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One of the biggest sources of friction between B2B demand generation and sales teams is attribution—the process of understanding which campaigns contribute to revenue so that Marketing can optimize its limited dollars on the most effective programs.

Although it sounds like an easy process, it often results in finger-pointing and blame between Marketing and Sales.

But it doesn't have to be that way: When companies use technology more effectively, the friction over attribution decreases.

Why the Friction

To determine attribution, marketers start by looking at all the contacts associated with a sales opportunity in Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics or similar applications. They then look at all the campaigns associated with each of those contacts. From there, they can determine the "first touch" that led to that revenue, the "last touch" that happened right before the opportunity was created, and various forms of "multitouch" to weigh all the other campaigns in between. Some companies prefer to focus only on opportunities that a company has won, whereas others choose to look at any opportunity that was created, whether won or lost.

The source of the friction, however, is that the marketing team depends entirely on the sales team to associate all of their contacts in a deal with a new opportunity. But few salespeople actually do that. And why should they? Salespeople are compensated for closing deals, not data hygiene.

At many companies, opportunities can be created with no contacts at all, which is endlessly frustrating to demand generation teams that want to make good campaign investments and also get credit for their hard work. Exasperation and blaming ensue. Such scenarios have been repeated thousands of times at B2B companies in virtually every industry.

Many marketers obsess over which attribution model to use—straight line, u-shaped, w-shaped, or an exotic custom model. But none of them will provide even a remotely accurate picture unless the right underlying data is there, which is a challenge that rarely gets the attention it deserves.

The Answer: Technology

Even if tensions between Marketing and Sales over attribution and data hygiene have been playing out for decades, technologies such as data orchestration platforms can change that dynamic. Automating business processes will eliminate the tedious, manual tasks salespeople endure, and it will provide greater data accuracy that marketers need to do a better job with attribution. It's a win both for Sales and for Marketing.

Processes to Automate

What can software do better than people to make attribution work?

Lead and Contact Deduplication

Dupes are the bane of demand generation professionals' existence because they make good attribution impossible. When there are duplicate leads and contacts and only one of the records is associated with an opportunity, none of the campaigns associated with the other records are given any credit.

Data orchestration tools can run behind the scenes to identify these dupes in real-time and automatically merge them so that marketing teams get better visibility into campaign performance. Salespeople are saved the effort, and lead routing accuracy is improved.

Lead-to-Account Matching

In Salesforce and similar applications, leads are independent structures not associated with an account or other people at the same company. Traditionally, salespeople have to manually "convert" a lead into another structure—a contact—that connects to an account and an opportunity record. Using automated tools will save your sales team time and provide better visibility into what's happening at an account.

Contact-to-Opportunity Matching

Salespeople rarely include more than one contact in an opportunity, yet approximately 80% of marketers surveyed in SiriusDecisions research studies shared that three or more people are typically involved in the purchase process.

Why not automatically associate with an opportunity for additional contacts that have recently engaged with your team or your content?

In many cases (maybe more than most would admit), salespeople don't know everyone involved in a buying decision; however, in the B2B decision-making process, it's much more likely that a buying group rather than a single person is making the purchase decision. But limit association to specific contact roles that align with your buyer personas. For example, you wouldn't want to associate content marketing roles if your company traditionally targets only buyers in IT.

Work closely with your sales operations team, because in many companies Marketing has free rein on lead objects, but opportunities are viewed as sacred structures belonging only to Sales.

Integrating Partner Campaigns

Companies that do a substantial amount of business through partners typically have deal registration desks that allow partners to share whom they're working with. Often, however, that information isn't reflected in salesforce automation applications in the form of a campaign, so it doesn't become part of an attribution model. Automate bringing that partner data into opportunities, and your automation models will improve even more.

* * *

Using technology to automate your attribution processes will give you more accurate attribution models that will in turn help you make better campaign decisions, produce more successful salespeople who will see better inbound leads, and ultimately lead to higher company revenue.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Allen Pogorzelski

Allen Pogorzelski leads the marketing team at Openprise, a data orchestration SaaS company. He has 20+ years of experience in enterprise software.

LinkedIn Allen Pogorzelski