Account-based Attribution is More Relevant in the Time of COVID


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The pandemic presents an opportunity and a need for many companies to build the competences they wish they’d invested in before: to be more digital, and data-driven. To B2B marketers, account-based attribution becomes more relevant than ever.

What is account-based attribution?

According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to ten people. Account-based attribution is a technique for grouping stakeholders into accounts (companies) and relating a desired business outcome in the form of “credit” to customer interactions so organizations can understand better how the marketing and sales activities are creating revenue. If you don’t group them into companies, a researcher, for example, as one of the stakeholders, is an important part of the puzzle but would never close the deal himself/herself.

Why is account-based attribution more relevant than ever?

Reopening requires companies to be more data-driven

According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, B2B companies are reducing spend. In the COVID-19 era, every penny spent needs to be accounted for. However, B2B customer decision journey can be extremely complex. Fortunately, there are established solutions to solve this. There are several rule-based attribution models based on different assumptions which have their pros and cons, and an AI-driven approach which is considered to be the most accurate method.

There are a lot of myths about attribution modeling, in fact, it does not have to solely depend on cookies, it can take organic activities into account, and can measure the impact of both online and offline engagements on sales generated from all channels. According to the 2018 State of Pipeline Marketing Report, marketing organizations with sophisticated attribution are not only 71 percent more likely to report positive ROI, but also 84 percent more likely to be aligned with sales which is the main reason why a lot of the account-based marketing (ABM) initiatives failed. Many companies have realized that reopening requires more than a return to normal and started to invest in data-driven capabilities. If you don’t, even you can survive the pandemic, you would likely fall behind.

More data are available as customers spend more time online

Attribution modeling requires stitching together each user’s cross-channel and cross-device journey. However, prior to the pandemic, even in the B2C world, many companies had to implement the top down approach, marketing mix modeling, to measure the return on marketing investment (ROMI) because they didn’t have the granular data ready for the bottom up approach, attribution modeling, especially when they had a lot of offline advertising. This article talks more on the differences between marketing mix modeling and attribution modeling and how they can work together. In the B2B world, data issues and poor measurement also plagued 50 percent of the strategic account-based engagement (ABE was evolved from ABM and focuses more on alignment across marketing, sales, and service) programs that failed, according to BCG.

However now customers are spending more time online and looking for ways to meet their needs digitally. Organizations are also shifting their marketing budgets from offline channels to digital. With data being tracked more easily, some brands started to see the customer journeys they could not see before. It is the time to revisit your attribution model. Before starting your campaigns, plan with your analytics partners so that everything is properly tracked from the very beginning.

B2B marketers are investing in awareness and brand building that need to turn into sales later

According to HubSpot, by looking at over 70,000 companies globally, there is a decrease in deals created and deals won. B2B buyers are holding off on purchases, but you can still plant and garden so that you can harvest later, which is exactly what many companies are doing. Certain marketing activities can move users to the next stage of their customer journey instead of trying to drive immediate sales. According to Deloitte CMO Survey, during the pandemic, companies redirected almost half of the marketing budgets towards social media and mobile activities, and 84 percent of the respondents used social media mainly for awareness and brand building during the pandemic. You need to know that the audience you reach, the likes and engagement will someday turn into revenue dollars instead of being generated by your competitors.

Many attribution models can quantify the impact of these top-of-the-funnel activities on sales, and the AI-based attribution can also give you insights into how different engagements are interacting with each other. It is like, you need to know how much sunlight and water are needed to grow certain plants, and you also want to know watering in full sun wouldn’t be efficient.

The new world does not allow you to reply on experience in the past

At last, the content we’re creating is new, the channel mix is new, and some of the solutions are new too, created to solve the problems caused by the pandemic. All of this does not allow us to reply on our experience in the past. Companies that want to survive and thrive in the new normal need to experiment and learn with agility and with data. Attribution modeling allows marketers to make intelligent optimizations at a rapid pace. When building your attribution models, if you set up the business outcome as short-term goals instead of final sales, you can start optimizing long before the deals are closed.

Careful orchestration of the customer decision journey across numerous channels and devices requires sophisticated analytics support. Are you walking blind on the hectic highway of COVID-19?

Daisy Chen
Daisy is a partner at AlphaConverge, a management consulting firm that is recognized as one of the best in big data, data integration, business intelligence and machine learning... Daisy has extensive experience in leading top companies’ analytics functions and tackling complex projects at highly matrixed fortune 500 companies, leading management consulting firms and top advertising agencies.


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