Marketing as a Profit Center

Incorporating attribution reporting into your company’s marketing operations can have a transformative impact on the role of marketing teams.

As buyers increasingly navigate their purchasing journeys from the helm of a search engine – sidestepping sales reps for most of the buying process – marketing plays a bigger role than ever in driving revenue. Take note, marketing leaders: start communicating your value, get your marketing team thinking like a profit center, and earn the clout you deserve at the executive table.

Marketing departments have long held a reputation for being cost centers, with budgets marked red on quarterly reports alongside other operational expenditures. This reputation stems from a missing connection between marketing and revenue: instead of connecting their activities to the company’s profitability, marketers mistakenly define “success” with vague KPIs like ‘opens and clicks’ or ‘number of leads.’  As a result, all attention turns to sales when it’s time to talk profits: it’s as though the millions invested in marketing have zero impact on top line success.

Yet, numerous studies by Google, Gartner and Forrester and recent Miller Heiman Group research have shown that over 70% of buyers contact sales reps long after they have started considering solutions and have already defined their needs. With so many buyers empowered by digital channels to research and evaluate their purchases, it is clear that marketing activities are fundamental to influencing buyers and driving sales. It’s high time that marketing leaders change the “cost center” narrative and start connecting campaigns with actual dollars.

Attribution reporting enables executive teams to see Marketing’s true value as a profit center. Let’s take a closer look at what attribution reporting is and why it matters to your company.

What is Attribution Reporting and Why should Marketers Care?

An attribution report tells marketers what assets and channels sourced leads that converted to revenue, facilitating a deeper understanding of the demand generation tactics that worked. Marketers use attribution reporting to connect marketing investments to revenue outcomes. It shows marketing’s direct impact to the top line and provides CMOs with data they can leverage to increase their budget and resources.

Marketers should care about this type of reporting because of what it can mean for future growth planning. Attribution reporting functions by tracking leads through the marketing and sales funnel, identifying the point of origin for all marketing sourced opportunities and mapping relevant touchpoints. With an accurate and solid attribution reporting model in place, you can hone in on which activities source the best leads and critically examine efforts that have dubious impact. You can identify what nurturing activities garnered a 7-figure sale, determine which top-of-the-funnel campaigns are essential to your buyer journey, and avoid spending millions on campaigns with minimal impact on revenue.

Attribution reporting provides marketers with data that can be leveraged to make informed, strategic decisions about your marketing campaigns.

Attribution Reporting: Getting Started

Attribution reporting requires collaboration between all teams that play a role in the sales and marketing funnel. Through meaningful collaboration and the right planning, you can deploy attribution reporting successfully and bring your marketing team the “profit center” status it deserves.

Focusing on the people, processes, and technology of your funnel teams will set a strong foundation for attribution reporting. Let’s take a quick look at three foundational elements.

Marketing Operations Leads the Way

Having a team dedicated to spearheading the process of attribution reporting is fundamental to getting results. A variety of roles need to be established to ensure that marketing activities are monitored and measured accurately. Who will ensure the right tracking codes are placed within each campaign? Who will make sure data is flowing properly through Marketing Automation and CRM systems?

In most cases, the team best positioned to govern attribution reporting activities is Marketing Operations (MarkOps). Once governance is established, a network of support among all teams playing a role in the marketing and sales funnel is needed for successful implementation and maintenance. Sales Operations, for example, will need to ensure CRM data is accurate and retains attribution IDs as a lead moves through the funnel; Demand Generation and IT/web teams need to ensure the latest campaigns are synced up to the tracking system. Executives and strategists will also need access to KPIs generated through reports and dashboards.

Key Actions and Processes for Successful Attribution Reporting

To make sure the information in your attribution reporting is accurate, leads must be tracked all the way through the funnel – from first touch to final sale. Process defines how teams should collaborate, clarifying the roles each team must perform so attribution reporting can function, keeping teams accountable and enabling execution.

Some key actions and processes required for attribution reporting to function include:

  • Collaborating on the overall vision of your attribution reporting framework with all stakeholders
  • Mapping out each stage in the buyer journey
  • Clarifying the specific actions required of each team, for all campaigns and initiatives
  • Utilizing Service Level Agreements to ensure prompt follow-up with all leads generated
  • Using a structured rollout of attribution reporting with an emphasis on training and enablement
  • Monitoring process effectiveness continuously with regular committee meetings and reviews on improving and refining the system

Automate data collection and processing through the funnel

Technology, the final foundational element, deeply influences how your company’s attribution reporting system is set up. How do the tools and platforms in your MarTech stack integrate? How will the data originating from those platforms be collected and stored? Technologies to consider include:

  • Marketing Automation Platform (Marketo, Eloqua, etc.)
  • CRM (, Microsoft Dynamics, etc.)
  • Customer database/contact list (should be clean, standardized, and enriched to consolidate both Marketing and Sales data
  • Advertising Platforms, 3rd party sites, social media
  • Content Management System (CMS) and other technology related to your web properties

We recommend that your MarkOps team take the lead in identifying and overseeing each technology in play, with Sales Operations playing the key role of ensuring the CRM is capturing the data necessary to develop an effective attribution report.

Your key funnel technologies should allow your team to better understand how leads are moving through your funnel and be automated for maximum efficiency and continuity. If you are considering adding new tools to your MarTech stack (ex. predictive analytics), they should only be implemented after MarkOps has ensured it can integrate it with the established attribution reporting system.

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Moving Forward and Proving the Impact of Marketing

With a strong foundation in place, your team can focus on taking a phased approach toward effective attribution reporting. Adopting a “crawl, walk, run” methodology that starts with baseline attribution, using your existing Marketing Automation and CRM systems, is the best way to start your team’s journey toward getting a full visualization of your marketing/sales funnel.

Today’s marketplace of modern buyers has put marketing at the forefront of influencing buying decisions and driving revenue. Deploying attribution reporting and operating your marketing department as a profit center is an essential step toward optimizing your company’s funnel in the digital age. With a strong foundation, collaborative mindset and phased implementation, marketing leaders can make attribution reporting an integral element of their company’s operations, transforming marketing from a cost center into a revenue accelerator.

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