B2B Marketing Blog

What If Attribution Shows That Your Marketing Isn't Working?

By Jordan Con
Sep 12, 2016

Adopting a sophisticated, accurate marketing attribution solution can be scary. For many, it’s the first time that marketing can be tied to actual business metrics like revenue. And when your work can be tied to revenue, it usually leads to being accountable for revenue.

On one hand, being able to prove your value with revenue is really exciting. On the other, it’s a bit daunting.

What if attribution shows that your marketing isn’t actually driving revenue?

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If you’re a social marketer, you’re probably used to metrics like social engagement, clicks, or even lead conversions. If you’re a content marketer, your performance might be measured by page views, time on site, article shares, or downloads. If you’re an email marketer, it might be open rate and click through. If you’re a paid media marketer, it might be clicks and cost per lead. And if you’re managing these functions, it might be a combination or just overall demand.

As you might have noticed, these metrics aren’t revenue. To be honest, they’re not even really close to revenue.

It’s possible, then, that your performance might be awesome according to your function-specific metrics, but not as awesome according to greater business metrics. What then?

The great thing about attribution is that not only does it show you how you’ve done in the past, the granularity of the data offers actionable insights into improving your efforts for the future.

There is an old business adage that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. I’m not here to argue the exact accuracy of the statement, but I think we can all agree that, at the very least, it’s certainly more difficult to manage what you can’t measure.

So if you are a paid media marketer, for example, and you only had access to metrics like clicks, click-through-rates, and cost per lead, it would have been an impossible task for you to optimize for revenue generation. You can only optimize for what you have at hand.

Optimizing With Downstream Metrics

With attribution data, you can now begin to optimize for downstream metrics like pipeline and revenue. The door has been opened. You can see which campaigns or even specific ads are driving leads, opportunities, pipeline, and revenue. This lets you double-down on the campaigns that are effectively driving business value and re-evaluate those that aren’t.

Let’s say you’re running two paid social media campaigns. Here’s what your social data shows:

  • Campaign A: 500 likes, 300 shares, 500 clicks

  • Campaign B: 400 likes, 250 shares, 300 clicks

And here’s what your attribution data shows:

  • Campaign A: 20.3 leads generated, 4.1 opportunities, $20,000 pipeline revenue, 1 customer, $10,000 annual revenue

  • Campaign B: 18.5 leads generated, 5.5 opportunities, $35,000 pipeline revenue, 3 customers, $25,000 annual revenue

With social data alone, you would probably say that Campaign A was more effective -- it generated more social engagement and clicks. Doing your best to optimize for the future, you would double-down on the elements of Campaign A that you thought were effective and maybe lower your investment in Campaign B.

But with attribution data you can optimize for down-funnel metrics. You could see that Campaign B actually drove more pipeline and revenue. You would then be able to double-down on the elements of Campaign B that were effective, and decrease your investment in Campaign A.

Going back to our opening premise, if you only have social data, you would manage your campaigns to optimize for those social metrics. When you’re then expected to be accountable for pipeline and revenue, the numbers wouldn’t look good. You weren’t optimizing for them, after all.

Only with attribution data can you measure your efforts with metrics like pipeline and revenue. And when you’re able to measure it, you can then start to optimize for it. Only then will your revenue contribution really start to improve.

At first, attribution and revenue accountability may make you look bad. But it also gives you the ability to improve and, ultimately, show real value.

Marketing Throughout the Funnel

Second, it allows you to expand your marketing strategy. When you’re using function-specific metrics like pageviews for content, clicks for paid, or open rates for email, the metrics are actually limiting the impact of your efforts to specific stages of the funnel.

Since we used a paid media and a social media example already, let’s use content marketing. If your content marketing was previously being measured in terms of pageviews and social shares, you’re going to optimize for those metrics by writing great top of the funnel content. Top of the funnel content is the most broad and therefore relevant to the greatest number of people, so, all else being equal, it will naturally fare better in terms of pageviews and social shares.

When it comes to driving revenue, top of the funnel content isn’t always the best.

An attribution solution that tracks and credits the full funnel -- multi-touch attribution -- allows marketers to receive revenue credit regardless of the stage that their efforts are targeting. Mid-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel content has the same ability to receive revenue credit as top of the funnel content. If it’s influencing the customer journey, an attribution solution will give it credit.

Multi-touch marketing attribution allows marketers to optimize every stage of the funnel -- a strategy we call pipeline marketing. And as a result, it expands the ways that marketers can have a revenue impact.

Attribution Data Shows You How To Improve

Finally, what if attribution shows that your marketing isn't working? It’s ok. Attribution changes the metrics that your performance is judged by -- metrics that you weren’t previously optimizing for. The benefit is that the new set of metrics (pipeline and revenue) are a lot more meaningful and powerful for your business.

With attribution, you’re able to show your true performance. Even though it may be discouraging at first, don’t reject it just because the data isn’t favorable. If the numbers aren’t great now, it will help you improve. And even if the numbers are great, it will help you improve. It enables you to optimize using down-funnel metrics -- the one’s that really matter -- and it allows you to expand your marketing to every stage of the funnel. It’s a long-term win.B2B Marketing Attribution 101  An intro guide to attribution for revenue-driven B2B marketers  Download Now

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