Creating a Complete Picture of the Enterprise Buyer: Why Multi-Channel Attribution is Challenging B2B Marketers

Blake Bartlett, Partner by

Your business has more data on prospects and customers than ever, but this data is coming from myriad sources — mobile, web, application marketplaces, digital advertising, social and more. And when the buying process spans multiple channels and devices, data can become siloed, so much in fact that it can be difficult for B2B marketers to see the complete customer picture.

Challenges When Forming a Full Picture of the B2B Customer

Compared to a consumer business, B2B businesses face long and complex buyer journeys. It’s rare that a prospect does a Google search, clicks your link, goes through the funnel and converts in that first session (whereas this happens every day for eCommerce companies).

Buying new software is much more of a considered purchase than a transactional purchase. There is a lot more market research involved, a lot more time involved, and often times a lot more people involved (from both sides of the deal).

With so many touch points in the buyer’s journey, which touch gets the credit for sale? Does SEO get credit because the first click was generated from an organic search result? What about that blog post the prospect then reads? Or how about the nurture email they received from the marketing automation system (e.g., Marketo or Hubspot)? Or maybe it was stopping by your booth at a trade show.

And then, what about when the sales team gets involved? How much credit does the BDR get who nudged the prospect enough with a compelling messaging? What about the actual sales rep who closed the deal?

Which touch gets the credit? You can’t merely do a first-touch or last-touch or even U-shaped attribution model. Those are far too simplistic for a complex buyer’s journey that spans multiple marketing and sales touches.

It doesn’t help that marketing data usually resides in a system like Marketo or Hubspot, and sales related data resides in the CRM like Salesforce. How do you accurately combine the data from those two systems? What if there are other systems involved like Google AdWords, LinkedIn, Twitter, or earned media (PR)?

All of these complexities are only further exacerbated with larger deal sizes in true enterprise software selling.

Forming a Full Customer Picture

Unfortunately, there is no magic button to press that unifies all the data perfectly and easily. There is no magical easy-to-use software system that fixes everything out of the box. There are best practices and some emerging solutions that can certainly help though.

First of all, you have to remember “garbage in, garbage out” – before you start trying to unify data, you have to make sure your data quality is there. You have to start with really clear funnel definitions that accurately map to your buyer journey. Then those steps of the funnel (or “events” in marketing speak) need to be tracked in the appropriate system (like Marketo/Hubspot, and Salesforce.com).

This is where team matters. After all, complex software doesn’t instrument itself. And data hygiene doesn’t happen on its own, nor are internal SLAs adhered to voluntarily. A really good Marketing Ops person helps on the marketing side, and a really good Sales Ops person helps on the sales side. Or you could have a really awesome BizOps person/team who straddles both camps (though they are rare).

After the funnel is defined, the systems are instrumented, and the policies are followed – now you have to get the data into a central repository to actually run analysis and gain insights. This central repository can be something generic like Looker or Tableau, or it could be something more purpose-built like BrightFunnel, Bizible or Allocadia. In reality though, a lot of this data mashup work happens in Excel today.

Sounds like a perfect equation for a new-fangled software tool to come in and solve, right? In an ideal world, yes. But every company has a slightly (or dramatically) different buyer’s journey, with different funnel definitions, and different ways of tracking in marketing/sales systems. It’s a fundamentally difficult problem to solve because each company’s go-to-market effort is a total snowflake when you get into the details.

Using the Customer Picture to Influence Business Decisions

Once you go through the hard work of setting all this up, you can actually start to get a detailed view of what marketing and sales efforts actually work to generate leads or influence deals in the funnel. You can move away from generic measures like total leads generated per campaign or blended cost per MQL. You can start to tie pipeline dollars to marketing actions. You can start to see what accelerates the buyer’s journeys. And ultimately you can become more surgical in your marketing and sales efforts. In the end, working to create a more complete buyer picture, regardless of how siloed your data and channels are currently, will serve your business tremendously.

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