Over the last couple of years, we have seen the tremendous rise of account-based marketing.
B2B organisations are now leveraging ABM strategies to create highly personalised campaigns for their target accounts.
The ROI of account-based marketing has always been higher than other forms of marketing activities, but B2B marketers are now exploring more sophisticated attribution models to optimise their customer acquisition cost even further.
So... some questions arise...
- What is account-based attribution, and why is it important?
- What are the challenges in executing it?
- How can you increase the efficiency of your attribution model to make better decisions?
Stick around for answers to all of these questions in this quick guide on ABM attribution!
What is account-based marketing attribution, and why is it important?
Attribution is not a new term in marketing and the definition is the same for ABM as well. If you are already aware of what it is, feel free to skip to the next section of this article, but very simplistically put:
ABM attribution is a way to determine which campaigns and what channels are driving the best outcomes in terms of revenue and customer engagement.
It links your marketing efforts to respective sales opportunities and provides business insights into the impact of ABM campaigns on pipeline creation.
The reason for this focus on account-based attribution stems from two main factors:
1) The need for optimising marketing budgets
It's no secret that marketing budgets have been growing tighter by the year. Apart from competing with other departments in the company, ABM practitioners are also competing with other marketing teams. Thus, having insights into specific campaigns that drive more revenue allows marketers to optimise their spend.
2) Getting the sales teams excited
The other aspect of having accurate attribution is getting buy-in from sales.
Account-based campaigns are less likely to be successful without sales input. If marketers can provide real data on the impact of a campaign on an ongoing deal, it would be very easy for them to get the sales team on board and excited about account-based marketing in general.
Most marketing teams struggle with ABM attribution despite being aware of all of the above.
Although, by design, attribution as an exercise is more manageable for ABM than other forms of marketing since we know the stakeholders and accounts, there are still some challenges.
Let's look at those now!
PS: Have you faced these challenges already? Skip to the next section on how can you better execute ABM attribution
Challenges while executing ABM attribution?
1) Evolution of buying committees leading to lengthier sales cycles
Without a doubt, the sales cycle has become more complicated than ever. If you are in the B2B technology space, it's not just the CIO who is involved in the decision-making process; instead, there could be a whole buying centre comprising of several account stakeholders from multiple non-technology departments. The content and campaigns you create are likely consumed by these stakeholders either internally or via offline channels. More decision-makers mean a more complex sales cycle, which makes attribution trickier for marketers.
2) Tracking and reporting campaign success across diverse marketing channels
Apart from a complicated decision-maker map, multi-touch attribution can be a tedious thing. The customer journey from the first interaction to deal closure stage can consist of several online and offline touchpoints in the form of website visits, white paper downloads, advertising dollars spent on LinkedIn and referrals.
Despite focussed targeting, potential customers can interact with you or your content directly or indirectly in several ways. It becomes a challenge to measure which blog or website visit triggered a deal and eventually led to revenue.
3) Rise of the Dark Funnel
Dark funnel is an extension of multi-touch attribution. It goes beyond accounting for the reach of regular digital touchpoints of customer interaction. The idea emphasises the role of informal and invisible channels that marketing teams cannot uncover while trying to understand the customer journey. For example, while buying a collaboration software, customers might have gone through podcasts, spoken to colleagues about it at informal and formal dinners or just read about the company somewhere, which then would have driven them to respond to the company's organic or paid media campaigns. It can be tough for marketers to measure the influence these "invisible " channels might have on buying decisions. The dark funnel has always been there, and gathering data about it can be next to impossible; all of this makes it difficult for marketers to establish a robust attribution model for their account-based campaigns
5 Ways to drive accurate ABM attribution
The three key barriers to an accurate attribution model are complex buying committees, multi-touch attribution, and the dark funnel. But are there any strategies that marketers can use to counter their impact? Of course, yes! Let's look at them now
1) Start with focusing on the Intent Data
As a marketer who is trying to nail attribution, gathering intent data can be very valuable. Not only does it help you to target the right accounts and relevant stakeholders, but it also becomes the starting point of your attribution model; think of it as the "zero" on the "odometer" of your customer's journey. With intent data, you already know that the account stakeholder is in the market. As you bring them under the ABM umbrella, their progression becomes easy to attribute to the specific marketing efforts you put in.
The other angle of focusing on the intent data is that it is easy to capture, be it from your website or a third-party source. You know that a particular account stakeholder searched for your product or for the service that you offer; you know that they have downloaded your ebook from your website or skimmed through a blog. Digital tools have made tracking intent easy, and you would do well to take their advantage to strengthen your attribution model.
2) Map the account data from marketing channels to stages in the buyer's journey
After sorting out the intent piece, the next step is consolidating all your data from your customer-facing and internal information systems, i.e. website, CRMs, marketing automation tools, digital ads, and customer service tools.
The next step is to organise the data according to each step in the buying cycle. For instance, let's assume you are a high growth start-up selling a SaaS product that helps companies make smart surveys and questionnaires.
Awareness and engagement might be two of the several stages in your current sales cycle. So, the data from websites on the number of visits or downloads could be classified under "awareness". Similarly, data from CRM systems on the number of meetings booked or calls made could be organised under "Engagement".
It becomes easier to attribute your marketing spend to pipeline creation and revenue when your data is consolidated and organised as per the customer interaction lifecycle stages. You can see the progression of your targeted accounts through the sales cycle and how much it took to move them forward in the journey of becoming a customer.
Another simplistic way to look at it is, say, the sales team cracks a 50K deal in an account under an ABM program. Your data tells you that there were seven unique website visits, followed by a couple of ebook downloads and three demos. Because you have the data as per the buying cycle, you can trace the customer journey and attribute at least a part of the win to a specific ABM campaign.
We covered a lot in this section, and trust us; it is easier said than done. Large scale enterprises leverage sophisticated ABM platforms to achieve all of the above, but if you are a small or a medium-sized firm that cannot invest in expensive MarTech, you might have to do it manually using tools like excel or any of your current project management software. The road to accurate attribution is ambiguous and hazy, but the destination is worth it.
Let's move to the third way of making attribution more accurate!
3) Partner with sales and customer success on metrics and data
This is the most obvious yet the most overlooked component for ensuring better ABM attribution.
Sales managers, account executives and SDRs, live the customer journey first hand. These teams also have different motivations and methods of measuring success. The way they capture information and data about the customer can also be drastically different from marketing.
It thus becomes essential for marketers to partner with sales and account management functions right at the beginning and set the record straight from an attribution perspective. Both the sales and marketing teams need to agree on clear metrics to determine the success of ABM campaigns. It could be a certain number of leads, the movement of an account across the funnel, the number of meetings booked etc.
Ensuring that both sales and marketing teams are looking at the same numbers and at the same stakeholders right from the beginning of a campaign can drastically improve the process to measure the performance and help marketers better determine the cost to revenue return of their efforts.
4) Focus on bottom-of -the funnel data
We talked about keeping track of the intent data at the beginning of this section because it is easy to capture when it comes to attribution. The other data points that can be measured as easily as intent are the deals in the bottom-of-the-funnel. Why? Because these are in the clear, you would have maximum visibility on these since the account stakeholders are very close to becoming customers.
Here's what we mean by that; imagine your IT services company is among the top three vendors in the race for winning a multi-million dollar deal. To close the deal faster, the marketing and sales teams partner up to run an ABM campaign that is highly customised for particular stakeholders. The campaign runs during the bidding process, and eventually, your organisation wins. In this hypothetical scenario, despite the presence of multiple factors that would have contributed to the win, you can attribute some part of the revenue from the closed deal to your ABM campaign.
Another similar example could be a customer in the trial stage who purchases your product in the middle of an email campaign run by the marketing team. Don't get us wrong, we are not hinting at a direct causality between your company winning the customer and the marketing team running an ABM campaign, but we are only saying that there was some part that the ABM campaign played in the conversion of a trial customer into a paying customer.
Long story short, don't miss out on the deals at the bottom of the funnel!
5) Start small and scale gradually
We live in a world of a crowded channel mix with several customer touchpoints, both online and offline. Running ABM and measuring its results can be a daunting task.
Thus, there is no harm in starting small, figuring out your system, your process of driving accurate attribution and then gradually scaling it. Going slow initially gives a marketer ample opportunities to prove and showcase the value of ABM and its accurate attribution. It helps you dive deep into customer journeys and do everything we have discussed in previous sections on a smaller scale.
ABM is a powerful technique, and with the right attribution process, it can be omnipotent in the world of marketing. We hope this article provided you with enough understanding of why attribution is necessary and what you can do to improve it.
If you feel you need a helping hand or are just unsure about where to start, which MarTech tool to go with or how to get the sales and marketing teams on board with consistent metrics and approaches, reach out to us!