In my previous two posts in this series, I’ve talked about why marketers have historically struggled with multi-touch attribution and why the conditions are finally ripe for them to achieve full sales cycle visibility. In both of those posts, the singular theme was this: For marketers to succeed going forward, they need to roll up their sleeves and take the steps necessary to understand every campaign’s impact on revenue generation.

Which brings me to this post. If we are indeed entering the era of multi-touch attribution (and I obviously believe we are), then this will also usher in the need for specialized, marketing-optimized analytics platforms — or, what I like to call multi-touch revenue attribution. The good news is that these platforms already exist and I have no doubt that many more will spring up as the market for the technology matures.

But what explicit purpose do these solutions serve?

Very simply, they’re designed to help CMOs and their teams gain better visibility into marketing’s impact on sales. Similar to BI tools, this technology can process large amounts of data. But unlike BI tools, MRI platforms specialize in the analysis of data between core marketing technologies (CRM, MAS, etc.), which allows them to use only data that is relevant to marketers — namely, the campaign and revenue data sources from CRM and MAS technologies.

4 Steps to Get Started with Multi-Touch Revenue Attribution

The level of knowledge you generate from this level of revenue attribution can be significant, but the biggest immediate benefit might be your ability to defend and increase marketing budget. After all, if you can show your board how, why, where, and when specific campaigns are contributing to revenue creation, then it becomes significantly easier to justify (and expand) investment. In turn, that enables you to do more of your most effective programs.

Seems like a no brainer, right?

Agreed. But before you jump into multi-touch attribution and invest in an MRI solution, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your business is ready to take the leap:

1) Get your lead and opportunity stages right

Be sure that your whole team (both sales and marketing) have agreed upon definitions of the differences between an SQL, SAL, and what makes an opportunity. Pick stages that match your sales process and test them out. If you find your process changes a lot, I’d recommend relying even more heavily on the data to help organize your funnel (e.g., identify process gaps or bottlenecks).

Note: Don’t get stuck trying to get this absolutely precise. Agree on a point where you’re close enough and move on to the next step. Done is better than perfect.

2) Use Salesforce Campaigns

It’s not enough to just run programs in Eloqua or Marketo and record them there. Sync your campaigns to Salesforce and be sure to use the Sent and Responded flags consistently (perfection across channels isn’t the goal, but consistency within a channel/campaign type is useful).

Your reps should not need to log into your marketing automation tool to follow the nurture path of any given lead. It should be spelled out in the Campaign History on the lead view. This step is critical to readying your company for multi-touch revenue attribution, which will enable you to go much further (i.e., aggregating optimal buyers’ journeys for your wins).

3) Record program spend in your Salesforce campaigns

It’s an easy thing to forget, but get in the habit of putting your spend in the “Actual Cost” field on every Salesforce campaign. For ongoing campaigns, you will need to update this monthly or quarterly. The number is cumulative, so be sure to add your recent spend to the number already there.

It’s not a perfect solution, but since cost is required to determine ROI, it’s a necessary one. Some companies create new campaigns every quarter for ongoing initiatives such as PPC or the website.

4) Select the technology that’s right for your company

For small businesses and early-stage start-ups, you may be able to get away with clever spreadsheets to calculate attributed campaign ROI. Once your database approaches 20,000 leads and contacts, spreadsheets become a nightmare and automating attribution becomes critical.

Similarly, as your marketing team expands, and as board and executive-level reporting becomes a priority, having a platform that you can use to clearly communicate, collaborate and make data-driven decisions becomes a must have.

Stop Guessing About How Marketing Investments Impact Revenue

Ultimately, the true data-driven CMO understands the impact of spend on revenue.

These types of executives are no longer making guesses on what’s working and what’s not. They can defend their budget — and, ideally, ask for more — and confidently report to their Board on the ROI of marketing programs. All of this is critically important because it allows data-driven CMOs to finally dispel the notion that marketing is a cost center and make informed decisions that direct and shorten buyers’ journeys.

While that all might sound complicated and resource-draining, the reality is that it’s not. As I wrote in my previous post, it just takes the right mix of data, technology, and process, and a commitment to the kind of transparency that will re-shape how, why, when, and where marketing dollars are spent.

Did you miss the first two posts in this series?

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* This post originally appeared on OpenView Labs.

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