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6 Things We Learned In 2021

Posted January 5, 2022
2021 in review

It’s a new year, which means It’s time to look back on 2021 and reflect–an annual CaliberMind tradition.


Despite some big bumps in the road, many industries have stabilized and several have thrived. The tech sector, in particular, has continued to perform at a surprising pace.


We think 2021 will be remembered as a year of adaptation. We’ve accepted travel restrictions as the new norm, learned how to maximize remote collaboration, and have seen unexpected benefits from remote employment. I know I’ve appreciated the increased flexibility, and I hear the same from my team.


All in all, 2021 wasn’t bad, especially considering the Oxford word of the year was “vax,” and we’re still trying to figure out what next month will look like.


But I digress. Let’s look at some trends that we can (fairly) confidently say are here to stay.


We Need To Stay Real About Attribution

Multi-touch attribution was a hot topic in 2021, and opinions ranged from “it doesn’t work and never will” to “it’s marketing’s silver bullet.”


As usual, the truth falls somewhere on that spectrum but is not nearly as interesting as the extremes people like to use for shock value.


It feels weird to say attribution is not a silver bullet as the CEO of a revenue analytics company that made its break in the market via attribution, but we’ve seen too many attribution companies oversell and underdeliver. As a result, marketers have become skeptical about marketing technology–especially marketing analytics technology. 


So, we decided it was time to get real.


Clouds that read

Attribution is a great tool marketers should use to evaluate what is and isn’t ultimately driving revenue. But too often, it’s over-engineered, under-utilized, and misunderstood.


There are four fundamental truths companies need to accept to get the most out of marketing data:

  1. As we see many companies building out revenue operations, it’s clear that revenue attribution is one of a few key tools in their toolkit.
  2. Not everything can be tracked. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid hard or impossible things to track as a marketer. Sometimes correlations are good enough.
  3. Advanced analytics can’t save you if you don’t bother to nail the basics like campaign best practices and UTM tracking.
  4. A gifted analyst with solid communication skills is worth their weight in gold.


Attribution shouldn’t be the only tool marketers use. As Justin Norris said, we need automated attribution, but we also need several other data points (including qualitative and observational) to keep us on the right track–and a skilled analyst at the helm.


Of course, an analytics company would advocate for attribution.


So, instead of just arguing with people about why they should trust attribution, we decided to bring established experts into the conversation. We’ve kept our focus on education and relied on neutral third parties to build some great content.


Our first expert panel featured some top marketing technology consultants and influencers. They had solid recommendations that anyone can follow to prepare their technology stack to get the most out of multi-touch attribution.


Our second expert panel featured top thought leaders in marketing data analysis. We talked about what we can and can’t track, which led to a great discussion about how to make the most out of the data we have.


Expect more from us very soon. I know we’ve been cooking up something…


Work Isn’t Everything

At the outset of the pandemic, companies panicked. Some slashed budgets, some laid people off, and others hunkered down and waited. They reacted like companies typically respond to a major event.


In the meantime, we struggled with our new Zoom reality–one that exposed more of our lives to our coworkers. Kids ran into home offices to ask random questions, dogs barked, cats walked over keyboards, and people sometimes fought in the background. Things were messy and real.



While companies followed the status quo, people realized things were anything but “normal.”


Parents balanced work and remote learning and meltdowns. Some people picked up hobbies, and we all struggled to balance fears of illness and the need to socialize. We were all stressed out and anxious and uncertain.


After any major event, people tend to reevaluate their careers. With a global pandemic, everyone was reevaluating their career at once. In November, over 4.5 million people resigned from their jobs.


It’s called the Great Resignation, but that phrase doesn’t seem right. People are looking for a change. What bothered them about their company, coworkers, or boss became one more thing that stressed them out, and it wasn’t worth enduring the frustration anymore. We have been forced to share our flaws, and an employer who doesn’t meet us halfway when we need to care for family members or take a mental break is untenable.


Now that we’ve been forced to share how human and messy our lives can be, it’s hard to settle in and work in an environment where we don’t feel valued or understood. Life is short, and if we’re going to spend more waking hours with our coworkers than our family, it better be in a role and company that aligns with our values. Leadership teams who realize this will attract and retain the best talent.


Did I mention that we’re hiring across every business unit? 😉 We have open positions for full-stack developers, account executives, customer success, and more roles opening soon in human resources, marketing, and more.


Data Management Matters More Than Ever

We’ve been following the changes in data privacy that are being entered into legislation, and technology companies are putting in place stricter privacy protocols in the guise of protecting consumers. While you can’t convince me there isn’t some self-interest involved with company-driven innovation (can we say “monopolizing advertising market share”?), these developments do reflect greater awareness on the part of consumers.


Considering the degree marketers have been able to capitalize on personally identifiable information (PII) up until this point, it’s no wonder we’re seeing a backlash. Just as marketers realized the power and potential of the data at our fingertips, a series of documentaries outed some outrageous extremes. 


As Jess Bahr said on our latest expert panel, marketers are kind of creepy cyberstalkers.


While these privacy changes prove to be a moving target (Google has postponed significant changes to Chrome until late 2023), third-party cookies have already been banned from Safari, and we’ve seen a serious impact on some online advertising platforms.


Experts are polarized on where we are headed. We’ve heard everything from the internet will be completely redesigned to not much is foundationally changing.” As usual, the most likely reality lies somewhere in the middle.


Marketers have to uplevel their PII policies, and first-party data management is vital to any company’s success. This means balancing achieving insights to help them hone their company’s go-to-market strategy while retaining the ability to purge PII when necessary. We don’t see advanced marketing analytics and buyer journey tracking ebbing in demand, but we do see a need to build out more robust correlation reporting.


In other words, not everything is or should be tracked, and we need to make the most of the data we do have access to (which is the theme established above in our Attribution section).


What Was Normal Probably Never Will Be Again

CaliberMind has always recruited the best talent regardless of geolocation, so moving to a 100% remote workplace and dropping our office space lease wasn’t as big of a shock to our system as some industries.


Okay, it was a little bit of a surprise. I remember when experts told us this pandemic lockdown would only last two weeks. I never expected to be in varying states of quarantine for more than two years.


Regardless, we adjusted.


But we still hear about companies that try to require a part-time office presence on rotation (or even flat out full-time in-person in some cases) to perpetuate their original “in-office 100% of the time” culture.


Honestly, we don’t get it.


Ask anyone, and they will tell you that I believe that in-person, face-to-face communication is the most effective means of communication (science backs me on that point). However, I also respect that a broad range of comfort levels with virus exposure exists. I can’t deny that many companies are reporting that productivity increased with remote work (some studies even boast a 47% boost in productivity). Our team enjoys the flexibility that comes with remote work–and many have voiced a desire to continue remotely most (if not all) of the time once it’s possible to meet in person.


And we’re okay with that. In fact, we think that continuing remote employment beyond the pandemic opens up the talent pool considerably so we can focus on maintaining our company culture while recruiting the most skilled people. It’s a win-win.


It’s Time To Nail the Basics

The most common issues we see getting in the way of better marketing insights involve a lack of foundational setup.


To get more out of your data, you need:


If you plan to put engagement scoring and attribution in place, you’ll benefit from these best practices. Major roadblocks that can derail an analytics implementation before it starts are things like inventing custom objects instead of using standard objects meant for the same purpose (we’ve seen this done for opportunities and campaign members) or a complete lack of commitment by either marketing or sales to consistently log key data points in their main systems.


Finally, we recommend working with a vendor that understands they can’t make assumptions about the state of your data before analyzing it. Plugging a tool into a CRM or MAP isn’t going to work. You need a tool that will integrate with your critical data sources and can stitch all of that data into a coherent story about each prospect and customer.


Data Storytelling Matters

During our last expert panel, I was struck by an opinion that seemed so evident I was shocked I haven’t seen it blowing up social media platforms. Soft skills like tactfully communicating and properly positioning marketing insights can make or break the reliance on data to make decisions. The combination of analytical and emotional IQ can be difficult to find, and CMOs and CROs who have found such a unicorn would be wise to make sure they don’t join the Great Resignation.


Revenue operations has stepped in as the go-to-market data champion and we’ve seen immediate benefits. Revenue operations departments have helped marketers structure stronger business cases to invest in analytics. They’ve even stepped in and implemented the tools themselves, owning the initiative to translate the insights into actionable outcomes.


We love the rise in revenue operations and think building these teams with a focus across the entire go-to-market motion is absolutely the right approach.


When marketers are under more pressure than ever to prove that what they are doing has a positive impact; better analytics, data hygiene, and process automation need to become a top priority in every organization. And it goes without saying that the analyst at the helm must be skilled at communicating. If you don’t have a gifted analyst focused on marketing data who knows how to frame data in a way that executives prefer, you’re missing out on a competitive advantage.


With the right talent, investing in analytics isn’t a hard sell. After all, the CFO holds the keys to the budget, and they have a deep-rooted affection for data.


And if you need help getting your data in shape or making the most of your insights, we’re here to help.

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