When we think about B2B buyers’ journeys, it’s easy to assume there is one linear path. As marketers, it would make our lives easier if our audience consumed content in a prescribed path that clearly maps to our funnel stages. I’ve even been through corporate exercises where we drew our buyers’ journey on a white board and then stuck Post-its with the titles of all of our content on the stages where we thought it belonged. While that may be a great exercise for discovering gaps, real buyers are not that predictable.
I describe the B2B buyers’ journeys as looking much more like a Chutes and Ladders game. Each player takes a different path up and down the board until they get to the end—and the fact that there are multiple players is extremely important. You can expect there to be at least four to five influencers on any B2B decision, and that increases as price tags get larger. Unlike a Chutes and Ladders game, you may not even know who they all are. Influencers who never interact with your sales reps, may be evaluating your product behind the scenes.
So now that we’ve taken away the notion of a predictable linear path to sale, how do we know what’s actually happening between the beginning and end of a deal… and why do we care?
It’s critical to know the ROI of your programs to make intelligent, data-driven decisions about your marketing spend. If you cannot map your entire funnel, you do not know the impact of mid-funnel touches; and those are often pivot points to conversions.
To calculate ROI, most of us go to our CRM because that’s where we store most of our business-critical information. Unfortunately, Salesforce leaves Marketers blind to the majority of the funnel. It can only report on the beginning or end. While Salesforce attempts to provide campaign ROI metrics, it only gives insight on first and last touch. Let’s look closely at how Salesforce handles attribution.
Salesforce has two approaches to attributing revenue. The first is through lead source and the second is through the Primary Campaign Source field (which contributes to the Campaign Influence views). Both are single-touch models, meaning all revenue or pipeline get attributed to only one activity, regardless of the number of campaigns involved in the sale. In fact, more than 75% of touches are not being attributed to sales.
Many marketers rely on the Lead Source field to track a prospect’s initial interaction, which overemphasizes lead generation activity and ignores everything beyond first marketing touch. Furthermore, lead source generally only provides visibility into the broad channel from which a lead was sourced, devoid of any insights into the specifics that influenced a deal.
The lack of flexibility around using lead source to provide attribution causes companies who rely on it to jump through all kinds of hoops. Marketers begin propagating the lead views with custom fields like “lead source original,” and “lead source description” in order to map whatever paths their prospects are taking. This creates all sorts of clutter and never quite works as expected.
In addition to the standard challenges presented by first touch attribution—giving 100% credit not even to a specific campaign (e.g. “Dreamforce 2015”), but to a broad category (“Events — Live”)—attribution by lead source presents other data quality challenges including lack of insight into specific campaign/offer performance or overwriting records, destroying information in the process.
Primary Campaign Source
Primary Campaign Source tracks only a lead’s last interaction prior to conversion. Similar to lead source attribution, primary campaign source disproportionately allocates credit to the most recent pre-conversion event, ignoring all prior touches. Also similar to lead source, the primary campaign source field is editable by default, introducing potential threats to data integrity.
In the case that an opportunity is created independently of the standard lead conversion process—a lead is converted, creating a contact, an account, and an opportunity— primary campaign source is not assigned. Opportunities do not require association with contact roles and, even in the case that an opportunity owner adds a contact (or multiple contacts) after the fact, primary primary source is not assigned, putting the responsibility in the hands of a sales rep to manually assign primary campaign source.
Finally, primary campaign source can erroneously assume that because a lead is associated with a campaign, that the campaign has been influential. If a lead is a campaign member but never responded—or the campaign exists in Salesforce but has yet to start—that campaign can still be counted as primary campaign source.
In addition to using a single-touch attribution model, ignoring all touches but the last—primary campaign source leaves too much room for error. Because only one contact role is usually associated to an account (when there should be many), and only one touch for that contact gets counted (regardless of whether it’s valid), we estimate that primary campaign source is invalid 95% of the time.
Campaign influence is a standard Salesforce feature that allows users to automatically (or manually) associate multiple influential campaigns to a single opportunity. When a contact role is added to an opportunity, all of that contact’s campaign memberships are then listed under the campaign influence list within the opportunity record, including campaign that are created after the opportunity is created.
From the campaign influence list, you also have the optional ability to designate any influential campaign as the primary campaign source, which attributes 100% of the revenue from that opportunity to the designated campaign, should you win that opportunity. If you don’t win the opportunity, the relationship will still be recorded on the campaign record so you can see how many opportunities in total (won or lost) were influenced by that campaign.
Incomplete data: Missing Contacts on Opportunities
Salesforce does not require contacts on opportunities. When opportunity creation falls outside of the standard Salesforce lead conversion flow, association gaps are created that remove any hope for truly meaningful attribution. Opportunity owners (Sales) are simply not focused on data entry–nor do we want them to be! But the solution isn’t necessarily to impose more processes on your reps. That can backfire. Besides, you want your reps selling, not spending their time following draconian data capture rules.
Contact roles are often neglected.
Most sales reps will attach a single contact (if any) to an opportunity and move on. In reality, there are usually numerous stakeholders influencing any considerable B2B purchase decision. Given the complexity of most enterprise sales, there may be influencers engaging with your content who are completely unknown to the account rep. On average, we see four to five people involved in a B2B buying cycle, with only one contact role is attached to the opportunity. This is why more than 75% of marketing touches are not being attributed to a sale.
Campaign influence too often projects an incomplete picture of marketing-generated revenue that can lead to faulty assumptions, grossly incorrect reporting, and ultimately, dangerous, misguided investment decisions.
The Bottom Line
Your CRM should be a critical player in your technology stack, but too many people fall into the trap of trying to use it in ways it was not designed to function. Ultimately, Salesforce is a Sales tool—heavily reliant on people to ensure data quality. Every organization uses Salesforce differently, which presents challenges that break attribution. There are simply too many points of failure to rely on Salesforce alone when trying to attribute marketing to revenue; and moreover, trying to customize Salesforce to do attribution—through custom fields, draconian sales processes, etc.—can often backfire. Most importantly, Salesforce only provides visibility into either first or last touch.
I think the term, “the buyers’ journey,” is a misnomer, we should be talking about buyers’ journeys; as there is not just one journey but several. Like that Chutes and Ladders game, each sale involves multiple players, all following different paths to reach the end. The reason to map them is so that you can understand the impact of your programs, regardless of where they fall along the path to sale. Tools like Salesforce that can only show you single touch, and leave you blind to 75% of the influencers in any deal, are unable to tie spend back to revenue. This can only be accomplished with multi-touch revenue attribution.
Interested learning more about Salesforce attribution? Download
The Definitive Guide to Multi-Touch Revenue Attribution.
As B2B Marketers, we are hyper focused on generating leads. We fine-tune and A/B test every last detail of our landing pages in order to squeeze out even a half a percent improvement in conversion rates. However, once we get that coveted contact info into our CRM, we seem to forget all about the experience that comes next. Rather than thinking through next steps, we send users to bare-bones confirmation pages that have nothing more than a link to a download, and the words, “Thank You for Registering.” What a missed opportunity.
We forget that filling out a form isn’t necessarily a sign that the end user cares about your brand. It just means that they were interested in you, or the content of the asset you were offering, enough to share their contact info. If they came to your landing page via paid or long-tail search, they may not have the foggiest idea who you are or what your company can offer them.
Confirmation pages present an opportunity to warm the lead immediately. Once you take their information, you have a chance to draw them in and engage them by providing rich content, next steps, and avenues to explore your website, all alongside the download link. Since they’ve already filled out your form, you don’t need to hard sell them on more lead gen. Instead, you can direct them to interesting blog posts, product pages and other context-appropriate areas of your site.
With a little tuning and testing, I have been able to drop the bounce rate on confirmation pages from 85% down to 30%. Think about all that work you are putting into emailed lead nurture campaigns that begin a week or more after the download, when you could have engaged these brand new leads right from the start, when you’re fresh in their minds.
Explaining the differences between B2B and B2C applications
Marketers are seizing the opportunity to remake their identity from being a cost center to a revenue driver. While their efforts to prove influence on revenue can vary greatly between consumer and business-to-business organizations, both types of organizations can use multi-channel attribution to better tie their efforts to revenue. Over the past few years, B2C marketing teams have been adopting and benefiting from better attribution techniques, but differences in the B2B revenue cycle have made attribution tougher for B2B organizations to adopt. With the right tools, B2B companies can solve this challenge and start benefiting from full visibility and control over their effect on revenue.
B2B vs. B2C Revenue Cycles
Revenue cycles for B2B companies are much different than that of consumers businesses. B2C businesses have a shorter revenue cycle with a generally high volume of interactions across many different channels, including TV ads, billboards, and in-store displays. Additionally, consumer businesses are almost always selling to one decision maker. B2B companies deal with much longer revenue cycles, with only the biggest organizations, like FedEx and IBM, spending any money on TV ads. B2B companies also have to navigate their marketing and sales efforts to and through multiple decision makers and evaluators. Proving marketing’s influence on revenue for either type of organization is difficult, but because of their differences, consumer marketers have been quicker to solve attribution for their efforts than B2B marketers.
For B2C companies, shorter revenue cycles means that marketers are affecting revenue more immediately. This makes attribution a more urgent problem for consumer marketers to solve, hence their early adoption of multi-channel attribution when compared to B2B marketers. The shorter revenue cycle also makes attribution a somewhat different challenge for B2C marketers. To effectively use multi-channel attribution, consumer marketers have been focusing much of their efforts on being able attribute conversions across digital channels. With this issue already being solved, B2B marketers are teed up toward taking the next step to make multi-channel attribution work for themselves.
For B2B marketers, longer revenue cycles means that their influence on revenue won’t be realized for months or quarters out. This can make attribution a lower priority for some B2B teams, since it may seem like evaluating today’s results would only provide insights on actions that were taken many months or quarters prior. In actuality, multi-channel attribution can be used to evaluate more than just the effect of historic marketing efforts on today’s revenue. With proper attribution, marketing forecasts can give marketers more accurate insights into how today’s efforts will affect revenue in the coming quarters. Marketing automation (e.g., Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot) and CRM tools (e.g., Salesforce, SugarCRM) can help marketers gather most of the data they need to tie campaigns through pipeline and to revenue. This information is crucial as it contains much of the raw data needed to attribute efforts across long revenue cycles. Marketing teams can then rely on internal marketing operations/analysts, home-brewed solutions, business intelligence packages, or 3rd party SaaS marketing analytics solutions to make sense out of the raw data and attribute revenue influence to their efforts.
While consumer and business marketers may have the similar goal to measure their impact on revenue, both types of organizations face different challenges in doing this. For consumer marketers, tackling attribution can provide lots of immediate value over shorter revenue cycles. For B2B marketers, attribution allows marketers to not only evaluate previous efforts, but also predict pipeline and revenue changes throughout much longer revenue cycles. Through attribution, both types of organizations can gather the insights needed to prove marketing’s deep influence on revenue.
Marketers’ Growing Ownership Of The Revenue Cycle
Sales teams are traditionally recognized as the revenue driver for B2B organizations. While marketing teams have generally been seen as a cost-center for supporting sales with lead gen and brand recognition, sales has always been known as a revenue-center due to its efforts prospecting, educating, and closing business. This traditional mindset is still very common, but it is quickly dating itself as more marketing teams focus on automated sales enablement and education through content marketing, giving them more ownership of the revenue cycle.
Good B2B marketers are claiming more ownership of this revenue cycle, especially at the earlier stages of the cycle; they focus increasing efforts on content marketing, which syndicates education to prospective customers through well designed websites, white papers and webinars, which are promoted through, ads, email campaigns and and social media. Because all of these programs are now tracked digitally — and thus produce data that can be analyzed — marketing efforts can finally be directly related to a company’s bottom line. However, with this new status also comes a new responsibility: marketing teams must now forecast their future pipeline and revenue results.
Marketing Forecasting Provides Visibility Earlier in the Revenue Cycle
As marketers grow ownership of the revenue cycle and build performance data on various channels and tactics, they have the ability to make forecasts that provide accurate long-term visibility. Sales forecasts can be highly accurate for the coming month or quarter, but marketing forecasts can be used to plan efforts 6 to 12 months further than sales efforts. This ultimately allows marketing execs to:
- Give boards and executives full visibility into how much revenue marketing has driven and will generate.
- Have full control over the marketing levers that drive revenue.
- Encourage better collaboration between marketing and sales teams due to joint ownership over the revenue cycle.
- Foster an organizational-wide paradigm shift as marketing moves from being a cost center toward being a revenue-driver; align all teammates — creatives and quants alike — toward the same overarching goal.
Tying Marketing Efforts to Revenue Results
Marketers are owning more of the revenue cycle, and are therefore more responsible and accountable for revenue generation. While sales forecasts provide accurate visibility into the coming month or quarter, marketing forecasts can provide execs and boards with visibility into the coming 12+ months. Ultimately, forecasting allows organizations to better tie marketing efforts with revenue generation.