Attribution: giving credit where credit is due.

Attribution: credit where credit is due

Congratulations, your company closed a big sale. After the excitement and celebrations calm down, it’s inevitable to wonder how your company can make that big win repeatable. A crucial function of the RevOps team is sales attribution models, which is the ability to trace that journey and provide answers to the question the Talking Heads asked back in the ’80s—”How did I get here?”

Sales attribution is no easy task. Even if you can track down the first outreach that piqued the customer’s interest, you still need to consider other factors that might have led to a buying decision. Simply tracking a customer back to an original white paper download or a single email or event isn’t enough to provide a final attribution and call it a day. The buyer’s journey is more complicated than that:

  • Perhaps a salesperson worked untold hours helping that customer through every aspect of the process. Do you attribute the sale to that person?
  • Maybe the customer responded to an email sent by marketing. So, was it marketing, then?
  • Who asked for the email? Where did the contact’s name come from? Is that demand generation or marketing ops? Events?
  • Then you ask yourself, what or who influenced the contact in the direction of your company?
  • Did the contact respond because of a blog post, a social mention, or was it a paid ad?
  • If it was a paid ad, which one? Where was it?

“10 different people involved in an opportunity”

The complexity of sales decisions today makes sales attribution models that much more difficult. According to Laura Marzola, a solutions consultant at Openprise, many people have no idea where to begin when they try to trace a sale’s journey. “It’s tough to stitch all those pieces together from the beginning to end,” she explained. “Someone may have opened an email on a Monday, but how long did it take them to get a demo scheduled? What else had to happen to get them to take some actions that are slightly more meaningful? And is it the same person? There are ten different people in an opportunity, and tying back one email to who’s doing the most engaging activity can be very difficult.”

Accurate, data-driven sales attribution is more sophisticated than the three Ws—who, when, and what. “The core thing that you need is to determine the people who are engaging within that account, or, in Salesforce terminology, contact roles on an opportunity,” said Harjot Singh, head of marketing operations at Zip. “But if you’re able to look holistically across contacts and leads, then tie it to that account by using our lead-to-account matching methodology, define your buyer personas, and show engagement as part of that opportunity, you can answer that question.”

With Salesforce, it’s necessary to structure your campaign hierarchy to help answer those questions. “The reason that hierarchy or aggregation of data is important is that when you present marketing influence to your leadership, you want to present in a more concise and understandable mechanism,” Harjot explained. “When you start to do attribution and see that somebody might convert into an opportunity just before a post-event email, you might give all the credit to an email channel. But you also might give credit to this event, so that’s why it becomes important to aggregate all those different activities hierarchically in Salesforce.”

Attribution 101

Creating that hierarchy is key, Harjot feels. He always starts with standardizing channels and the statuses for each of those channels. “For example, what is an event? What are the different statuses for an event? What is a successful event?” Harjot stated that defining naming conventions is critical. “I feel they are the founding blocks for anything you do and report on.”

His conviction comes from his customer loyalty to Marketo, where each campaign has a code. “It’s found in the URL,” he said. “I plug that in the campaign name, and it makes a unique naming convention for each campaign. And it’s so easy to search.”

Laura’s opinion was slightly different since she works in Openprise. “It’s slightly less of a worry on the naming convention because we can now pull in time samples and keywords,” she said. “We can pull information from Marketo and Salesforce, put in some G2 info and Google Analytics info. And our platform can automate and do all the calculations and assignments that way. So it takes a little bit of the weight off. Once the data is in there, it’s easy to aggregate it any way we need.”

Attribution has a credit problem

One of the more significant challenges companies face when trying to determine attribution is the question of giving and getting credit for a sale. As we’ve already outlined, customers require multiple touches before they convert. Some of those touches originated in marketing or sales, others from events, emails, paid ads, and social media. So how do you determine who gets the all-important credit for the sale and reaps the benefits of generating ROI? As you can imagine, it’s a touchy subject.

That’s why taking credit for a sale has long been frowned upon in the RevOps world—it’s a political kettle of fish. In a recent MoPros webinar, host Mike Rizzo addressed the issue by pointing out that it’s better to give credit instead of taking credit. “Whether you’re a RevOps, marketing ops, or a sales ops person, you should be looking at how do we give credit where credit is due?” he asked. That’s where platforms like Openprise and others that complement Openprise, like Tableau or a BI tool, become critical. With a 360-degree view, it’s easier to break down the silos to see what’s going on.

A holistic approach to credible claims

“Any attribution model—first-touch, last-touch, or even a multi-touch model is based on key milestones. For example, creating an MQL (marketing qualified lead) could be a milestone,” Harjot offered. “Opportunity creation is a milestone, close-one stages a milestone. In many tools, credit is based on the last thing that happened before a milestone was achieved. What was the last campaign? What was the last channel that drove that engagement before an opportunity was created?”

Harjot remains firm on keeping a close eye on the holistic view. “Once you’ve defined your buyer personas and what they are engaging with, look at that activity. What are the channels that are driving those activities? That’s how you’ll be able to give answers and change that terminology of taking credit.” He added, “Giving credit to all the activities is how we can change this massive amount of data into credible information.”


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