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Pipeline Marketing Blog

Why Full-Path Attribution Is the Holy Grail of Account-Based Marketing

By Lauren Frye
Jan 18, 2016
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Full-path marketing attribution is a relatively new concept. As more and more companies embrace multi-touch attribution, one is compelled to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” And full-path attribution is the next stop on our journey across the final frontier of B2B martech capabilities. Thus far, no one’s doing it yet, but it’ll gain traction in 2016.

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Full-path attribution is the next iteration of multi-touch attribution. It extends the W-shaped multi-touch model into a full-path phenomenon. Here’s what I mean.

This graphic below shows W-shaped multi-touch attribution. You’ll notice the looping “W” of the model’s shape. Multi-touch attribution tracks the first-touch, the lead-conversion, and the opportunity-creation touchpoints across a buyer’s marketing journey. The major marketing touchpoints (first, lead, opp) are each given 30% of the revenue credit for the sale. The remaining 10% is sprinkled evenly across all other touchpoints that helped the buyer along their way.

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While the usefulness of this model is far and above single-touch models, which had been widely used before today’s martech expansions, it still only tracks a portion of the funnel.

The “opportunity” through to the “customer” portion of the funnel remains a mysterious haze of outbound calls, content downloads, nurturing emails, sales collateral, and in-person demos. Using full-path attribution can clear the fog and reveal which touchpoints in the BOFU stage are most useful in converting opps to customers.

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Across these four key funnel stages, 22.5% of the credit is distributed across the main conversion touchpoints, and the remaining 10% is still sprinkled evenly across the touchpoints in between.

You’ll notice an interesting point about the above graph -- sales does all of their work post-opportunity conversion. So how does that work with marketing attribution?

Does Full-Path Attribution Include Sales Activity?

After a contact has reached the opportunity stage, both Sales and Marketing are involved in moving them through the last stage of the funnel. So, does marketing attribution post-opportunity include touchpoints from the sales team? The answer is no. Full-path marketing attribution is strictly for marketing purposes. None of the sales touchpoints are included in a full-path attribution model. Their performance is measured by a different set of criteria on the sales side.

Now you might be asking, “Then why would I need full-path attribution if sales takes over after the lead converts to an opportunity?” If that’s the case at your organization, then there’s a chance that you wouldn’t need full-path attribution.

But why would an organization need full-path attribution? How can it help marketing? That depends on the type of marketing you’re doing and how focused you are on sales enablement marketing initiatives.

Full-Path Attribution Tracking for Account-Based Marketing

B2B marketers bemoan the strung out sales cycles that plague B2B companies. In fact, a growing number of B2B marketers have abandoned the tired, old sales funnel and decided to flip it on it’s head -- they call this “account-based marketing.”

Account-based marketing begins with identifying your ideal persona and finding companies who fit that bill. Marketers and salespeople research those accounts and find the key decision-makers, users, researchers, and influential players that could become advocates for an eventual sale.

Then, using account-based marketing tactics (ads, social, email, outbound calls, etc.) marketing engages those key players and starts to turn each of those influencers into advocates for your product or service offering. That way, when it comes time to make the decision, the unanimous conclusion is a “Definitely, yes” all around.

But how does account-based marketing change how you should track your marketing performance? And how does full-path attribution apply? To answer that question -- you have to understand what you’re doing when you use an account-based approach.

Account-Based Marketing Narrows Your Funnel’s Focus

Account-based marketing focuses the entire funnel’s attention on the BOFU stage of the original funnel. Marketing teams decide who they want in their pipeline, and then they begin to engage those specific companies and influencers with targeted content that specifically applies to them. Account-based marketing flips and expands the BOFU funnel stage, using it as a persona-centric marketing machine.

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Rather than waiting to see which prospects come to you, marketing goes after their targets first (outbound) and then nurtures them using inbound marketing methods. Half the time, these key players at these companies don’t even realize they’ve been singled out -- they assume they’re the discoverers, which is precisely what marketers want. Retain the power of inbound marketing, but focus it using an outbound approach.

Use Full-Path Attribution to Track Marketing’s Nurturing and Sales Enablement Efforts

The reason that full-path attribution is helpful for an account-based marketing approach is because ABM marketers pay far more attention to the bottom of the funnel. They care a lot about which opportufnities convert into customers, and they spend a huge investment of time and money on sales enablement tactics to help close those opportunities.

This makes full-path attribution incredibly insightful, as ABM marketers are able to gain visibility into that final funnel stage -- a level of transparency that W-shaped attribution can’t provide.

When Should An Organization NOT Use Full-Path Attribution?

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For an organization using the normal funnel approach (TOFU, MOFU, BOFU), oftentimes the opportunity-to-customer transition is quick and easy. Perhaps sales enablement isn’t a huge focus, and sales can simply usher the opportunity through to the final close without a hitch. In that case, full-path attribution isn’t particularly helpful, and it would only serve to dilute your model’s attributed revenue credits.

Do You Need Full-Path Attribution? -- Answer Me These Questions Three

“Stop.” The bedraggled bridgekeeper appears before King Arthur and his three knights. “Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.”

In the belovedly ludicrous motion picture telling of Monte Python and the Holy Grail, valiant knights set off in search of a valuable and thus far undiscovered object. On their travels, they meet a bridgekeeper, guarding a dilapidated bridge that they must cross to continue their trek.

Marketing teams find themselves on a quest to achieve an elusive goal -- granular, accurate data tracking that allows B2B marketers to see and optimize for key funnel transitions and touchpoints along their buyers’ journeys. This level of visibility is the elusive “Holy Grail” -- which hopefully doesn’t feel too elusive any longer (because now it’s very easy to find).

But if you have what it takes to find the Holy Grail, you’ll have to correctly answer three questions from the bridgekeeper.

[BRIDGEKEEPER’S Q1] Do You Care About Comprehensive Marketing Attribution Data Tracking

You had better say yes, or the bridgekeeper will assuredly toss you into the mouth of a steaming volcano (as was the fate of two poor knights, if you haven’t seen the movie).

[BRIDGEKEEPER’S Q2] Do You Do Account-Based Marketing?

If so, you should look into full-path attribution because, in addition to w-shaped attribution, you’ll need to see which marketing touches are moving your opportunities closer to closing as customers.

[BRIDGEKEEPER’S Q3] Do You Do a Significant Amount of Sales Enablement?

Even if you’re not into account-based marketing, sales enablement efforts are still important touchpoints to track. Especially for offline sales enablement channels like sales dinners, gift boxes, direct mail, and face-to-face meetings, these touchpoints are hugely important to include in your attribution model. If you’re investing in significant amounts of sales enablement initiatives, it could be time for you to investigate whether full-path attribution is the missing piece in your puzzle.

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