Author and speaker Marcus Sheridan says that, from his studies, fewer than 3% of organizations have a detailed conversation about marketing metrics that includes revenue attributed to marketing efforts.
According to Sheridan, successful marketers don’t just show what they’re worth—they prove it. And proof only comes through effective tracking.
Inbound marketing success depends on determining what’s working and what isn’t working. Ultimately, inbound marketing is only working if it results in additional revenue.
How can a B2B company measure the results of its marketing efforts?
Almost every business’s customers traveled along The Awareness to Order Path. First, they had to find out about you, your product or service. At some point, they placed an order.
B2C vs. B2B Revenue Attribution
For a simple B2C sale such as on Amazon, The Awareness to Order Path is short. A consumer can search for something they have never seen before and make a purchase within a few minutes. Amazon has perfect revenue attribution. They know the buyer’s search term, how long it took them to make a purchase, and exactly what they paid.
In the world of B2B sales, revenue attribution is more elusive, but it is measurable.
With a complex sale, there may be five or more stages between awareness and order. The time gap between awareness and order can be weeks or months—even years.
Since B2B companies don’t have the luxury of Amazon’s customer metrics engine, how does the revenue from an Order get attributed to something that happened on the opposite end of the spectrum?
When it comes to digital, awareness often begins with an online search.
Marketers know this, so they create search-optimized content on their company’s pages and posts in order to rank high in the search engine results.
After seeing your content in the search engine results, a visitor may click through to your website and read some or all of the destination content.
Within the content, there can be one or more calls to action that promote a free offer in exchange for the visitor’s name, email address, and perhaps some other information.
A visitor’s click on the call to action can pop up a form. Alternatively, it can route the visitor to a landing page.
Whether a popup or a landing page, if a website visitor fills in the required information and clicks a “Download Now” type button, they are considered to have “Converted.”
When a visitor converts for the first time on your site, they become a Prospect or a Contact in your marketing automation system (different marketing systems use different terminology).
The marketing automation system record contains the information that you asked the visitor for on the form.
The system can assign additional attributes to the Prospect, including how they found your website (i.e. the traffic source) and the name of web form they submitted.
It is important to track these additional attributes all the way through to revenue, should the now Prospect eventually become a paying customer.
A person who converted may remain a marketing Prospect and may not immediately be sent to a salesperson for follow up.
The marketing team might require the Prospect to take additional actions, such as returning to a specific page on the website, before they are deemed “Marketing Qualified.”
A measure of progress is the Prospect’s score.
The Prospect’s score can automatically increase over time through a set of rules created by a human or by rules that were created and applied by an AI.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
Once marketing deems the Prospect to be Qualified, either through automation or a by a manual action, the Prospect becomes an MQL or Marketing Qualified Lead.
The now MQL is synchronized from the marketing automation system to the CRM system. Synchronization is required when a company has separate marketing automation and CRM platforms.
In our example, the Traffic Source and Web Form fields are included in the field mapping for synchronization.
The Campaign in the CRM system can be auto-assigned based on the Lead Source or Web Form.
Note that with all-in-one sales & marketing automation systems, no data synchronization is required.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
A salesperson works the Lead in the CRM system.
They make calls, they send emails. Hopefully, they’ll have a conversation.
The salesperson can either disqualify the Lead, send the lead back to Marketing for further nurturing — or they may consider it to be a Sales Qualified Lead or SQL.
If qualified by Sales, the next step is for the salesperson to press a Convert-type button.
In most CRM systems, when a Lead is converted by a salesperson, an Account, Contact, and Opportunity are all created at once.
What’s required for revenue attribution is that information such as the Lead Source, and the name of the Web Form that the Lead submitted, flow through to the Opportunity.
Managing the Opportunity
As a sales Opportunity progresses through its own path, the expected dollar value of the Opportunity may change.
But the dollar value is generally still a prediction and not yet a precise measure of ultimate revenue.
Quoting the Product or Service
In some cases, quoting is done outside of the CRM system. The salesperson key enters the dollar amount from an externally generated quote into the Amount field in the Opportunity.
In other cases, quoting is built into the CRM system. The value in the Amount field is calculated from the sum of product and/or service line items within the Quote.
The New Customer Order
In some CRM systems, when an Opportunity is closed, a corresponding Order is automatically created.
If this is the case, the Lead Source and the name of the submitted Web Form should be mapped through to the Order.
Ideally, the Order’s revenue field will be reflective of the actual amount the customer will be or has been invoiced.
With all this information in place, we’re now in a position to state, “on this date, we booked an Order for this amount. We know the Lead Source, the Campaign, and the specific web form that was submitted.”
In other words, we have revenue attribution to marketing efforts. We also call this the Marketer’s Money Metric.
Follow-on Customer Orders
The customer may place follow-on Orders that don’t flow through from an Opportunity.
If subsequent orders are cloned from the first Order, the Lead Source and Web Form will be inherited by those subsequent Orders.
This means that additional revenue can be attributed to the same marketing source.
Whether marketing gets credit just for the first order, for orders within a time period such as a year, or indefinitely — that’s decision to be made by each company.