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Achieving Attribution Buy-In From Your Executive Team

Posted November 11, 2020
Attribution Exec BuyIn

The hard truth is:

Some campaigns will never look good using traditional funnel reporting.


Does this mean they aren’t worth doing? 




Marketers know that awareness activities are essential for businesses to be on the radar of their buyers. Press releases and feature articles help build credibility, content helps buyers research before they want to be contacted by sales, and customer evidence goes a long way in establishing trust.


Similarly, late-stage activities help turn prospects into customers. Retention campaigns, customer recognition, and regular check-ins also do a world of good.


Even though these activities are essential for creating a healthy revenue stream, they won’t show up on your traditional funnel reports. 


“As a field marketing professional, it’s frustrating to have your events evaluated against a single metric like MQL or opportunities created. A successful event includes a mix of prospects, in-flight opportunities, and existing customers. This dynamic allows for customers to share their experiences directly with potential buyers. If the meeting at the event helps push forward a deal, executives have no way of knowing without stats like opportunity influence.”

– Sara Smyth, Director of Americas Field Marketing at Qumulo


Hard truth number two:

If no other measurements have been established, your executive team will question the value of these activities.


Step 1: Establish the Case for Attribution – Sales Leadership

Attribution reporting may be unfamiliar to your sales executive team, or they may have worked in an organization that has unsuccessfully implemented a marketing attribution solution. Socializing a new concept is easier than undoing the damage of failed efforts, so we’ll begin with the latter.


Strategy 1:

Pull together a list of last quarter’s campaigns. Poll your sales force to determine which campaigns *they* thought were successful. Don’t give them any data–let them just go on gut instinct. The chances are excellent that they will believe that any activity they socialized was the most successful in their minds.


Back in the day of in-person events (how we miss those days!), salespeople were personally invested in driving customers and prospects to the event in the hopes of propelling more revenue. These events probably didn’t look great using traditional success measures even though your sales team loved them.



Salespeople were always so surprised when an event they thought was fabulous found its way onto the cutting block because of a lack of performance. Showing sales the stats and explaining that the current way you’re measuring campaign effectiveness doesn’t account for the in-flight opportunities or existing customer expansions often causes a chain reaction. They want to keep doing these events, and they’ll vocally advocate for looking at additional metrics.


An emotional investment from your sales team is one of the quickest ways to win over your sales leadership team when you want to define campaign success more broadly. Because these teams have first-hand knowledge of how hard it is to engage a prospect and how long a sales cycle lasts, they’ll accept that multiple campaign activities are necessary faster than the broader organization.


Strategy 2:

If your sales leadership team has had a poor experience with a marketing attribution tool, you’ve got more work to do. Figure out what they disliked about the last solution. Based on our experience speaking to potential buyers, we’d guess that the sales team was frustrated that “100% of the credit went to marketing.” In the early days of attribution reporting, organizations only took marketing campaign data into account and then positioned attribution numbers as marketing contribution to pipeline and revenue.


Suppose you are planning on using attribution data for more than determining which campaigns perform more efficiently than similar campaigns–such as marketing budget ROI. In that case, you need to broaden your data lens to include sales activity (at a minimum).



Other common pitfalls include plugging an attribution solution into an unhygienic data source (garbage in, garbage out) or creating a heavy burden on the sales team for data entry (for more things to watch for in an attribution tool, read our article on the 10 Pillars Every Marketing Analytics Tool Must Have).


Step 2: Establish the Case for Attribution (CEO & CFO)

Your CEO and CFO don’t have the same emotional incentive to promote specific campaigns that sales does. They want cold, hard numbers. They want a campaign’s contribution to pipeline and revenue. Most importantly, they want to understand how the marketing budget translates into revenue dollar for dollar.  


Remember this graphic?



B2B marketers should expect to illustrate this point with real-world examples. Work with your sales leadership team to identify a whale (a larger than average sale), a bluebird (a lucrative sale that unexpectedly landed in the quarter), and an average deal. Use your attribution tool to pull together all the activities that took place prior to the sale closing. Map each opportunity’s journey along a timeline. Use a different color for each person and icon for each activity. If you have a long sales cycle, map a minimum of six months prior to your opportunity creation date.


Are you worried it looks too busy? Don’t. It’s supposed to.


Example of a whale:



Example of a bluebird:



Once you see executives nodding and agreeing that there should be a different set of metrics to measure effectiveness, give a quick explanation of your attribution model options. Everyone should agree that 1) activity across the entire account should be included in your calculations, and 2) single-touch attribution isn’t sufficient.


Using your same diagrams, sketch what each of the models would look like. For example, show them a W-shaped model:



Linear-shaped model:


And Chain-Based Model:



At CaliberMind, we use multiple models for different purposes. Chain-based models work best for eliminating an implicit bias on the part of the analyst. Linear tends to be the easiest to understand: whichever activity gets the most interaction with the account gets the most credit.


Step 3: Establish a Cross-Functional Implementation Team

If you want to avoid being accused of bias or questionable math, establish a cross-functional implementation team. Transparency is the best way to combat suspicion before it builds.


Volunteer to share your requirements documentation with a financial analyst and have a general systems administrator or analyst sit in on your implementation. Make multiple executives part of your stakeholder committee. Your CMO may be the executive sponsor, but you should plan on communicating major decisions and milestones to the broader group. 


Select a platform that easily illustrates how your data is calculated. Having a table of clearly labeled data per account can go a long way in establishing credibility:



Step 4: Review Attribution Examples With the Executive Team on a Quarterly Basis

In order to maintain credibility, you will need to prove your math is doing exactly what you said it would do. Until the executive team is comfortable with the data, offer to review examples with them. Typically, if your financial analyst or revenue operations analyst is confident in your data, you’ll have fewer problems convincing the leadership team.


Remember, only represent your attribution data as a contribution to pipeline and revenue if the executive team is comfortable that you are fairly representing other department’s efforts. 


Please remember to reach out to us if you have any questions or need additional support.

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