Implementing multi-touch attribution, whether a DIY build or a purchased tool, is one of the most challenging projects in marketing. If we’re being sincere, there’s a staggering failure rate. Operations spends weeks, if not months, getting everything ready – only to experience resistance from the leadership team when it comes time to actually use it.
As with most complicated things in life, there’s never one thing that makes adoption simple. We’ve found that several things often go “wrong,” and all of them must be addressed before the broader team buys into working hard to understand how to best use the tool.
Here are some of the potential pitfalls and how to fix them.
Marketing Leadership has Been Oversold on Attribution
B2B sales cycles can be very long, and we all know an opportunity isn’t closed after a single call from sales. It takes awareness campaigns, a lot of education, and some solid selling to get that deal over the finish line.
Attribution can be structured as a marketing-only campaign optimization tool, or it can help your team prove that marketing is an essential part of the business compared to other departments. Attribution is not good at providing the company with a precise measurement of campaign ROI or a visual map of an account’s buyer journey.
Digital touchpoints aren’t always trackable. The sales team isn’t great (or even good) at data entry. Your marketing team will still need to do many essential activities that are nearly impossible to track.
The leadership team needs to understand that attribution is never an exact science. It can be set up in a myriad of ways and is intended to provide the business with better information for optimal decision-making. Your leadership team will still need to educate other executives about why awareness plays are vital to the business and make decisions your multi-touch attribution model may not support.
B2B Leaders need to understand that our goal with attribution is “good enough.” We’re aiming for an improved understanding of campaign performance, and there’s a ton of efficiency to be gained with attribution. However, it’s not a silver bullet or the only metric we should use to evaluate marketing efficacy.
Different Team Members Want to Use It to Solve Different Problems
There are many ways to set up attribution, but none are wrong. At CaliberMind, we recommend having multiple attribution models to answer different questions.
For example, suppose our marketing leader wants to use attribution to estimate each department’s efforts in generating pipeline and closing bookings. In that case, we recommend keeping the bar for an activity receiving attribution pretty high. We’ll look at campaign responses – or proactive interactions with a prospect that would reasonably lead to a conversation with sales – and sales activities like email responses, successful calls, and meetings.
Another common use case is that we want to use attribution to understand our email and content strategies’ effectiveness. Instead of considering these touchpoints as a division of dollars, we may want to see which content our in-flight deals interact with. Or we want to understand which email campaigns are most likely associated with closed won deals.
We may also want to use attribution to prove the return on investment for our campaigns.
Each of these reasons for using multi-touch attribution should influence how you configure the tool – and dictate how many models you use. Suppose we only implement an attribution model that considers marketing campaign activity. In that case, our marketing executive will walk into a buzzsaw if they try to sell it as marketing’s “share” of pipeline and bookings. Your sales VP will immediately want to know where their efforts are represented (spoiler alert: this model doesn’t incorporate sales signals!). Your content team will also be bummed out because they have no way to demonstrate what they are doing is impactful to the company.
You will need to reset expectations for what the model can and can’t be used for or go back to the drawing board to develop the models your team wants to use.
The Data Doesn’t Make Sense
It can be frustrating to work on implementing an attribution model only to hear your marketing team leaders say, “This doesn’t make sense.”
Many companies raise a red flag when they see how disorganized their campaigns are. It’s normal for different team members to think of responses and campaign member statuses differently. When people operate independently and create their own campaign rules, it negatively impacts how much valuable information you can mine from your attribution model.
Review your campaign types and come up with a clear definition for what is and isn’t a response. Then enforce these decisions going forward by installing a package in Salesforce that automatically applies the correct/agreed upon member statuses and responses by campaign type.
Another point of frustration is relying too heavily on opportunity contact roles. Suppose you have a long sales cycle and don’t interact with disparate buyer committees. We recommend automatically including touchpoints associated with people across the account. We also recommend putting deduplication rules in place and merging duplicate records.
Other common data errors include a need for more rigor around UTM parameters and refusing to use the campaign object in your CRM. For more information on data hygiene best practices for attribution, check out this interview with one of our onboarding experts.
It was a Marketing-Only Project
We’ve found that companies rarely want to use attribution in a silo. Many leaders aim to use attribution to prove a return on marketing investment. Others want to use it in the board room to represent departmental efforts to generate pipeline and close deals.
These use cases signal that your multi-touch attribution project must be cross-functional to succeed.
If your boss wants to use attribution to estimate ROI, working with finance is in your best interest. Understand how they think about ROI. Are you tracking expenses against bookings or pipeline? Do they want to understand ROI by channel or get more detailed campaign data?
If your boss wants to use attribution to estimate marketing’s “share” of pipeline and bookings, you must compare marketing efforts to the other departments involved. Without a broader lens, your CMO will be challenged by the sales organization because they aren’t represented in a model that’s meant to show a division of labor. It’s vital to obtain cross-functional sign-off on what does and doesn’t qualify for attribution and whether you’re looking at a partial or full-path model.
More often than not, politics and buy-in from other leaders play as big of a role in attribution’s adoption as data hygiene.
The Skillset Gap
It’s easy to underestimate how much time is needed for change management and how many hours are required to support report requests.
While I appreciate a past boss’s insistence that people are better off if they’re taught how to fish, some people HATE fishing or don’t have a talent for it. Marketing is often a blend of creative and analytical types, so expect some people not to want anything to do with looking at reports. Some people have a gift for pattern recognition and aggregate analysis, and many do not.
To get the most out of attribution across your department, you’ll need a plan to ensure the data is used. That could mean training your different team members to access the one or two reports they need to improve their campaigns. More commonly, this means creating a regular cadence of data reviews throughout the quarter and reviewing top and bottom-performing campaigns as a team.
Providing your team with data-driven insights fills a prevalent gap and will ensure your team is performing better than most B2B organizations. Your CMO should embrace this idea and give you the support you need to ensure the team fully participates and responds to your recommendations.
What If We Did Everything Right?
If you set proper expectations for what attribution is good at, socialized the model with finance and sales, and ensured your data was in shape and you’re still running into a lot of resistance, contracting with a third party to review your setup is a great idea. They may have ideas for improving what you have in place or provide the necessary validation for other teams to get on board.
And you can always contact us for a review of your setup and ideas for next steps. We’re happy to help and can give you a list of recommended independent consultants.
Would you like a review of your data stack by an attribution expert? Contact us here.