This was the year in which business-to-consumer marketers became cheerleaders for attribution, but 2014 will see this game move to the business-to-business arena. B2B players -- reticent until now to step on to the field -- will embrace attribution in the new year as they look for ways to prove the value of marketing in long-lead sales cycles with lots of marketing events along the way.
Reaching the end zone with a long sales cycle
There's nothing easy about scientific attribution modeling. Following the customer's path to conversion across devices requires an algorithmic model that drives growth. It requires high-quality exposure and cost data fed into a machine-learning algorithm per client per event every day. B2C marketing and sales teams spent 2013 learning that all of those requirements are worth the substantially higher returns on investment that attribution creates.
This is even more complex, however, for B2B marketers. The sales cycle for these companies can be long, complicated and difficult. In many organizations, numerous employees have to weigh in before a major purchase is completed. That's substantially different from the B2C sale, in which the business sells to a single customer. Certainly, tracking that customer across marketing channels -- TV, display, catalog and more -- and across laptop, smartphone and tablet is a challenge. But at the end of the process it comes down to one person's decision to buy an item or not. That is not the case when a business makes a major purchasing decision.
For the very reason why it is so much easier to track a customer's path to purchasing a pair of shoes than it is to track a customer's path to purchasing a new technology platform, B2B marketers need better attribution tools. Companies that sell to other companies need to be able to track all of the touchpoints from first exposure to conversion, and they need to be able to link the data sets of multiple stakeholders in purchasing decisions. With this capability, the B2B marketer can see which marketing efforts are effective and which are underperforming, and then adjust accordingly, when there is still time to impact the final outcome.
Early adopters score big
A leading provider of cloud-based customer service software learned this lesson early in the game. The company implemented attribution technology to accurately measure and optimize its marketing strategy and budget. Before implementing multi-touch attribution, it used Google Analytics to track its leads and optimize its marketing campaigns. However, only tracking leads was limiting, and the company wanted to be able to measure its marketing based on actual closed accounts (revenue), which required the ability to link its marketing to closed deals in SalesForce. Going beyond Google's capabilities and leveraging multi-touch attribution allowed the company to integrate its marketing leads with SalesForce to directly measure which online channels drive profitable conversions.
B2B marketers don't have the luxury of throwing a Hail Mary and hoping for the best. With multifaceted, extended sales cycles, business-to-business organizations can win or lose on the basis of accurate, timely marketing insights. Advanced, quantitative measurement techniques solve many of the challenges inherent in B2B sales and marketing, which is why we will see so many of these companies embrace attribution in 2014.