The secret for aligning Sales and Marketing like never before: Revenue Attribution
Sales and Marketing alignment has been preached to the B2B community for years.
And with reason. Take this study by Aberdeen Group which found that Sales-Marketing alignment can generate 32% higher revenue, retain 36% more customers and achieve 38% higher win rates.
Now, while it is true that these two teams are becoming more close-knit, the rise of the CRO role being a great example, the commitment remains lackluster.
Where it matters most - the data and tools they use and rely on - these teams continue to be plagued by shortcomings.
But how do you bring about a more unified approach to marketing and selling while respecting the necessary boundaries?
In the digital age, data is supreme, and it is to data - revenue and customer data - that these teams need to look to make their approaches align like never before.
They need to unlock their siloed data and throw away the key.
And attribution, specifically revenue attribution, sets them on the right track. In this post, I’m going to show you how.
What really matters for Sales and Marketing alignment?
The preaching over the years for better aligning Sales and Marketing has ranged from the superficial, moving desks and running joint meetings, to the deep, strategy and goal alignment.
Useful as these suggestions might be, especially in the more tangible end of strategy and goal setting, they fail to get to the source of the misalignment. Data.
To really nip the (mis)alignment in the bud we need to be looking at the data and tools.
And this becomes MORE apparent as the teams work closer together.
Here’s an example to illustrate the point.
The order comes in from the CRO for a Q3 sales growth target of +30%.
Head of Marketing: “Simple, I’ll double down on the two campaigns which, according to my Google Analytics, are bringing in a tonne of MQLs.”
Head of Sales: “Sure thing boss, our CRM’s Original Source is showing loads of SQLs coming from Direct traffic after my BDRs ran a LinkedIn outreach campaign. Will hire another BDR and increase LinkedIn outreach.”
Now, say you’re the CRO and only have budget for only one of these.
Which would it be?
The root of the problem is very clearly the siloed data sitting in these tools.
Data silos are too real a problem. This Treasure Data’s State of the Customer Journey report found that 47% of marketers consider silos to be their biggest problem when it comes to gaining insights from data.
In our scenario, the best-case is that they are both correct and the only thing that’s missing is how they compare in impacting the singular customer journey.
In the worst-case, they are both be wrong. The MQLs might be rubbish, and the Direct traffic might have no relation to the LinkedIn outreach.
To avoid this, three key elements need to come together:
- Have a single source of truth
- See the customer journey as a unified process
- Measure success with the same yardstick (revenue and pipeline generated)
Let’s take a look.
A single source of truth
As the example scenario above shows, it’s crucial that both teams are singing from the same hymn sheet. That is, their data needs to be the same one.
Now, this doesn’t mean that they need to be operating from the same tools. Marketing can continue using their ad programs and automation tools, and Sales can plough ahead with their CRM.
In essence, they will be singing different harmonies, but the sheet is the same one.
A unified customer journey
In the same way as relying on a single source of data truth, each customer journey needs to be considered as the singular journey that it is.
(Oh, and in B2B, ‘customer’ takes the form of an account with multiple stakeholders).
We’re all too accustomed to thinking in terms of MQLs, SQLs, sales pipeline and marketing funnel.
Yet, the fact is that the customer journey is the same one. The division of labour is introduced artificially. Helpful for many reasons, but artificial nonetheless.
And while the tools sitting in the respective stacks are ideal for the teams to perform their activities, by keeping data siloed, they help distort the customer journey. Dissecting it into parts and reinforcing the split journey.
Instead, the customer journey needs to be mapped as a unified singular journey, where things are not necessarily linear. A re-targeting ad might impact an account that’s already engaging with Sales.
Measuring success with the same yardstick
As with any strategy, your activities need to be measurable in order to demonstrate success (or failure) and to enable optimization moving forward. By extension, when looking at a unified customer journey, with all your activities - marketing and sales - you need to be measuring against the same metrics.
The metrics can only really be revenue and pipeline generation.
Against these, the number of MQLs generated becomes a lot less meaningful. Similarly, for Sales, it means sharing a piece of the pie with Marketing, when the latter has contributed to closing the deal or generating pipeline.
To close the circle, this measurement can only be done when you’ve got that single data source of truth and when you’re looking at the customer journey holistically.
The B2B Revenue Attribution solution to Sales and Marketing alignment
So how can you bring these elements together and finally be in a position where Sales and Marketing can align where it matters?
Erm. I can’t be serious, can I? Attribution? That thing marketers do to try and get credit for deals?
Yup. That one.
Well, to be precise, it’s B2B Revenue Attribution that we should be after.
B2B Revenue Attribution bringing your customer journey data under one roof
Attribution is the process of tracking, analyzing, and measuring touch points across the customer journey.
It’s true that so far it’s been marketers who have been the primary users of attribution. Using it to track, measure and optimize activities in their funnel.
But its value beyond the marketing department is just as great - I’ll get to the benefits for Sales in a sec. That is why the wider category of Revenue Attribution has emerged.
Revenue attribution recognizes that B2B deals are closed through months-long team effort consisting of quality ads, thought-provoking content, impactful product demos, and killer sales meets. And collect and analyze the data accordingly.
And because it does, revenue attribution delivers on each of the three elements mentioned above.
Let me elaborate.
Single Source of truth:
Without the data silos impeding clarity, users are able to take the revenue attribution data crunching as the source of truth.
Remember the example I gave above with the conflicting Sales and Marketing view on acquisition? Well, this is what the power of B2B revenue attribution can achieve👇
Both teams are able to see where leads are coming from and tailor their approaches accordingly - more on what this can mean for Sales in practice a little further below.
A single customer journey mapped
In the same way, with all these data sources connected, the revenue attribution platform enables users to map every recordable touch that takes place on the buyer journey.
This means that they are able to see what the customer is/has been doing throughout their journey, independently of what is happening in the pipeline.
For instance, has the customer pressed an ad or read a blog post while you’re waiting for them to get back for a meeting.
Measuring success with the same yardstick
The focus of revenue attribution is, you guessed it, revenue. Well, revenue and pipeline generation really, but I guess the category’s label would lose its zest a little if it were that long.
With revenue attribution, every touch, from the very first to the last, is connected to revenue. This means that all activities are measured against their impact on generating revenue and pipeline.
If other metrics are necessary, MQLs, etc. they should either be linked directly to revenue/pipeline generation or be pushed down the pecking order.
How does B2B Revenue Attribution achieve this?
Let’s take a look under the hood.
The most defining feature of revenue attribution is, like most dedicated attribution tools, that it applies multi-touch attribution modeling.
Fancy talk for describing the fact that it tracks and takes into account all the touches users (and accounts - more on this in a sec) are making with your site/activities. So that’s both sales (phone calls, social media messaging, emails) and marketing (ad clicks, content views, form fills) - and Customer Success, but we’ll leave that for another time.
It achieves this by the previously mentioned process of tracking and integrating with the tools sitting on your commercial tech stack.
The multi-touch attribution models then allow you to attribute credit to any and all the activities that are associated with the account’s journey. How much credit and where depends on the models you apply - more on this below.
This contrasts from the single-touch, single-source attribution your CRM uses for the ‘original source’ or ‘lead source’ field which carves out only a narrow picture of everything that’s taking place in the customer journey.
Find out more about the limits of your CRM’s original source in this post.
2. Multi-stakeholder (account-based)
We know that the typical B2B customer is not a single individual but a company (account) consisting of multiple stakeholders.
Each of these may interact with your activities in different ways and help drive the deal down the funnel. For instance, the person in need of the product is not necessarily the one who will be signing the check, nor is she likely to be the person implementing your product.
A B2B revenue attribution solution is therefore configured to accommodate all identified stakeholders. This allows the success of activities to be measured on an individual and account basis.
3. Multiple and customizable attribution models
Finally, an effective revenue attribution solution will be able to run the data through different attribution models.
Multi-touch attribution models, unlike single-touch, distribute value across the account’s multiple touches. But how this value is weighted changes depending on the model applied.
For example, a linear multi-touch model will attribute equal credit to all touches. Whereas a W model will give the first, middle, and last touches greater credit than those occurring in between. The model you end up using depends entirely on your unique needs. Which is why it’s important for the revenue attribution tool to facilitate custom models.
Get the low down on revenue attribution models here.
Sales efforts with revenue attribution
Right, so revenue attribution makes getting a trustworthy and singular overview of the end-to-end customer journey possible. From this, Marketing and Sales alignment will flow seamlessly.
But how will this help a sales team in practical terms?
Here are three broad ways:
Going into conversations without a clear picture of how the account came through the funnel and what they’ve interacted with can make it very difficult to adequately tailor the conversation.
Let’s use a hypothetical example.
A number of contacts within an account may have read a blog post on one of your product’s features. They also attended a webinar on the same topic and looked at the same product feature page on your site.
Not only is this particular feature going to be the segue for your conversation, but you’re also going to assume some knowledge on their part, meaning you can dive deeper into some of the less well-known details of this feature and how this interacts with other killer features.
In summary, with what in effect should be a much more qualified lead, you’re going to be closer to closing the deal.
Having an overview of how accounts have progressed through the funnel, inclusive of all the juicy data on each contact’s touches, will go a very long way in fine-tuning personas, sequences, and messages.
Say the data shows that Ops people in most of your journeys have engaged with a particular blog post. Sending a cold message to an ops persona that includes a link might prove more successful.
At its core, attribution is about identifying what’s working and what isn’t. In having all revenue-generating touches thrown into the modeling, you can start to unpacking where your activities are falling short.
Let’s say an account goes cold and your emails and calls are going unanswered.
But, out of the blue, the account reheats. With the touches mapped on the customer journey, you’d be able to identify that it was in fact a retargeting ad that brought the account back to life.
You want to be seeing and accounting for these episodes.
If it’s recurring, you want to evaluate what your activities might be leading to accounts going cold.
Sales and Marketing alignment is proven to enhance revenue generation, customer retention and win rates.
Yet the remedies prescribed by thought-leaders for aligning these teams largely fail to tackle the most fundamental obstacle to alignment: data.
Data silos produced by the tools sitting in the teams’ tech stacks make it impossible to really align.
Without a single source of truth, unified customer journey, or common measurement, Sales and Marketing can’t work more cohesively.
The solution? B2B Revenue Attribution.
Similarly, in capturing all the touches taking place on the customer journey, revenue attribution maps a complete customer (account) journey - from the first touch to the last.
Revenue attribution achieves the holy grail of linking all activities to revenue and pipeline generation. No more squabbling over the quality of leads or impact of efforts.
So, if you really want to gain the many benefits that come from Sales and Marketing alignment, leave the desk swapping and meeting sharing to one side and focus on getting your data sorted out with B2B Revenue Attribution.