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So Now You Understand Marketing Attribution…Or Do You?

About a year ago, I wrote a post about why your CEO doesn’t give a sh*t about campaign attribution. The gist of it was that marketers need to better align both their efforts and approach with their executive team and ensure that they have answered the fundamental questions before moving on to the complex when it comes to attribution. If you’ve started down this path, kudos to you. But before you get too comfortable thinking you’ve got attribution mastered, I’m going to be a bit of a buzzkill.

Here’s the deal: There’s a good chance you’re still missing some critical information about the mindset you need to be successful with attribution. Let’s unpack what that is.

Engagement Over Sourcing as Marketing’s Holy Grail

One of the biggest problems we repeatedly see with attribution efforts is the lack of accurate sourcing on leads. Many organizations mistakenly attribute the last touch marketing had with someone as the driving force behind the lead. However, it almost never is.

When I talk to CEO’s and execs who “don’t get it” there is one single core concept at the epicenter of their lack of marketing understanding.

Marketing is influence.

Even in today’s modern age of marketing maturity, there are a ton of folks who simply don’t understand, or don’t believe, this maxim. And it is a maxim.

The role of marketing is to influence the buyer and although they can, in a single-threaded manner, drive interest – the majority of buying cycles (certainly in B2B) involve a multi-threaded process where marketing serves as the connective tissue. This is a concept that often has a hard time taking root, after all, marketing is supposed to drive leads right? Wrong. Marketing primarily tracks touchpoints, both those that they create as well as those they simply curate and then they steward the buyer to the correct next step in the process. Therefore it is marketing’s job is to find out what touchpoints influenced each individual before they officially became engaged to a point where they are ready to move to the next step in the buying process, and then the next and the next. Marketing is always there, holding the buyer’s hand and ensuring that each conversation is relevant and valuable.

When you view the buyer journey in this manner, it becomes asinine, and highly assumptive, to cite the last activity which occurred before stage transition as the sole driver of that progression. In straight talk, just because a webinar was the last thing someone experienced before talking to a sales rep does not mean that the webinar is responsible for the willingness to have that conversation. Instead, the webinar influenced that next step, along with a lot of other touchpoints, if we’ve done our jobs correctly.

Organizations that heavily weight ‘last touch’ can set themselves up for huge bias when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of campaigns as most buyers have developed trust in your brand through multiple previous touchpoints. Maybe they poked around your website first, then met your CEO at an event, then spent some time reading your latest e-book – all before they decided to take part in that webinar. So, do you see why it’s a terrible mistake to then attribute that lead to the webinar? It’s giving the webinar too much credit it doesn’t deserve, but more importantly, it creates an improper perception of marketing, one that plays into the ‘campaign mentality’ marketing suffers from. Suddenly we’re running webinars as the holy grail of lead generation when in fact, they may be completely ineffective without the leading trust builders required.

Now, I’m not a webinar hater; I’m merely using this as an example to illustrate why campaign attribution can cause fundamental perception issues, even when marketers think they’re doing it right. If you’ve been using first-touch, last-touch, or any single touch attribution model not only will your reporting be skewed but it also isn’t doing you any favors regarding marketing perceptions within your organization.

So when you go to rebuild your attribution process, you need to start by knocking down the house of cards that may exist in your company. Start by re-setting expectations of marketing performance. First, marketing’s job number one is to curate a database reflective of your solution’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This means we want to start out with the goal of maintaining a highly accurate pre-qualified database of your best buyers. This immediately removes the focus from creating records (leads) and places it on creating engagement within the ICP and prioritizing those engaged buyers.

marketing attribution

The Different Perspectives of Intelligence vs. Success

Now that we’ve shifted our organizational mentality about creating engagement let’s not stop there. Let’s adjust our mindsets about attribution as a whole. Is attribution important to give us critical insights into what’s working, and to help us decide how to allocate our marketing spend? Hell yes.

However, does attribution matter when you’re looking through the lens of true success? Here’s the kicker – no. It doesn’t.

When you measure the success of your company and your overall revenue growth, I don’t care who did what or who gets credit for what. Moreover, every CEO I know would agree with me. This is when we get back to the age-old conversation, in which we lament the brokenness between sales and marketing.

Instead of looking to attribute ‘success’ to one team or another, you can all get more success by actually working together toward shared goals. I know this might be an oversimplification, but it’s attainable if there’s a mindset shift on everyone’s part. If you’re doing it right, your attribution should reveal that 100 percent of your leads had a sales touch, then a marketing touch, then a sales touch, then a marketing touch (in some configuration) – and so on. It’s a threaded effort. Rather than arguing over who drove what, get your team to look at the whole journey cohesively together.

If you can get your mind wrapped around these concepts, you can start to make the most of marketing attribution. And you’ll also get to the heart of what your executive team really cares about (hint: it has to do with repeated success and revenue growth).

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