B2B marketing attribution — the proof is in the numbers (or is it?)

B2B marketing attribution

Today, B2B marketers are under more pressure than ever to prove their effectiveness to the business. It's no longer enough to talk in wooly terms about 'engagement', senior management want to hear about the numbers. But, as anyone in B2B marketing knows, providing empirical evidence that draws a straight line between marketing activity and revenue is tough (especially for complex sales with multiple touchpoints and a 9 to 12 month cycle). 

While they're not there yet, modern attribution methods are nudging in the right direction and being adopted by many marketers. But, even the term 'attribution' itself doesn't tell the whole story. What type of attribution do we mean? And what effect will your choice of attribution have on your wider marketing programmes (and bottom-line effectiveness)?

To learn more, as part of our Revenue Rift research, we asked mid-market and enterprise marketers how they were approaching attribution in their businesses. We started by asking whether they even need to prove effectiveness in the first place.

It was pretty clear. Over four-fifths (82%) of respondents say they need to improve the link between marketing activity and increased revenue. A third need dramatic improvement (and this leaps to 57% for professional services).

Yet attribution itself, to put it mildly, is a mess.

It’s not surprising. As already mentioned, determining which activity delivered which revenue is hard. Was it the top-of-funnel content that got someone on your radar? Was it the live demo that provoked a trial? Was it an influencer saying the right thing at just the right time?

The B2B attribution muddle

We see this confusion when we look at how B2B marketers attempt to prove effectiveness.

Overall, a quarter use no attribution whatsoever. This increases to 40% of those in the construction industry and 30% in financial services. Surprisingly, as they’re normally the early adopters, tech also over indexes with 37% not even trying to attribute success. It is also more likely that there is no attribution in mid-market businesses than those in the enterprise space.

But what about those who are trying to make the link?

Many B2B marketers are employing a combination of measures. Most commonly used is when a lead initially converts (ie a contact is created in the database) – employed by 45% of respondents. This is closely followed by last touch (44%) and first touch (37%). Under a third (31%) use any form of multi-touch attribution, whether evenly split or weighted.

Why what you measure matters

While this could be seen simply as a sign of marketers just getting started with the easy stuff first, the implications of what you choose are worth further examination.

Once marketing is tied to a particular form of attribution, it will inevitably skew their activity as they try to make the numbers. If, for example, you select initial conversion as your measure of choice, you will find yourself leaning towards tactics that fill the top of the funnel (or at least prop up the database).

Conversely, select last touch and you will probably focus more on the bottom of the funnel and sales support.

While no measure is perfect, it is only when you get to some form of multi-touch attribution that you can begin to take a more integrated approach, seeing which tactics have had an impact and which haven’t.

Attribution has become another part of the ever-exploding martech stack of course.
There are now a range of players who are offering systems and solutions promising to do the heavy lifting for you. Looking across our respondents, almost 60% are using something. However, no system exceeds 10% market share – so it seems like no vendor has nailed it yet either.

3 Things to do right now

  1. If you have attribution in place, look at how the type(s) you’ve selected may be influencing the strategies and tactics you pursue.
  2. Begin making the move to some form of weighted multi-touch attribution – it won’t be perfect (especially in the early days) but it is better than simple guesswork and gut feel.
  3. Explore how technology can help but go in with your eyes open – be careful of getting locked in to just one system in this fast-moving sector.


This is an edited excerpt from our recent Revenue Rift Report. Download your copy »

Are you measuring what really matters in B2B marketing? [New research]

B2B marketing — are you measuring the right things?

The need to prove marketing’s value has been an ongoing battle for pretty much as long as marketing has existed as a discipline. While it is patently obvious to everyone in the marketing department that they’re a major business driver, others don’t always agree.

It’s not difficult to see why. While today's B2B marketers can often point at circumstantial links to increased sales, they have struggled to show straight-line causality between their activities and business performance.

Of course, the discipline has had a tendency to make its life more complicated by adopting various vanity metrics (likes, shares, retweets etc). While these show some people responding to certain tactics, more often than not, these metrics have no impact on bottom-line revenue. They can also lead to self-fulfilling approaches that simply boost these inconsequential measures even further.

What matters, gets measured

Today, B2B marketers are under more pressure than ever to deliver pipeline and revenue, but are they really willing to stand up and be counted on their results?

Across the respondents to our Revenue Rift Research, just 37% use marketing-generated pipeline as a key metric. This places it just ahead of ‘social engagement’ metrics at 32% and ROI at 27% but behind tactical measures such as email opens and clicks (40%). And when we asked respondents to name the number one metric in use, while total marketing generated pipeline/revenue came top, this only accounted for 14% of the total.

At first blush, this looks as though B2B marketers will struggle in the face of a CEO or CFO asking them to ‘Show me the numbers’.

Revenue by other names

Looking across the various measures in use, we see a range of options that are de facto synonyms for revenue. For example, 45% of respondents track closed:won sales and 42% measure win rate.

On the pipeline side of the equation, half the respondents track the number of qualified leads (the most common measure used) and 39% measure net new leads.

What this shows is that, while just over a third of B2B marketers are willing to explicitly nail their colours to the revenue mast, a significant number are actively tracking sales-related metrics.

The key difference is between those who favour outcome metrics (revenue, closed:won, win rate) and those that err on the side of measures showing an input to sales (qualified leads). 

What about sales velocity?

B2B sales cycles are long. Beyond entry-level SaaS offerings, it’s not uncommon for sales to take 6 to 12 months or more. This has a significant impact on any B2B marketer tasked with boosting revenue. Whatever they do today will not generally show a return for at least the next two quarters.

Is this just the way it is?

For many of our respondents, the answer appears to be: yes. Under a quarter (23%) of B2B marketers in the survey measure pipeline velocity (ie the length of the sales cycle). This falls to just a fifth for enterprise marketers. It drops even further for professional services with just 17% using this metric. In fact, only manufacturing businesses get over the 25% mark.

To be clear, over half will score leads based on where they are in the buying cycle, they just don’t focus on how fast they’re moving through.

This is curious.

For marketers under pressure to deliver revenue, taking targeted actions to accelerate the sales process is one of the most efficient ways of achieving their objectives.

Importantly, this is not just about being able to pull revenue from next quarter into this one (though that’s certainly a benefit for quarter-to-quarter B2B organisations).

Focusing on pipeline velocity forces marketers to more closely examine each opportunity stage in the sales cycle. This enables them to spot where points of friction exist that not only slow sales but which often lead to opportunities simply vanishing into perpetual ‘no action’ loops (turning into zombie leads that can skew the overall picture of sales and marketing effectiveness).

It also helps forge better alignment between sales and marketing as both are required for effective analysis and both directly benefit from targeted action. And, of course, it generates some very specific metrics that are understandable throughout the organisation.

Getting to grips with B2B marketing measurement

It is no longer enough to simply spray-and-pray (whether that's outbound demand generation activity or inbound content marketing). Importantly, however, neither is it desirable to measure anything and everything just because you can. The metrics you select need to be meaningful across the organisation. Ultimately, this means selecting a limited number of measures that have clear business outcomes attached to them.

3 Things to do right now

  1. Be clear on the wider revenue targets of the business. Where do these come from? Is there a difference between good revenue and bad revenue? Speak to your CFO. Speak to sales. Avoid ambiguity at all costs.

  2. Understand what you need to measure (and what you don’t). Be careful of focusing on metrics that are inputs to sales vs those that demonstrate true business outcomes.

  3. Don’t overlook pipeline velocity – not only will it accelerate your results, it’ll help you view the entire revenue picture in a more productive way.


This is an edited excerpt from our recent Revenue Rift Report. Download your copy »

B2B revenue marketing — the pressure is on

The pressure to deliver revenue.jpg

The direction of travel in marketing over the last decade is unmistakable. Today’s B2B marketers are now under more pressure than ever before. No surprise there.

However, when commentators talk about this, the focus tends to be on the tactical. It’s all the choices and options that cause the stress. It’s navigating an ever-changing marketing landscape that’s the main problem.

So we hear about the explosion in media channels, or conversely the threat of the Googlebook duopoly, or social in all its forms, or the bright shiny new world of AI and AR/VR. We hear how you must be all in on ABM or inbound or content marketing or, or, or...

In reality, the real issue is more fundamental than this. Put in its most brutal terms: B2B marketers are under more pressure than ever before to deliver bottom-line revenue.

Sometimes this is couched in terms of pipeline. Sometimes it is about closed:won rates. Sometimes it’s about speed of sales cycle. But the end result is that the C-suite is increasingly looking to marketing to hit numbers that have hard currency attached to them.

B2B marketers: under pressure to perform

Of course, we’re all under pressure to deliver, nothing new there. If you want a stress-free life, B2B marketing probably isn’t for you. But, to be clear, for many, the levels of pressure we’re seeing today are intense.

In our study, 52% of mid-market and enterprise marketers said they are under a lot of pressure to deliver pipeline and revenue. This increases to 56% when we look just at enterprise marketers.

What’s more, it’s increasing.

A massive 86% of respondents say the pressure has become worse in the last 12 to 18 months. Just under half (49%) say it’s increased a lot. In fact, split out the responses by sector and the picture is even more stark.

Professional services has seen the biggest change followed by technology and B2B financial services businesses. This results in 70% of professional services marketers feeling under a lot of pressure with their tech brothers and sisters not far behind on 60%. (The makers of Valium must be laughing.)

Intense is the new normal in B2B marketing

Ok, but maybe this is just the new normal. Maybe we’ve hit a steady state and just need to adapt. Maybe, like new tech on the Gartner Hype Cycle, this will all begin to plateau soon.

We admire your optimism. Sadly, it’s not shared by those we interviewed.

Some 59% of respondents expect the pressure to continue to intensify in the coming year. And you know those professional services and tech marketers we mentioned above? They expect it to intensify the most (70% and 63% respectively).

Seriously, if you know a marketer in either of these sectors, stop reading this and go give them a hug. They need it.

Pipeline and revenue: important and urgent

Given the pressure, it’s no wonder that pipeline and revenue are becoming key objectives for the year ahead. Across our respondents, 31% say increasing marketing-driven revenue is a key marketing priority. Again, the bigger you are, the more you’re feeling the pinch. Among enterprise marketers, we see this number increase to 34%.

And it’s not just about professional services and tech marketers. Over half of those in manufacturing businesses are placing revenue in the key priority bucket for the next 12 months too.

There is a truism in business that what matters gets measured. Today, with all the talk about data-driven marketing, B2B marketers are measuring more factors than ever before. The survey’s respondents are no different, tracking a wide range of metrics.

But when we asked them about the number one metric they are using to measure performance, increasing pipeline/revenue came top (just ahead of closed:won rates).

3 things to do right now

  1. Get on the same page as the C-suite. Understand how marketing fits into the wider strategy of the business. Dig deep to make sure you’re speaking the same language.
  2. Even if you’re not feeling the pressure on revenue yet, it’s coming. Start to look at what you’ll need to change if senior management hits you with a significant revenue target.
  3. Get ahead of the problem – set your own revenue targets for the year ahead now (even if these stay within the marketing department).

Want to get the full report?

This is an excerpt from our recent Revenue Rift Report. Download your copy »