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The Art of Attribution in B2B: Connecting Marketing to Revenue

by Ryan Miller
  |  January 30, 2024  |  
January 30, 2024

The buyer’s journey has never been more complex in the B2B landscape. With an explosion of digital channels and a deluge of content, tracking what marketing touchpoints or marketing efforts influence prospects and drive revenue has become increasingly difficult. For B2Bs, understanding attribution is pivotal to optimizing budgets and improving marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

Many B2B marketers face increasing pressure to quantify ROI and accelerate pipeline velocity. But complicated attribution models actually hollow out budgets through analysis paralysis.

Today, the average B2B buyer consumes over 11 pieces of content and requires more than 31 marketing touchpoints before talking to sales. Their journey is far from linear and looks much more like a pretzel than a straight line.

B2B marketers need more visibility into which content and marketing campaigns are most effective in influencing the purchasing process. Misaligned Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) between sales and marketing worsen the problem, leading to wasted opportunities.

This blog post explores the emerging best practices for blending left-brain metrics with right-brain creativity by walking you through proven digital marketing attribution methodologies tailored for B2B marketers. You’ll learn how to:

  • Laser focus budgets on marketing channels and offers, delivering the greatest pipeline and closed revenue
  • Streamline a dashboard highlighting the two most important marketing data points
  • Apply the latest best practices to optimize channel and campaign performance

Say goodbye to guesswork and the pressure to constantly prove your worth and hello to the insights and confidence needed to grow marketing’s bottom-line impact.

Key Attribution Challenges for B2B Marketers:

It’s as Much Art as It is Science

B2B Marketing attribution is a mix of art and science. Different analytics platforms and attribution models have caused a disconnect between the two, leading to an overload of information. Yet, with all the tools and models available to us, we still struggle to answer some of the most important questions:

  • Where did this customer initially come from?
  • What content or marketing campaign led to their initial interest?
  • What ultimately tipped them over into speaking with sales?
  • Did sales nurture them properly through the funnel?

The following challenges are often why you ask yourself these questions.

Your Focus is on Proving Marketing vs. Improving Marketing

Marketing is often blamed when sales funnel performance is low. However, marketers struggle to defend their budgets due to poor attribution and inability to prove the effectiveness of their efforts. Marketing attribution should focus on pipeline and closed revenue rather than campaigns or marketing channels to address this issue.

You Have Leaks in the Demand Waterfall

One of the biggest challenges faced by B2B companies today is their reliance on the outdated demand waterfall model. This model assumes that converting sales leads into customers is a linear transition from marketing to sales to revenue, with each department solely focused on achieving its success metrics. However, this approach has become a challenge with shifting buyer behavior. It puts departments in competition, competing for lead credit instead of working collaboratively to serve the customer.

You Don’t have Visibility Across Buyer Touchpoints and Teams

B2B buyers passively learn by consuming content about products/services through various channels. Tracking buyer touchpoints across these channels or multiple devices is challenging, making it difficult for marketing and sales teams to understand the customer journey. Although it may seem necessary to connect all the data dots, the good news is that it is not always required.

Your KPIs Between the Sales Team and Marketing Teams are Misaligned

Sales and marketing teams have different goals and KPIs, which leads to conflicts and finger-pointing. If Marketing and Sales can’t agree on measuring or defining a lead, then  B2B marketing attribution is stopped dead in its tracks. Solid Sales and Marketing alignment begins by asking:

  • How can we identify and prioritize high-intent leads over low-intent leads?
  • How can we work on target accounts together?
  • How do high-intent leads find us?
  • How can we serve them best?
  • Which buyer’s journey led to quick, repeatable sales?
  • How can we remove friction and better serve these prospects?
  • How can we ensure a seamless and smooth Marketing and Sales hand-off?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can develop metrics to gain insight into the ideal buyer journey and then collaborate to optimize it.

You Have Analysis Paralysis From Massive Tech Marketing Stacks

Most B2B companies quickly throw marketing tech at their sagging pipeline when unsure what marketing strategies to try. But disjointed systems that use different tracking methods breed confusion, not clarity.  Using too many tools for marketing and sales operations can lead to inaccurate data, poor handoffs, and a lack of a single source of truth for decision-making. Consolidating marketing and sales operations in a single tool like HubSpot helps collect, synchronize, and update information for better decision-making.

Why Do B2B Marketing Attribution and Metrics Exist in the First Place?

There are three main reasons why marketing metrics matter, and it’s not JUST about job security (i.e., proving that marketing is working)

  • To make better investments: Analyzing data can help you decide where to invest your time, energy, and resources in tactics that drive sales and ROI.
  • To optimize campaign performance: By measuring the right things, data can act as dials and gauges that can be adjusted for better performance.
  • To show that marketing is working: You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Analyzing data can help you validate that your marketing efforts are practical and demonstrate this to your superiors.

Data analysis should be about improving marketing, not just proving it works. Analyzing data can be simple if you know what you’re looking for.

Where are You in the Attribution Maturity Spectrum?

B2B marketing attribution is a journey from data confusion to strategic clarity, moving from ‘Ad Hoc’ tactics to ‘Prescriptive’ mastery.  Attribution isn’t a project or even a moment in time. It’s an evolution where data drives all marketing decisions. Check the chart to assess where your business stands.

  • In Phase 1, fragmented insights cause frustration. Low-level departmental reporting pulls teams in different directions, making it difficult to secure budget.
  • In Phase 2, integrating Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and ad data reveals actual multi-touch journeys. Granular analytics and customized models instill confidence, and budgets grow.
  • In Phase 3, you can predict the future with optimal spending and messaging. You have earned a seat at the executive table with the revenue growth engine firing at full capacity.

Plot your path below to reach the next level for wide-scale business impact and job security.

8 Key Attribution Principles to Connect Marketing to Revenue

It takes both art and science to overcome these marketing attribution challenges and connect marketing efforts to revenue. Here are the eight fundamental principles to keep in mind:

Principle #1: Focus Marketing Metrics on Business Growth First

Marketing must optimize performance against business KPIs — not typical marketing metrics. Using closed revenue, pipeline creation, and sales velocity proves your marketing is working.  When we work with clients, we conduct a bottom-up and top-down analysis to build an attribution model and dashboard that ties activities directly to corporate revenue goals, higher customer value, and profits.

Principle #2: Accept that Buyer Behavior has Changed

From the top down, your organization must accept that buyers now take more complex, primarily independent journeys. They formulate their mental shortlist of vendors before they prioritize a project. Winning business in this new context requires being one of the vendors on their mental shortlist. They won’t talk to Sales until they’re ready to understand how your solution will fit into their world. We call this the ‘tipping point.’ You need to optimize all of your marketing and sales activities for this moment in time. Your pipeline depends on it.

Principle #3: Realize that Business Growth is a Team Sport

Driving revenue growth in B2B requires an integrated, company-wide effort. For B2B companies to capture more revenue, all departments must synchronize around the customer’s needs:

  • CEOs and executives evangelize POV and promote your category with the press, in keynotes, and on social media to build awareness and interest.
  • Customer Success fosters loyalty with customers so they’ll actively refer new prospects, creating word-of-mouth momentum.
  • Your Sales team engages and builds consensus with buying committees to get deals across the finish line.
  • Marketing generates demand through tailored content across paid and organic channels.

Principle #4: Balance Software With Real Buyer Perspectives

MarTech alone can’t track the complete buyer journey. Balance quantitative analytic insights with qualitative feedback. This gives visibility into the dark funnel missed by cookies and pixels by uncovering the invisible drivers that technology can’t see.  

Quantitative metrics (Science) provide a crucial understanding of what captured demand (tipping point) before a customer entered your pipeline. 

Qualitative perspectives (Art) uncover what created demand for your business by learning the backstories of what first sparked interest and separates your brand from competitors in the customer’s mind. Examples include:

  • “How did you hear about us” fields reveal critical word-of-mouth channels
  • Customer data from interviews highlight emotional switches others miss
  • Community engagement helps you learn their questions 
  • Journey mapping shows information requirements for each stage
  • Reviews indicate strengths to double down on

Check out this hot lead we received recently. The prospect cited a podcast interview with our CEO as their source in the ‘how did you hear about us’ field. However, when we checked GA4 for data, it falsely showed that the lead came from direct traffic. This emphasizes the significance of having quantitative metrics, as we would have had no way of knowing which tactics are effective without them.

Quantitative and qualitative marketing measurement will help you build a measurable scorecard that becomes an actionable blueprint for growth. 

Principle #5: Shift Marketing Efforts from Allbound vs. Inbound or Outbound

Most B2Bs build their go-to-market on an assembly line approach that focuses on the department, not the customer. 

  • Marketing – generate marketing qualified lead (MQL) (all leads treated the same)
  • SDRs – book meetings (regardless of quality)
  • Sales – try to close deals (low confidence because of lead quality)

This results in siloed attribution that forces sales and marketing initiatives into territorial tugs of war.  An integrated allbound revenue team eliminates turf wars and creates a shared mindset around optimizing for the customer’s buying process. This enables you to build KPIs focused on their journey and your business outcomes.  Shifting to allbound becomes a true win/win. 

Principle #6: Shoot Bullets & Then Cannonballs

Instead of using a random approach to marketing, focus on targeting specific channels, audiences, and content. Once you have found success, then scale up to larger campaigns. Use bullets to Identify what’s working using data-driven insights and attribution; then, you can launch your cannon balls.

When we work with clients, we like to start with a niche audience or a target account list.  We then identify which channels we believe their audience goes to learn and focus our efforts there first. We monitor channels and content to determine what works and what doesn’t. Once we confirm what’s successful, we invest more in those tactics and reduce spending on the rest.

Principle #7: Strive for Actionable Insights, Not More Confusion

Marketing metrics quickly breed analysis paralysis and are bloated with technical jargon and mind-numbing dashboards and reports. Decode KPIs like marketing-qualified leads and pipeline velocity into understandable, insightful data aligned around decisions and strategy. Your attribution must translate noise into clear signals to inform the next moves.

Principle #8: Build Your Foundation with First & Last Touch Attribution

We saved this principle for last because it can be the solution to the other seven principles. Many B2B companies need to correct marketing attribution, but it can be simple. By looking at the first touch or last touch only, you can determine what initially brought people in and how they ultimately made their decision. You can effectively scale your marketing campaigns with confidence in these data points.

4 Key Attribution Metrics in B2B Marketing

Now that you understand the principles that can help you see the big picture, align teams, and focus your business on the right objectives, let’s prioritize what drives results.

Total Influenced Pipeline 

Instead of just looking at the “marketing-sourced” pipeline, track the marketing investment across the entire pipeline. Marketing metrics should focus on identifying and nurturing the most sales-ready prospects in your pipeline regardless of source. By looking at the total influenced pipeline, you can prioritize opportunities historically, resulting in higher win rates.

Marketing Budget Efficiency 

Is your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) improving over time? Monitor total marketing spend / new clients and new opportunities to indicate progress in marketing and budget efficiency over time. This shows marketing investments generate momentum, move buyers down the funnel, and nurture sales-ready prospects.

Monitor customer acquisition cost (CAC) quarter-over-quarter trends to assess your progress. While monitoring spending and results by channel is also necessary, keeping an eye on the big picture is crucial.

Pipeline Velocity

How long does it take for a lead to become a customer? How quickly do leads move through the funnel? Monitor sales cycle length quarter or quarter to understand what efforts are making the best/worst impact on pipeline velocity.  The faster leads move through the funnel, the more efficient and effective marketing efforts are.

Marketing ROI by Quarter

Regardless of marketing campaign or channel details, the ultimate sign of marketing health is driving incremental revenue growth for each dollar invested. Connecting marketing metrics to actual Return on Investment (ROI) provides evidence of marketing effectiveness beyond just the influence on pipelines. Divide your total spend by the Closed/Won revenue to determine the total ROI. Use this metric to show the revenue generated by marketing campaigns and predict future revenue growth.

Align your marketing metrics with these actual outcomes to understand the results of your marketing performance. It’s not just about the performance of individual campaigns but the return on your entire marketing investment. Ultimately, the goal is to determine whether you are making progress in terms of revenue.

Four Key B2B Marketing Attribution Takeaways 

With frameworks elevating attribution’s role in driving growth, what should B2B marketers focus on to connect marketing metrics to revenue? Here are the top recommendations to boost B2B marketing performance:

  1. Laser Focus Budgets on High-ROI Activities – Improve lead generation results by leveraging attribution insights and pinpointing the channels, campaigns, and content, delivering the greatest pipeline velocity and closed revenue. Double down on what works and cut what doesn’t.
  2. Streamline Metrics for Clear Decision Making – Slice through analysis paralysis and attribution model complexity by establishing a straightforward dashboard highlighting marketing budget efficiency, multi-touch revenue, pipeline influence, and sales velocity.
  3. Apply Modern Principles to Optimize Tactics – Level up lead gen, lower CPA, and engage buyers better by learning and applying the latest proven attribution methodologies. Multi-touch models, customized analytics, and expanded qualitative insights give clarity to optimizing social, organic, and all priority channels.
  4. Plot Your Path Forward to Better Outcomes – Attribution isn’t a project or even a moment in time. It’s an evolution where data drives all marketing decisions. Use our analytics maturity chart to assess where your business stands.

Get Ahead of the Attribution Curve

In today’s fragmented B2B journey, marketing attribution is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a must to drive growth. Optimizing your model connects media dollars spent to the pipeline delivered and guides strategy. By taking an integrated, qualitative + quantitative approach to attribution, you gain the clarity needed to:

  • Laser focus budgets on proven channels
  • Align teams to accelerate pipeline velocity
  • Confidently optimize tactics driving revenue

Don’t let another year slip by without unlocking marketing’s true revenue potential. Check out our January 2024 Demand Gen Jam Session replay for more insights and tips. You can also schedule a Free Marketing Attribution Consultation with one of our experts.

We’ll assess your current data ecosystem, identify attainable next steps, and provide actionable recommendations tailored to your goals. Within 30 days, you’ll have clarity on high-potential areas to target to boost marketing performance substantially.

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