3 Prerequisites for Accurate Revenue Attribution

Written by: Jason Andrade on 3/24/16 3:19 PM

Attribution.pngMarketing has always faced the challenge of trying to prove its worth. As confident as a marketing team is that their efforts are paying off, the people with the power behind budget decisions aren’t always satisfied with confidence. They want numbers.

As more and more of the marketing we do shifts to the digital space, the amount of marketing analytics available has exploded. Even so, marketing professionals struggle to provide the c-suite the numbers they need to justify the work. Marketers still consider proving ROI to be the number one challenge they face and 68% say they feel more pressured to show the return on their marketing spend.

Proving ROI Requires Revenue Attribution

With more marketing analytics at our fingertips than ever before, why is showing ROI still such a challenge? For one thing, the shift to digital has also made the buying process more complicated.  Customers can easily require 13 or more touch points before they become a truly qualified lead.

If you’re only counting the first or last of those touch points, then many of the marketing activities that are doing the work of moving leads through the pipeline aren’t receiving proper recognition. Most marketers recognize this, but figuring out how to make sure all touch points are tracked and counted is difficult. And figuring out how much credit each one should get is even harder.

Revenue attribution can be accomplished, but it takes some work on the front-end. If your organization is interested in data-driven marketing and ready to start recognizing exactly how your marketing budget spend is paying off in profit, you need to take a few main steps first to make revenue attribution a reality.

How to Prepare Your Marketing Org for Revenue Attribution

Before you can make real progress on achieving revenue attribution for your marketing efforts, there are three steps you need to take.

  1. Make sure you’re comparing the same types of marketing against each other.

You already know that there are different stages to the marketing funnel and different goals you want the activities targeted at each stage to meet. Whereas your SEO efforts are designed to increase awareness and visibility, your webinars are usually designed to get people primed and interested so you can hand them over to your sales team.

While everyone on your team recognizes this, there’s a good chance you’ve fallen into the habit of comparing the metrics for your awareness-level activities against the assets and activities designed more for conversion and lead nurturing. Comparing apples to oranges won’t do your marketing activities justice. You need to find a solid system for organizing your marketing analytics so that you can easily compare apples to apples, but also track how activities at each stage of the buyer’s journey relate to each other.

It’s less useful to compare the number of blog post views against the number of eBook downloads than it is to see how many of the people that viewed that blog post then became the leads that downloaded your eBook. 

  1. Define your waterfall.

Many marketing teams make the mistake of focusing their efforts and goals on driving leads. Tracking leads is important for sure, but it shouldn’t be your primary goal. If you’re ready to become a marketing organization that prioritizes revenue, then you need to define your waterfall.

Defining your waterfall accomplishes a few key things:

  • It helps you clarify the steps that will take your leads through the necessary process to become sales.
  • It makes sure sales and marketing are in agreement on what those steps are and how to work together to achieve them.
  • It seals a psychological shift in your team away from earning a lead and “calling it a day” toward recognizing that their real job is to help the business earn more revenue, which entails a more careful and comprehensive approach.

Once your marketing team is pressured to see the bigger picture of how their work contributes to the company’s overall revenue goals and given a framework in which to do so, you’ve started to pave the path to achieving true revenue attribution.

  1. Pick an attribution model.

There’s no clear consensus on how best to decide which touch points are worth what. Does the PPC ad that first brought a new prospect to the website get more credit than the blog post that answered their question once they got there? Should the webinar that ushers them in to sales qualified lead (SQL) status earn more weight than the eBook they downloaded that first prompted them to hand their email address over?

There’s a good reason that there’s no consensus: the answer is different for everyone.  While you can find a few popular attribution models out there to go off of, what works best for your business will depend on your marketing goals, plan, and customers.

One of the big benefits of data-driven marketing is that, over time, you can use the data you have to refine your attribution model. Start with what your team agrees makes the most sense – maybe you all just have an intuitive sense that those webinars should be weighted higher than blog posts – but then see what the data says. Refine as you go based on which activities most consistently contribute to turning leads to sales (and which ones most consistently lead to higher sales or bigger-spending clients).

Once you start performing revenue attribution, you’ll end up with more and more data over time to help you do it better as you go.  Data on its own won’t do much for you, but once you add in human analysis and action, you’ll end up with results that improve little by little (or sometimes lots) over time.

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Topics: Marketing Maturity, Hive9