I find it fascinating to see how quarterly reports and executive meetings seem to talk about Marketing expenses. Business growth and revenue may be on the rise, but Marketing is still often marked in bright red alongside operational expenditures or R&D. Quarter after quarter, companies will measure Marketing by its costs instead of its contributions.

The implication is that Marketing activities cost money and that Sales activities make money.

While CMOs struggle with this perception, limited ROI tracking often forces them to play along. They report on Marketing “successes” using vaguely defined KPIs instead of dollars, unable to connect their activities to the company’s profitability. Marketing is seen as another cost item while Sales gets credit for the top line success. It’s as if the hundreds of millions invested in promotional activities have no impact on the reported sales numbers.

Of course, we all know there’s more to the story. If Marketing was just a sunk cost, why would we even bother funding it? The problem is that many companies lack clarity on marketing influenced revenue because they don’t prioritize meaningful ROI measurements. In many cases, the solution to this is no solution at all – decision makers resign themselves to the belief that Marketing is one big, expensive mystery. Unable to make the connection to profitability, Marketing tries to prove their impact with MQLs, social media “likes” and email metrics.

B2B_Marketing_Attribution

If you aren’t connecting marketing to profits, you’re playing a dangerous game

It’s easy to see why Marketing might be considered a cost center instead of a profit center. By the time the profits roll in, Marketing is nowhere to be found. That’s because marketers usually stop tracking leads once they are handed off to Sales. This means that they get the same amount of credit for a completely unqualified contact as they do for a well-nurtured lead that turns into a 7-figure deal.

Without a connection to revenue, even the most effective campaigns can end up looking like a sunk cost. Think about what that means for your future growth planning. You could pause a seemingly frivolous top-of-funnel campaign, only to find out it was critical to your buyer journey. Alternatively, you could spend millions on campaigns with no bottom line impact. You could, like many companies, accidentally incentivize your Marketing department to waste Sales’ time by measuring their success in MQLs. All the while, Marketing and Sales are constantly at odds without alignment around shared revenue goals.

I’m not saying it’s easy to connect Marketing to profits, especially when it comes to top-of-funnel or demand generation efforts. But after many years spent working with Enterprises on their Sales and Marketing funnels and reporting, I can tell you for sure that it is possible to make that connection – and that doing so can be a game changer for your organization.

How B2B marketing attribution and influence reporting are changing the game

Attribution reporting is a hot topic in marketing today, and for good reason. For most companies, attribution reporting is a way to see which Marketing activities have the highest measurable impact on your revenue generation. For example, if someone clicks on a paid search ad and becomes a customer, you will be able to see that the ad generated that lead, which turned into marketing generated revenue. More advanced reporting, known as influence reporting, will connect multiple campaigns to a single won opportunity.

If this sounds promising, that’s because it is. In fact, it can be the biggest game-changer your Marketing and Sales Departments have seen in years. But there is a right and a wrong way to implement these powerful reporting systems.

A new way of looking at B2B marketing attribution and influence reporting

In order for attribution and influence reporting to be effective, it needs to connect with revenue outcomes. Most B2B Marketing reporting frameworks are limited in this way; they report on how  Marketing generated the lead instead of how it generated profits. This approach often gives all the glory to efforts that directly impact a submitted form or initial phone call. It doesn’t tell you what happens during or after that initial Sales inquiry – heck, it doesn’t even tell you if it was sales-related at all. And it certainly can’t clear up whether a lead who interacted with demand generation output was more likely to buy, devaluing top-of-funnel and nurture efforts.

In short, a simplistic reporting system will give you simplistic data. This is what often keeps Marketing disconnected from revenue realities and forces it to be considered a cost center instead of a profit driver.

How to capture the complexity of the buyer journey

When I talk about B2B Marketing attribution and influence reporting, I am always talking about connecting Marketing with revenue instead of just focusing on lead generation. That means you need to think big-picture and see your Marketing and Sales funnel as a whole, measuring the value of each effort in dollars. This type of reporting allows you to identify strengths and weaknesses from end-to-end, giving you the knowledge to cut what doesn’t work and double down on what does.

There is certainly work involved in getting this right: You’ll likely need to integrate your Marketing Automation platform with your CRM the right way*, invest in change management, and get your CMO and VP Sales to start speaking the same language.

*Sidenote: Integrating your CRM with your Marketing Automation Platforms isn’t just a technical task; it’s a pretty big change management challenge that requires adoption from multiple teams. Check out our article on best practices for CRM integrations here.

I’m not going to pretend it’s a small undertaking, especially for businesses who don’t yet measure B2B Marketing attribution in any capacity. But, if there was any time to make that change, it’s now. The tech is available. Your competitors are doing it. There is a seemingly endless stream of online and offline marketing opportunities constantly knocking at your door, and your ability to sniff out the best investments and prove Marketing’s contribution to business growth is of critical importance.

When your CEO asks where revenue is coming from and why, both Sales and Marketing should have an answer. The impact of knowing the answer to that question – from demand generation through to the final Sales call – can be revolutionary for your legacy as a Marketing leader and your department’s growth. When you can show your CEO Marketing’s top line impact in black and white, they’ll have a reason to double down on their investment in your leadership, your teams and your revenue-focused strategies.

It’s time to change the conversation. Transform how your organization views Marketing’s impact with our free e-Book – Attribution Reporting: The Ultimate Guide!