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Attribution Hunger Games

In this episode of Scaleup Marketing, I talk about the Catch-22 of Attribution, and why fighting over attribution is destroying go-to-market teams. 

Okay. I want to talk a little bit about attribution. I wrote a post on LinkedIn called the catch 22 of growth. If you’re hitting your numbers, no one cares about attribution. You don’t have to waste time fighting over which channel or team gets credit, and you can make bets that aren’t direct response.

If you are missing your numbers, everyone cares about attribution fighting over attribution leads to investments that are easy to track. But aren’t going to help you hit the numbers teams spend more time fighting over credit than they do on focusing on what works. And I call this the catch 22 of growth because on the surface, you’d think that having more visibility into attribution would help you hit the number.

And in some cases that’s true. But what I’ve seen happen more often than not is teams who are missing their number. Hyper-focus on attribution, leading to teams battling each other over credit, which means instead of spending time, figuring out what’s working as a team, they’re focused on justifying their own [00:01:00] existence.

So when you think about a SaaS company and attribution, we’re thinking mostly about what sourcing new logos and there’s really three things that can source a new logo or a new pipeline. Marketing can source it through marketing investment or a marketing campaign. Sales can source an opportunity, whether it’s a, you know, a sales rep, finding a referral from an existing customer, whether it’s a BDR doing outbound prospecting, or if you’re an organization that has a channel, one of your channel partners can bring something to you.

And in each case I’m talking about a net new opportunity, something that we hadn’t seen before. So most, most organizations, including the one I work at recorded future set goals for each function, sales partners, marketing around how much we should contribute to pipeline into new era. And I think that’s healthy.

That’s good. We should have some [00:02:00] understanding of what’s working. What’s not working, but at the end of the day, what matters more than the success of any individual channel? Is is the go-to-market engine working. And if that go to market engine, isn’t working, the natural instinct is to go and try to figure out well, which of these things is not functioning.

And that’s where the problems start because often what that causes is teams to get defensive about their slice of pipeline and revenue. And it turns out it’s incredibly difficult to do attribution correctly because how do you account for situations like marketing took credit for this opportunity? But it was, it was the reason they filled out a form on our website is because.

One of our existing customers told them to. So really it was a referral that drove this from sales and not the mine or the campaign that you thought that you got this great result from, or [00:03:00] same thing with the channel. You know, maybe somebody came into your database through a marketing program. A couple of years ago, been a cold lead sitting in HubSpot for a couple of years.

Channel partner brings the opportunity. To the business and puts it into Salesforce and it looks like a marketing source lead, and there’s a million different ways that this can go wrong. So on aligned organizations who aren’t hitting their numbers, their first instinct is all right, well, let’s go look at what the data tells us.

That data tells us that, you know, marketing is doing poorly or sales is doing well or whatever, whatever it is, let’s go figure out what’s broken there. When the reality is it isn’t. In almost all cases. It isn’t the effectiveness of a specific channel that should be in question. It’s the effectiveness of the overall go to market.

We’re never good. There’s no attribution product on the planet that can solve for the way that real [00:04:00] companies buy the real people buy. There’s just, it’s just not a direct response process anymore. And that was one of the points I made in my LinkedIn post. And I’ve seen this go horribly wrong before where it turns into a hunger game situation where you’ve got executives fighting with each other, for credit fighting to get resources from the organization.

And using flawed attribution data as the source of this. And what ends up happening is whoever’s best at Salesforce is able to make their case, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the actual right decision for the business or what’s happening in reality. So I implore everyone who’s in this situation, instead of looking at attribution as a hunger games, you know, winner takes all situation.

Partner with the other leaders in your organization, be data informed, come to the table [00:05:00] with an understanding of what you think attribution looks like, but, but don’t get obsessed with this group, missed their number by 10%. It’s the go to market success should be binary. It should be. We won or lost as a team, not marketing won or lost or sales won or lost or partner won or lost because none of these things work.

Independently. They work in tandem and don’t be the kind of organization that gets into these heated situations over which team gets credit for which deal. It just is not going to be healthy for the long-term future of your company. And I’m sorry, MarTech vendors. There just isn’t a product out there that is able to track the way that real organizations buy.

And I might argue, in some cases, it’s the attribution products that are a big cause of this because they overweight. The marketing [00:06:00] impact on growth. When the reality is there are lots of different misunderstood levers that will cause someone to come on our website, fill out a form, book a demo, and become an opportunity.

So that’s my quick take on attribution. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be focused on attribution, that you shouldn’t have an understanding of what comes from where that you shouldn’t be tracking it. Monthly quarterly, you should be doing all of those. Just don’t be the kind of company that’s going to obsess over it to the point where you spend more time fighting for credit, then you do worrying about how are we going to go hit the number, because that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.

Okay. Before I forget, let me do some marketing. If you want to hear more hot takes like this, or even better, longer form interviews with smart people in SAS. Go ahead and hit the subscribe button scale up marketing. I’d really appreciate it. [00:07:00] Thanks.

By Tom Wentworth

CMO at Recorded Future | Formerly Acquia, RapidMiner | I like math, open source, and the Smashing Pumpkins

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