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How to Think About B2B Marketing Attribution When 5 Different Touchpoints Drive A Conversion

Do you define your GTM efforts by the last thing that your lead did before turning into a customer? How well do you know the touchpoints and channels that are influencing your B2B marketing attribution and pipeline? Find out why B2B marketing attribution is chaotic and a beautiful maze to solve.

Krishna Charan
September 29, 2023
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In B2B marketing, the quest to understand marketing attribution and what drives conversions is a constant challenge. Many businesses rely heavily on paid channels (like Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and Facebook Ads) to bring in leads and sales, and take it as a B2B marketing attribution bible because that’s the latest touchpoint they find on HubSpot.

The truth is, attributing conversions solely to one channel, especially paid channels is an oversimplification of the complex journey customers take before making a purchase. 

If you're looking to scale your budgets and wondering where to invest, your current B2B marketing attribution might do you more harm than good and you'll wonder why it didn't work. 

In this blog, we'll explore why your paid channel—or any single touchpoint for that matter—might not be the sole hero in your conversion story. Read on before you decide where to spend your budget and discover why you should consider a diversified B2B marketing attribution plan to your GTM strategy.

SaaS buying is complex. Your buyer’s journey is no different!

Before delving into the intricacies of B2B marketing attribution, let's take a moment to understand the complexity of the modern buyer's journey. 

In the good old days of marketing, customers might see an ad on TV, visit a physical store, and make a purchase – all in one neat sequence. But in today's online landscape, the path to purchase is often a winding road with multiple stops along the way.

B2B marketing attribution models don’t understand how intent builds over time through multiple touchpoints

Imagine this scenario: Jane is on the hunt for a new meeting scheduling tool to track her team’s GTM efforts.

Her journey starts with a Google search for "best scheduling tools in 2023." She clicks on a Google Ads landing page for a scheduling software but doesn't make a purchase. Instead, she bookmarks the page for later reference.

She also finds a blog, to explore a more neutral standpoint of the best scheduling tools and finds the software from the ad over there too.

Over the next few days, Jane explores various channels like Slack communities, RevOps forums, G2 reviews, and even asks for recommendations on LinkedIn and other socials. 

Given her newfound awareness, she searches for "How to book meetings and route leads instantly”. And the initial scheduling software’s blog on the same topic pops up.

A week later, Jane receives an email from a smart SDR who is aware of Jane’s intent. The SDR discusses the value that the scheduling software can add to their inbound workflow. 

In this journey, Jane interacted with Google Ads, organic search, social media, email marketing, and content marketing – six touchpoints in total. But which one gets the credit for the conversion? 

Yes, it’s the healthiest headache that your GTM can sit down and solve.

Moving from back-of-mind to top-of-mind recall

The above is not a mere concept explainer but how we recognize B2B marketing attribution across channels at RevenueHero. While there’s no straight answer to this question, it has helped us take a holistic GTM approach, where marketing and sales touchpoints complement each other. 

We’ve had times when our Chili Piper comparison page resulted in direct demo requests and conversions. But on taking a closer look at the touchpoints in our CRM, we realized that the seeds of intent were sown initially by our SDRs over LinkedIn InMails many times and by our social media game a few other times. 

It keeps changing.

No one touchpoint takes precedence over the other or gets questioned for not being the table-turning, last touchpoint before a conversion.

The pitfalls of single-touch attribution can break your GTM

Many businesses fall into the trap of single-touch attribution — either first touch or last touchpoint.

In Jane's case, this would mean giving 100% of the credit to the SDRs email marketing campaign that led to the final purchase. While this approach is simple, it's also highly misleading.

Here's why:

1. The entire demand gen funnel and your SDRs conspired this: Single-touch attribution ignores the fact that multiple touchpoints played a role in influencing the customer's decision. It's like awarding a gold medal to the anchor leg runner in a relay race while ignoring the contributions of the earlier runners.

2. Inaccurate ROI Calculation: When you attribute the entire conversion to one touchpoint, you might overestimate the ROI of that channel and underestimate the value of others. This can lead to misallocation of your marketing budget.

3. Poor decision-making: Relying on single-touch attribution can misdirect your leaders to go as far as disbanding organic marketing efforts. You might scale down or eliminate channels that appear less effective in isolation but are crucial contributors to the overall customer journey. 

A picture of David Dulany speaking about the dark funnel in the context of generating pipelines.
Your pipeline can get populated from not-so obvious avenues.

To digress a little bit here, when we think about attribution we limit the conversation to marketing and sales channels. What goes on at the nexus of marketing and sales is a neglected child.

Case in point, your form-fills and lead assignment. Form-fills and landing pages are by and large a marketing-owned metric while lead qualification and conversions are taken over by sales.

MQL and SQL disparities are as old as the hills within any attribution strategy. What can finesse it though, is a solid pipeline acceleration system that can do the grunt work of automating lead qualification and assignment; and make attribution a shared goal between sales and marketing.

Understand B2B marketing attribution frameworks to open up your GTM strategy to a world of opportunities

You don’t have to plug-and-play one of these attribution frameworks for your inbound but they’re a good starting point to figure out your own unique lead-to-conversion journey of the buyer.

To truly understand the impact of each touchpoint in your customer's journey, you need a more sophisticated approach to quantify demand gen efforts. This method takes into account all the touchpoints a customer interacts with before converting and assigns credit proportionally.

Here are a few common multi-touch B2B marketing attribution models:

1. Linear attribution: This model gives equal credit to each touchpoint in the customer journey. In Jane's case, Google Ads, organic search, social media, email marketing, content marketing, and the final purchase each receive 16.67% credit.

2. Time decay attribution: In this model, touchpoints closer to the conversion receive more credit than those further back in time. For example, the email marketing campaign sent to Jane that led to the purchase might receive 40% credit, while the earlier touchpoints receive progressively less credit.

3. Position-driven attribution: This model assigns a higher percentage of credit to the first and last touchpoints, with the middle touchpoints receiving less. It acknowledges the importance of both initial awareness-building and the final leap of faith from your inbound lead.

Figuring out your B2B marketing attribution can add a strategic edge to your demand generation efforts

Attribution is your most trusty compass in a vast sea of marketing channels, campaigns, and tactics. But the kicker is that you can’t pick an attribution method and set sail hoping things will in place

There is no one-size-fits-all in figuring out attribution models. Finding what works for the unique needs of your business is key to building a sustainable B2B marketing attribution model.

Emily Kramer from MKT1 recently wrote in detail about how she thinks about this. And a lot of it resonated with us because we’ve been doing something similar at RevenueHero too.

We know that the way people buy software today isn’t what all of us believed initially. Buying journey isn’t linear. People don’t read the top of the funnel content, then middle of the funnel and then land on your landing page and convert.

To help us understand our buyer’s journey, here’s what we do:

  1. We look at the Original Source to understand how people entered our CRM.
  2. We look at the Latest Source at the time they requested a demo to see if there’s a difference between the Original Source & the Latest Source. 
  3. Our sales reps ask where our prospects heard about us on the demo calls.

Using data from these three pointers, here’s how we understand our prospect’s journey:

a. If the Original Source and the Latest Source are the same, we look at “Original source drill-down 1” and the “Latest source drill-down 1” to see if the channels are the same, especially for paid social. If they’re the same, we attribute the conversion to that channel.

b. If the Original Source and the Latest Source are different, we look at all the touch points that led to the conversion. This signals to us that the Original Source piqued the interest of our prospect and the Latest Source convinced them to book a demo with us.

c. We use data points from sales reps from their call to understand what made prospects remember us. A lot of the times what prospects tell us on the call does not match with their journey. There are two possibilities here:

  1. Either the system didn’t pick up that interaction, or
  2. Our prospects forgot where they originally saw us and shared with us what came to their mind

Both are likely scenarios. Which is why, we attribute this campaign and channel as the one that left a lasting impression in our prospects’ minds.

4. When there’s an SDR touch point in the buying journey, we attribute the conversion to our SDRs. This usually happens when either Original Source or Latest Source is marked as Offline Sources.

Here’s how it looks in our reporting:

An image that shows RevenueHero’s internal reporting approach on B2B marketing attribution.
RevenueHero’s internal reports of paid channel performance

We have a similar reporting based on Original Source and Latest Source. 

At the end of the day, it comes down to this:

1. Know your channels: Attribution helps you see which marketing channels are truly pulling their weight. Is it your social media ads, the captivating blog posts, or those targeted email campaigns that are driving conversions? 

2. Bring clarity to your customer journey: The goal with attribution isn’t to give credit to a channel or a team. It’s to understand your customer’s journey. Did they first stumble upon your blog, then get retargeted with Google, and finally convert through an email offer? Understanding it allows you to tailor your messaging to each touchpoint. And also pay special attention to your first-touch and final-touch channels if they seem to be the biggest trigger points. Find patterns, experiment, test, repeat.

To sum things up, don't limit your pipeline to a single attribution method; instead, embrace the full spectrum of insights that a holistic approach can provide. Knowing that you have multiple paths to a working attribution model is a healthy headache to have.

The future of recognizing B2B marketing attribution looks exciting

The next time you're tempted to credit a paid channel alone for a conversion, remember your own winding journey of research and awareness while deploying a software for your company. 

“That’s a great copy on the ad landing page. Maybe I’ll buy this tool.” SAID NO ONE EVER.

Take podcasts for instance. There is a wide misconception that it’s for large enterprises that can shell out big bucks for vanity metrics. People can’t wrap their heads instantly around how podcasts can truly be attributed to inbound conversions.

Devin Reed, Head of Content at Clari had a deafening answer to this.

A screenshot of Devin Reed talking about the positive impact of podcasts on conversions and ROI, on LinkedIn.
Podcasts aren’t conventional attribution drivers but they can stimulate your dark funnel.

Just like podcasts, there are multiple dark funnels that may not directly attribute to conversions but help put your brand and the pain you solve for on the top of your prospects’ minds. 

Even with campaigns such as ABM, the success is about timing the outreach right after sufficient engagements over other touchpoints.

In the post above, Krupesh Muthukumar, our Co-Founder and Head of Sales, echoes the attribution sentiment across RevenueHero. One where marketing touchpoints are fully accounted for building awareness without making it a sales vs marketing competition. 

Your prospects don’t care what B2B marketing attribution you use

At the end of the day, your prospects don’t care how you attribute their touch points. All they care about is if their problems are getting solved and in that process if they’re having a good experience with you.

At RevenueHero we use our own tool to ensure we give our prospects a good buying experience. Here’s how we do it:

1. Instant qualification: We think it’s a crime to make people wait for 24 to 48 hours for the sales rep to get back to them, especially when our prospects have explicitly expressed intent. So, we use information from the form along with a few data points that’s enriched in the back end to instantly qualify our prospects after they hit the submit button. 

2. Lead-to-account matching: Our prospects enter our CRM through multiple sources and a lot of times multiple people from the same company sign up at different times. To ensure we route them to the right sales rep with the highest level of context about that specific account, we use fuzzy matching to match the lead to an existing company in our CRM and assign account owners to the prospect.

3. Scheduling: Now that we’ve qualified and routed the prospect to the right rep, why not let them book a demo directly with the rep? Yep, that’s what we do by allowing qualified prospects to instantly schedule meetings the second they hit the submit button. 

Choose your attribution battles wisely. Your B2B marketing attribution software isn’t always accurate, but neither is the response from your prospects. Find a way to mix inputs from multiple sources to understand your buyer’s journey. We hope this article has enough to help you get some ideas.

Bookmark this article and steal our B2B marketing attribution playbook to help you get started.

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