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.

The Definitive Guide to Multi-Touch Revenue Attribution

Lead Source

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

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

The Definitive Guide to Multi-Touch Revenue Attribution