Why B2B companies need multitouch account based attribution

COO: “I see we were 5% under new biz target last month - what happened?”

CMO: “We delivered as promised...10% uplift in SQLs. Sales is just not following up on our leads.”

CSO: “We follow up - they just don’t convert...we had to generate our own pipeline by hiring in more BDRs”

COO: ”So will we be on target this month?”

Silence...

I was at this meeting. Maybe you were at the same meeting? Why is that.

Customer journeys in B2B have gotten very complex

Customer journeys are complex. Especially in the B2B space where sales cycles are long and involve multiple users. To pick the right strategies and tactics you need to be able to understand and assign value to all the touchpoints that make up the customer journey.

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If you work in B2B customer acquisition you will probably recognize a lot of the actions and touchpoints in the diagram. The truth is that your buyers are not inclined to follow your sales process. They will engage in a multitude of contacts with you over a long time. How do you make sense of that and figure out where to invest and how much?

You need multitouch attribution to assign value to the individual parts of the process

Attribution is basically the process of assigning value to the individual parts of the buyer journey and make sense of it from a value perspective.

With attribution you can understand the sources of traffic, leads, opportunities, and pipeline value and eventually deals and revenue. When attribution works well it gives you the understanding of the value of individual lead channels, campaigns, and creative assets. It also helps you understand the value of the content on your website.

You need account based attribution because you are selling to organizations - not individuals

Multitouch attribution is relatively simple in a B2C world. You need to gather all the information you have about touches for a person which is offered by tools like segment.com and even Google Analytics. However, in the B2B world, this is more complicated. The customer is not a single person but a group of people representing the company. This is the concept often referred to as an account.

In account based approaches sales and marketing engage customers at the account level acknowledging that a company is represented by multiple persons when they buy.

This makes modeling the customer journey in a meaningful way very complex for a B2B company. But there really is no way around it in order to understand what works for your company when it comes to generating revenue.

Single user attribution in an account based environment results in bad decisions

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If you look at this journey through a simple, single user attribution model you might end up assigning all value to user 3 and either the first touch or the last touch of that user. That person is someone whose primary responsibility is negotiating deals with suppliers. He is responding to a CPC campaign, but mainly because it was there when he was asked to go and negotiate the deal for the product. Assigning all the value of the deal to the touches that that person had would not make sense.

In reality user 1 was the real first touch and this user is the person who is actually going to use the product. Using a single user attribution model will cause you to miss out on the value that actually started the deal.

But we can also see that there are many important touches between that first touch and the deal closing. Not attributing value to those will cause you to underinvest in those because you don’t have reporting that capture their value. In this case, it is important to cater to the engineer who actually has to implement the product.

Include as many touchpoints as your data allows from as many channels as possible

When done well you include all meaningful touchpoints in your analysis. This means assigning value to campaigns both organic and paid, to content both as a traffic driver but also as a tool to convert visitors. It also includes assigning value to calls of different types, to conferences, and to partners. Basically, anything that happens in the entire marketing and sales funnels.

Understanding value of sales activities from BDRs and sales executives

If you include data on sales activities in your attribution model you will be getting closer to a full understanding of how you actually create value in your marketing and sales funnel. Even though it sounds impossible you should consider that any sale you make is the result of a joint effort of marketing and sales and you need to consider the impact of both types of activities on the deal. In some companies, we see that this is happening and the line between sales and marketing is becoming blurred. Which is good. Very often you are choosing between investing more in BDRs or email marketing activities. You need a way to assign value to both to make the most impactful decision for your company.

Consider the actual attribution model

Once you have collected all the data for the buyer journey and put it together into a neat data model you need to start looking at and assigning value to the touchpoints and users.

There are a number of standard ways of looking at attribution out there. The two simplest models are the first and last touch attribution. However, these are not simple in a B2B context.

First and last touch models work for determining demand drivers and lead generators

First touch here should really mean the first touch of the first user for the account. The last touch should be the last touch before what? Of course, it could be the last touch before the actual deal closed. In some cases, if your B2B has a short sales cycle and people actually close deals online it could make sense. But in more complex setups you might want to reinterpret the last touch as the last touch before the first time you captured an inbound email for the account.

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The first touch should be used to find those activities that generate new active demand for your product or service. The last touch defined as the last touch before lead conversion should be used to find activities that are good at establishing contact with your prospective buyers.

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Multitouch models should be used for establishing ROI

Multitouch models provide a way to assign value to all parts of the buying journey. What you want is a model that assigns value in a way so that you can determine how much each touchpoint contributed. The ideal model will let you understand if your investment in that touchpoint makes sense. The simplest model is a linear model that assigns equal value to all touchpoints.

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For most people, this is too simplistic and it tends to overemphasize certain touchpoints and put too little value on what is considered key touches.

Weighted multitouch models try to better reflect value

The alternative is to create a weighted model where value is assigned based on a set of rules that reflect what you believe to be of the highest value. One way of setting this up is to assign a high value to the first touch and to those touches where a user provides contact information or requests a demo or callback.

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Other weighted models like W shaped, U shaped and time decay offers other ways of weighting touchpoints.

Use first touch models to find those channels that create demand

First touch models are great at pointing out those channels and campaigns that work well at the inflow of your funnel - where people get to know you. You should be mindful though that the attributed value does not tell you how much you can actually afford to invest in that channel because many other touchpoints were part of driving through the sale.

Use multitouch models to determine ROI and investment level

Multitouch models are designed to help you understand the ROI of your channels and campaigns. A good model should give you a clear indication of which channels and campaign have a good Investment/cost ratio and should be a trustworthy guide to where to invest more and where to stop investing.