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It's been around for a long time. It’s not surprising one day a marketer said, “We’d be more effective if we catered our messaging and offer to fit this whale we’re trying to close.”

This “whale” might have been a multi-year contract, multi-million dollar deal, so it makes perfect sense to target key stakeholders with a customized marketing campaign.

But there's an important account-based marketing technique that marketers should get right. 


Marketers can't be effective if they're tracking leads through a funnel. They need to be tracking accounts.

Customers don't make it through the funnel, accounts do. 

In this article we discuss account-based attribution, i.e. how to track and attribute revenue correctly when doing account-based marketing (ABM).

How Is Account-Based Attribution Different Than Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based attribution is a technique for organizing data. It’s grouping stakeholders into accounts and tagging them with company level information.

It’s simple, you don’t attribute revenue to paid search for closing Jill Munroe at Generic Tech, you attribute revenue to paid search for closing Generic Tech (the account). This means you need to track key transitions points and group stakeholders into their respective accounts. 

Marketers do this because there are multiple stakeholders who only engage at certain stages of the funnel. For instance, the researcher may only engage with marketing, and the budget authority may only engage with sales, but it's all one account. Here’s an illustration:

account based marketing

In contrast, account-based marketing is a strategy that uses a targeted approach to engaging all stakeholders, instead of individuals, from key accounts.

Megan Heuer, of SiriusDecisions, explains how technology is making inbound and outbound ABM tactics scalable:

Analytics has taken hold as a critical resource for marketing, allowing smarter and more actionable insights to drive planning and agile response to account- and contact-level triggers and changes.

An example of analytics as “a critical resource” is ABM attribution data. This data tells marketers how much influence inbound and outbound channels have in winning a new account.

B2B companies are experimenting with the new wave of ABM tools and platforms, too.

As Sangram Vajre from Terminus wrote on account based marketing, just over fifty percent of B2B marketers are testing an account based marketing pilot program.

Account Based Marketing Is Inaccurate Without Attribution Data

The best way to show why ABM requires the use of account-based attribution is with a story.

Let’s say you generate a lead using marketing automation. You’ve identified Kelly Garrett the researcher who is researching solutions for a problem at Generic Tech -- a solution your product solves brilliantly.

Kelly comes to your site via paid social. Kelly recommends your product to Sabrina Duncan the Generic Tech budget authority, also known as the decision marker.

Then Kelly goes cold, she disappears.

But it doesn’t mean the deal is dead.

Sabrina the buyer does research on your site by visiting it via direct (just types in your website), downloads a case study and hops on a call with sales.

In account based marketing the marketer may attribute the Generic Tech deal to the middle-of-the funnel channel & touchpoint associated with Sabrina (the buyer), while no credit is given to top-of-funnel channels like paid social (associated with Kelly the researcher).

This is a problem.

The marketer begins optimizing for the buyer. They expand the middle of the funnel instead engaging with all stakeholders at every stage of the buying cycle. They set out to do account based marketing but are only marketing to individuals.

They grow one stage of the pipeline, instead of doing pipeline marketing, i.e. expanding every stage of the funnel.

account based attribution

In case you’re wondering why the names in our story sound so familiar, it’s the original characters from the runaway 1976-77 television hit, Charlie’s Angels.

Account Based Marketing 2.0

If you’re using account based marketing then you’re paying close attention to the customer account journey and making the best optimizations for every stage of the funnel.

Marketers do that with account based attribution.

Marketers today should use one funnel. There is a no separate marketing funnel and sales funnel because there is only one account journey.

Customer journeys are for B2C brands with the luxury of nearly instant sales cycles.

B2B marketers need to view marketing and sales as one funnel to understand how each account went from brand discovery to closed-won. And that’s why having a solution dedicated to B2B marketing attribution is so important.