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DIY B2B Attribution: The Crux of Attribution Is the Event Timeline

Posted June 28, 2023

Just as a literary critic studies a hero’s journey to understand the protagonist’s transformation, it’s crucial to unravel the complexities in your buyers’ journeys. As CaliberMind’s VP of Customer Success and Revenue Operations, I’m here to help you level up your DIY attribution model by sequentially organizing data for analysis. Developing an attribution timeline may seem daunting, but once perfected, it unlocks several meaningful insights about your customer’s journey – not just how much “credit” a campaign should get.

With a B2C purchase, the journey is relatively transparent and concise; it’s likely to involve one person, an ad campaign, and a nudge email if they neglect their shopping cart overnight. But the B2B customer journey is significantly more convoluted; the touchpoints usually involve taking a multi-month trip with a committee of decision-makers.

A company’s size and the product sought will influence its buyer group’s headcount and the number of departments it spans. On average, a standard buyer committee for B2B solutions involves six to ten decision-makers, as noted in “The SiriusDecisions Buying Decision Process Framework” report. (2015) Since then, many organizations have reported the committee doubling, with a softer market driving significant changes in buyer behavior.

Shine a Light Into Your Sales Funnel

Since B2B sales involve an extended timeframe and a buyer group, the first step to tackling these dimensions is to flatten them into a timeline. A timeline allows you to draw conclusions on how various touchpoints relate in sequence. Over several months, each buying group member may interact with multiple campaigns from your marketing and sales teams.  

Organizing touchpoints on a timeline is like shining a light on the dark mysteries of your B2B sales funnel and allows teams to draw actionable conclusions about how prospects engage with your brand. The timeline can help answer pivotal questions like: Do you need to attract more leads to the top of your sales funnel? Or do you need to accelerate the buyer journey through the middle of the funnel?

A Sample Journey

Let’s say your potential customer is Acme, a growing 50-person company that just received Series B funding, and they are looking to scale its marketing functions. Their Marketing Operations Manager starts with a Google search for a solution that matches your product, and anonymous data indicates the search originated from an unknown person at Acme. They have yet to reach your website, but the search data is an early indicator; in response, your firm launches an ad campaign targeting Acme employees. 

Exciting news!

Through the UTM parameter collected during a page visit, you identify that someone at Acme has clicked through the targeted ad to your site and is now aware of your brand. 

The next day, an Acme team member submits their email address for a demo request.

Now you’re at the top of a sales funnel with two campaign responses; one for the ad click and one for the email address submitted for the demo. But Acme’s engagement with your brand lags for a couple of months. Fortunately, your sales team appears to revive the opportunity after several outreaches, and you recognize that Acme’s three-person marketing team has entered the consideration phase when they all register for and attend a webinar. 

That’s three more campaign member touches. Congratulations!

A week later, Acme signs the deal.

Now it’s time to complete your timeline. You’ll include all the events from the initial search until you sealed the deal. You can overlay the campaign touches on top of the opportunity timeline data. 

Looking at your timeline, you see there were two touches before the opportunity and multiple touches after the opportunity was in flight. 

You look at how Acme graduated from each stage to the next; one of your takeaways is you need to review the demo and the follow-up sales processes. 

On the upside, you attribute the final influence to the webinar at the bottom of the funnel.

Avoid the Pitfalls

To draw reliable conclusions, it’s vital to defend the integrity of your timeline by representing your operational processes as accurately as possible. Besides the B2B challenges inherent in extended sales cycles and larger buyer groups, combining data across disparate systems is difficult. Be cautious when compiling information from your Customer Data Platform Reporting architecture, including databases, CRMs, MAPs, ad platforms, and web analytics. 

Beyond human error in data entry, platform migrations can also cause breaks in your timeline. For example, if you switch from Marketo to HubSpot, you’ll need to pull historical data from your original MAP and add it to fresh data from HubSpot. Or if you’re in the midst of a rebrand, be sure to migrate the tracking codes from the old to the new website so you won’t lose weeks of data. 

Like any attribution model, you need to analyze the quality of the touches to determine which ones to include on your timeline. An issue commonly arises when you sponsor an in-person trade show, and you get a list of a thousand attendees; it’s important to only count the 50 visitors who registered at your booth as campaign member responses. The other 950 attendees are false interactions who don’t belong on your timeline. 

After you remove the false interactions, there’s an art to understanding and categorizing the touches on the timeline to distinguish between what’s meaningful and what’s not. It’s important to ask your stakeholders questions like:

How do you treat Acme’s anonymous website visitor versus the email submission? 

You should include both interactions on Acme’s timeline, but only give attribution to the more meaningful touch, the email submission, as a campaign member response. 

A low-quality event like an anonymous site visit is still worth tracking. We think of lower-value touchpoints as important for things like engagement scoring and funnel tracking, but they should be excluded from attribution “credit.”

Another mistake with timelines is to build them with a myopic lens. Does your timeline tell the whole story? Consider attribution for events that are ancillary to marketing, like including important interactions with sales or other revenue leaders in your organization.

Dig Into the Payoff

It may be difficult to perfect, but you’ll never regret building a robust attribution timeline. This type of structured data is ripe for several applications that can boost your ROI! 

  1. Use your timeline to conduct an audit trail to reveal which systems are firing and when. 
  2. You can also prioritize leads by applying engagement scoring of interactions within your timeline or employ it in a customer churn analysis to determine where to improve retention strategies. 
  3. Harnessing the timeline structure for funnel conversion reporting allows you to highlight strengths and weaknesses in the customer journey and attribution processes. 
  4. Finally, you can leverage it to produce a data quality assurance process to validate and cleanse your dataset. 

An activity timeline provides a clear road map for the buyers’ journey; you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck for the investment.

Stay tuned for more installments in our DIY attribution series. Want to dive deeper into attribution solutions? Reach out to us.

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