Imagining A Better Attribution Model for Marketing and Sales

When times are good, attribution is secondary to success. Everyone’s hitting their goals, so there’s not too much finger-pointing. But when times are not-so-good, attribution becomes one of the biggest sources of friction between sales, marketing, and leadership.

When that happens, you may find yourself in one (or all) of the following situations:

  • Your sales and marketing team are getting into fights about who should get deal credit
  • Data is being manually manipulated in your CRM
  • You don’t know the real impact of marketing and sales efforts
  • You’ve lost a single source of truth

As these scenarios clearly demonstrate, attribution can do more than cause friction: it can actively perpetuate the issues that are preventing you from achieving growth goals.

The problem arises when attribution is used to assign credit –keeping track of opportunity sources and giving ‘credit’ to the team that generated them. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Attribution shouldn’t be used to give credit or place blame. Instead, models should inform your sales and marketing teams about pipeline performance and provide insight into what’s working (and what’s not) so that everyone can work together to drive growth.

It’s time to change the way we think about attribution.

Imagining A Better Future

Here’s the bottom line: your attribution model will never be perfect. It will never capture every sequential moment in a prospect’s journey, and it will never perfectly assign credit. Once you let those unrealistic goals go, you can move into a better state.

Acquiring, nurturing, and converting a lead is a collaborative effort between sales and marketing. Attribution should reflect that by showing the impact of efforts across the pipeline. This is where the model can really add value. Imagine if you could easily answer:

  • Which channels and content are generating the highest quality leads?
  • Which content pieces are most likely to accelerate a lead through the funnel?
  • Are some channels and content generating a lot of leads, but they’re low quality?
  • What content is helping sales close deals faster?
  • What efforts (both sales and marketing) aren’t generating any leads at all?

When you take this view, attribution acts as a lever that can be pulled to amplify the collective effort of both teams and put their focus where it’s supposed to be – growing your business.

Here’s the fun part – this future isn’t just imaginary. It’s entirely possible once sales and marketing teams are aligned.

Sales and marketing alignment has a huge impact on the ability of companies to either meet or miss growth goals. It boils down to trust. Years of attribution battles brought on by a host of reasons (poorly built models, leadership setting conflicting goals, teams being rewarded by activity instead of outcomes, etc.) has deeply eroded the relationship between sales and marketing.

But the key to adopting a better attribution model is in rebuilding trust.

Start by getting everyone on the same page. If marketing is rewarded by activity metrics, but sales is focused on revenue you’ll continue to have a problem no matter how hard you work. Align teams to the same outcome-oriented goals.

Then, work together to agree upon definitions and processes. You’ll want teams to have the same answer to questions like:

  • What’s the criteria to reach a qualified lead stage?
  • What behaviors make a lead more valuable or show higher intent?
  • When will sales begin reaching out to a lead?
  • When will marketing stop contacting a lead?
  • Who will be responsible for alerting sales that a lead has qualified?
  • How quickly will sales respond to an inquiry or reach out to a qualified lead?
  • What’s the process for nurturing a sales-sourced lead?
  • How often should sales and marketing meet to review performance and optimize their approach?

Once these cornerstone questions have been answered, your teams become, well…a team. Now, they’re actively working together towards the same goals. They’re both invested in the role attribution plays in showcasing what’s working and what’s not.

When sales can trust that marketing generates enough high-quality leads and marketing can trust that sales turns those leads into opportunities, attribution transforms from a blame-game to a lever that allows you to maximize impact. And the best part is – when things aren’t going well your teams won’t immediately start pointing fingers. Instead, they’ll work together to figure out what needs to change and refocus their efforts.

We’re not saying it’ll be easy – some of these teams have been at each other for years – but we are saying that it’s worth it. Aligning your sales and marketing teams to the same attribution model can have a massive impact on the health of your funnel and your ability to hit revenue goals. The first step is realizing that everyone has the same goal: to drive revenue. From there, it’s all about collaboration and compromise. Learn how to take the next step by reading How to Align Sales and Marketing Teams.

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