Welcome to the first article in our How-To DIY Attribution series! Each week, we’ll share information we’ve discovered along the way at CaliberMind so you can avoid common mistakes your peers run into when building their attribution models.
I’m sure every marketer has heard the two poles of opinion in the market when it comes to attribution:
- It doesn’t work, so just go back to asking people where they saw your brand
- It solves everything, and finance will love you for getting it
As with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Attribution is not a silver bullet or a miracle buyer journey map that can spit out the “digital golden path” for every buyer. Unfortunately, that was never a reality, and it’s becoming even more problematic with privacy-first design and legislation.
On the other end of the spectrum, self-reported attribution isn’t a terrible data point. Still, it’s hard to scale and typically not enough to appease your executive team if you have a long buying cycle with large buyer committees.
Multi-touch attribution estimates which campaign channels are driving pipeline and bookings. It’s not easy – sorry, you can’t just plug it in and expect it to work – and you need someone on your team to translate the insights into action items. But there is a reason companies go to the effort.
If done correctly, It’s an excellent way to demonstrate marketing ROI in terms the rest of the business understands.
Understandably, multi-touch attribution is a project taken on later in a company’s maturity curve. Many metrics are meaningful when estimating marketing’s impact on the business (see our new guide on Proving Marketing’s ROI here). But, eventually, those metrics aren’t enough – and we’ve described some of the signs your current reports can’t delay your attribution project any longer below.
1. The Questions From the C-Suite Have Evolved
Many companies begin measuring marketing impact by web traffic metrics, social media metrics, and some other softer stats. Over time, a CRM administrator will implement mechanisms to measure name acquisitions, qualified lead volume, and, eventually, opportunity “source” reporting. These changes are either driven by different objectives rolled down by your investors or a pre-emptive attempt by your CEO and CFO to understand and influence customer acquisition cost and cost of goods sold.
There are four major signals from your executive team that a multi-touch attribution project is around the corner:
- Sales is disputing marketing’s positive impact on their team and struggling to hit their pipeline generation and bookings numbers.
- Your leadership team understands that a single “source” for an opportunity isn’t realistic and that marketing is helping more than it appears.
- Your marketing leaders are pressured to prove return on advertising spend or justify significant investments that can’t be measured with a single-touch CRM model.
- Your sales leader is wary of opportunity influence reporting because it’s “marketing-biased.”
These signals mean that your leadership team is no longer comfortable with “feeling” like marketing is working. They want to understand exactly what is and isn’t working. The focus on the marketing team shifts from scrappy marketing tactics to bring anyone in the door to an emphasis on efficiency.
These changes mean your business leaders want to see that marketing is spending its money on only the most impactful campaigns, focused on the most ideal of customer profiles, and a responsible steward of the budget awarded to the department.
2. Delays in Delivery are Causing Issues
Early in a company’s “life,” there’s a fairly large degree of comfort with ambiguity and managing by gut. However, the feedback loop between marketing and sales is generally tighter because marketing has nowhere to hide, and sales isn’t shy about sharing–which means marketing constantly gets qualitative feedback whether they like it or not.
Eventually, the feedback loop diminishes, and marketers must rely more heavily on data to decide who they target, the messages that work, and the creative that resonates.
This also means waiting for a quarterly business review to evaluate campaign results is no longer reasonable. Marketers need early indicators that their campaigns are or are not working, so they adjust as they go. This real-time reporting also allows marketers to design better campaigns in the future instead of sticking to a strategy that no longer works.
The other major symptom is frequent fly-bys or online requests from your CMO. They’re being asked how lead generation is going early in month one of the quarter so the rest of the business can understand if their pipeline health is at risk or healthy. They’re also being pressured early by the rest of the team to report how significant investments produce ROI.
3. We’ve Exhausted What Our Tools Can Do
We frequently work with prospects who want to see CaliberMind because they’re tired of struggling with their CRM reports. Most in-app attribution depends on sales being diligent about the contacts they associate with their deals or opportunities (depending on the CRM). No salesperson likes to be stuck with a list of NSAs (Non-Selling Activities).
There are ways to automate opportunity contact roles and force more stringent data entry, but you risk a revolt. Most marketers are very interested in hearing about ways to collect account-wide interactions in an attribution model passively in the background.
We also hear from people because cross-functional adoption of influence models is very low. Most in-app attribution relies on campaign data, and replicating the tasks, events, and other signals your sales, product, and channel teams produce isn’t sustainable.
4. Pressure to Prove ROI is On Like Never Before
As companies mature, their goal is to make pipeline and bookings predictable. They want to know how much they must invest in the go-to-market teams and strategies to hit a specific number. This often leads to an awkward conversation with the CFO about how not every marketing interaction has a straight line to a sale – and that marketers still need to do things that aren’t considered lead generation for the company to be successful.
Proving ROI has as much to do with running internal campaigns and educating your executive team as it relates to multi-touch attribution (which you can read more about here). But if your executive team insists on a dollar-in-dollar-out ratio, you’ll need the flexibility to use more than one metric and buy in on your multi-touch attribution model.
5. Too Much Time is Spent Analyzing vs. Doing
Data is great. It helps us verify what we’re doing is working or informs us that it’s time to change. But if our systems aren’t connected, it can be a pain in the backside to wrangle everything together and try to make sense of it.
In a 2020 CaliberMind survey, operations professionals shared that they’re still spending a week out of every month either cleaning their data or pulling it into spreadsheets and running formulas to make sense of it. Judging from our conversations with B2B professionals, that stat hasn’t changed much (if at all).
The juice isn’t worth the squeeze at that point, and marketers fall back to using their trusted applications to estimate whether a campaign is or isn’t worth repeating. This means they’re using insights like click-through rates and cost per lead rather than opportunities and pipeline generated. The hard truth is that your executive team cares much more about hitting their pipeline numbers and cost per opportunity than whether a campaign generates interest with an audience that isn’t ready to buy.
The dirty secret in companies with a business intelligence (BI) team supporting marketing is that it can take weeks or even months to connect a new marketing tool to their data warehouse or data lake and incorporate that data into their data models. Marketers like to change tools often, which wreaks havoc on data schemas and advanced models like account scoring and attribution.
If you’re going to DIY or attempt to build this yourself, we don’t have a silver bullet to avoid that last point unless you’re willing to work with a vendor that has already mapped out and incorporated major marketing tools into their schema – which is obviously no longer DIY. Moving talent in-house with the assurance from your BI team that they’ll get write access to your data environment is about as perfect a scenario as you could hope for with a DIY approach.