this Tough Talks Made Easy is for you. Marketing’s out to spend on the campaigns and channels that give the largest bang for your buck, so we’ll help you explain to your team why multi-touch attribution is essential for making the best decisions.

 

SINGLE VS MULTI: ANSWERS TO DIFFERENT QUESTIONS

Single-touch attribution helps you answer particular questions about campaign performance. Curious about the campaigns that spark initial interest? First-touch attribution tells you that. Want to know what campaigns get people into your database? Look at a lead creation model. Which campaigns convert the most leads to opportunities? Last touch attribution unearths final interactions before conversion. 

These are all effective methods of evaluating performance against KPIs, but no one interaction accounts for the sum of marketing activities that influence revenue. Each lead could have anywhere from 5 to 50 interactions with your company on their journey. Limiting your analysis to a single or handful of interactions means the vast majority of your activities have impacts that you’re not even measuring—and if you don’t measure it, you won’t optimize it.

Multi-touch attribution doesn’t rule out single-touch use cases. Instead, it responds to reality; there’s no silver bullet for where to spend your budget. Multi-touch models assign dollars across different touchpoints, and by doing so, the analysis leads to insights that a single factor can’t explain. Here’s a rundown of what some common models can answer for you:

  • U-shaped: What campaigns were strong at driving brand awareness? Bookend your analysis from first-touch to lead creation.
  • W-shaped: What campaigns turned leads into opportunities? Add in last-touch attribution.
  • Full-path: What campaigns were the most impactful across the lifecycle? Measure your interactions from first-touch to done deals.
  • Sourced: What campaigns helped to create new pipeline? Look at your activities X amount of days before opportunity creation.
  • Accelerated: What campaigns helped to close deals? Check your actions between creating and closing opportunities.
  • Influenced: Which campaigns helped to source and accelerate prospects? Analyze engagement from source to closure.

The takeaway for your Marketing team: both single- and multi-touch attribution have their place in your gameplan, but the latter leads to a variety of discoveries that help you double down on campaign success.

 

ROI’S THE GOAL – RETHINK HOW YOU GET THERE

As a marketer, you’re a driver of revenue. One of the most important decisions Marketing makes for the business is to allocate campaign dollars into the places that give you the highest return on investment. Your company’s invested in martech to make sense of the data, but if you’re making that call without multi-touch attribution, then you’re spending in the dark.

Cost per lead is probably what your Marketing Manager looks at when making spending decisions. Pump more money into the sub-channels where you get cheaper leads, get more leads for your money. By that logic, organic SEO wins every time, then platforms with the next-lowest spend, and that’s where you’ll invest. Case closed, right? 

Not quite. Take a more gradual approach to the analysis and let lead data play out until you can calculate cost per deal. Estimate revenue based on deal size, and you might see the picture shift. Platforms like Google Ads and LinkedIn may be more expensive per lead but more efficient per deal, bringing in sales at much higher values than sub-channels with cheaper leads.

This is where ROI really comes from—revenue vs spend—and it produces a different decision than had you focused on cost per lead. The lesson for Marketing here is that not all leads are created equal; if you reduce spend based on leads, you could lose out on deals in the long run.

What multi-touch attribution does, then, is to take figures from across your brand activity and tell you what’s creating deals and ROI. That lets you double down on your strategy and determine how to max out spend at multiple levels—channels (e.g. social, display), sub-channels (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook), and tactics (e.g. whitepapers, webinars). From your CMO setting growth targets and strategic aims to your Marketing Manager running campaigns, this is the essence of how attribution helps your Marketing team to succeed.

 

DRIVE BETTER DECISIONS

Multi-touch attribution connects the dots between marketing interactions and revenue, letting you accurately measure and spend on impact. That understanding puts everyone on the same page about what campaigns really boost your bottom line, and it gives Marketing a more effective way to think about and surface value.

If you’re facing pressure to optimize right this second, just remember: this is an engine for long-term success. Take time to handle your modeling with care and collect the data you need as campaigns progress; you have more of both on your side than you think.

For any advice on succeeding with attribution, Revenue Pulse is here to help

How to Ask Your Boss for Help

TLDR: Asking for help shows you’re prepared to solve problems and get results, but it’s not always easy. Explore some of the arguments that can strengthen your case.

Let’s see if you can relate to the following scenario. Your leadership has made an investment.  That is the investment in you, your team, your colleagues and your tech stack.  The challenge is that your team is SO successful that you make it look easy.  You’re like the surfer, musician, ballerina or any professional athlete, it’s hard to appreciate all of the hard work that goes into MOPs. The outcome for many is that you’re drowning in work, requests, deadlines, and deliverables.

The solution: you need some help.

This tough talk made easy looks at some of the arguments that can support your request for help.  This is not an exhaustive list.  Our team has worked client side and agency side.  Not only does this give us empathy for your current challenges, but we understand how to position the rationale and benefits of some outside help.  Let’s get started.

 

Speed.  The first and the easiest argument is one of speed. You need someone fast.  Agencies can deploy resources faster than hiring.  Depending on which market you’re in, and/or flexibility in remote work, it can take a long time to hire someone.  If you’re in the crunch with timelines coming fast and furious, this is one easy argument to get some help.

 

Experience and perspective.  There are knowns and unknown knowns and unknown unknowns when it comes to MOPs.  Bringing in a consultant can give you experience in areas that you’re not familiar with or feel like you’re not optimizing.  For example, take attribution.  We’ve seen all kinds of implementations that are not working or worse collecting dust.  Attribution reporting to leadership can be extremely powerful.  Getting expertise can improve your marketing automation’s performance by complementing your skills with others.  An outside perspective in the form of an audit is a place that we’ve seen pay instant dividends.  Another benefit of an agency providing help is that you have the benefit of their consultant’s collective experience.

 

Time and Volume.  You don’t have the time to do everything.  This is a harder argument to make when there isn’t a full appreciation of MOPs by your leadership.  However if your team can do 50 programs a week and there is a need for 100, the time argument can work. The smaller your team the easier the argument that you can’t do everything.  Increasing volume is a better argument than time.  Keep time in your back pocket.  It is better as a supporting argument than a leading one.  Leadership sometimes can hear that everyone is busy and be perfectly fine with that.

 

Skill Gaps.  We’d like to be good at everything, but there can be times where you just don’t have the skills to execute.  We see this in the areas of analytics and dashboards all the time.  You can be a Marketo genius but are you also super savvy with Snowflake and Tableau? (If you are, DM me, we love unicorns like you!). Your team might have some gaps that outside help can fulfill.  The best part is that maybe you only need 15 hours a week in that role.  A consultant can save the hiring of a full-time resource for part time needs.

 

Test Needs.  This one is straight forward. You may not be able to accurately estimate the skills and time you need with support.  If you start with a base number of hours you can decide whether you need more time or build the case to hire your own resources.  

 

Off Books.  This one is interesting but it’s more common than you would think.  Clients often look to consultancies to assist them for the simple reason of not increasing payroll/headcount.  This is a financial hygiene decision that an expense to a consultancy looks better than a salary in valuations.  You could do some probing to see if this argument would fly, but is generally one that your boss’ boss might be more concerned with.

 

Neutral/Unbiased. A consultant can really help when there are tricky dynamics at play like introducing change within an organization.  The perception of a neutral/unbiased perspective can go a long way in bridging divides and finding common ground.  It could also just help you make your case.  If an outside audit gives weight to the point you’ve been making for months, this can really help move things forward.

 

Accountable.  Possibly the best part of having outside help is their accountability.  They have timelines, deliverables and outcomes to get done for you.  They are responsible for creating a plan and executing against it.  Need something done for the end of quarter?  Done.  That type of accountability can go a long way in delivering what you need against your leadership’s asks.

 

Costs.  This is always part of the equation.  You will have to present the numbers.  Many of the points made above validate the costs you have to present.  The magic is if you can equate the cost for help and the return on investment. ROI doesn’t always have to be dollars in business closed.  It can be a better alignment between sales and marketing.  It could be reducing the costs of dirty data. It can also be the costs of moving with speed and predictability.  

These are just some of the arguments that you can make in building your case for help.  It isn’t always easy to ask for help.  Some people see asking for help as a sign of weakness or failure.  We couldn’t disagree more.  Asking for help is a sign of wanting to get things done. Period.

As always, we’re here to help when you need it.