Perhaps the best way to define marketing automation is as a container. After all, when it comes to your firm’s marketing activities, it doesn’t really mean any single specific thing. Instead, it’s a collection of techniques and technologies and, because of that, it’s always changing as new features are added. With a few rare exceptions, all marketing automation tools are software-as-service products. What this means is that they’re a single tool that is licensed by users. When new updates are available for the tool, they’re instantly rolled out to everybody at the same time.
In my previous post on why we chose Act-On as our marketing automation vendor of choice, I mentioned that one of the key aspects of the marketing automation consulting we offer is to help make sense of what’s going on in the marketing automation field, including the latest techniques. One of the most significant features that has been rolled out to most marketing automation tools over the past 15 months is the idea of revenue attribution, and that’s what I want to talk about today.
As the name implies, revenue attribution gives you the ability to very clearly tie specific marketing initiatives with actual tasks. This means you can generate a very clear and easy-to-read report that tell you which marketing activities have influenced sales, and to what degree. For example, you could go in and see which email campaign has ultimately generated the most sales over the past three years. Not only that, but you could see exactly which sales the campaign influenced and what percentage it accounted for in each of those transactions based on how clients interacted with it during their time as a prospect. But it’s not limited to email campaigns. With revenue attribution, you’re able to do the same thing with specific pages on your site, form submissions, asset downloads, and any other digital campaigns you might be running. It’s also not limited to historical data; revenue attribution allows you to make the same connections with open leads as they interact with your firm’s digital marketing materials.
Overall, revenue attribution allows you to see very clearly which digital marketing efforts are having the biggest impact on your bottom line. This not only gives you clear ROI data for work you’ve already done, but it can also tell you how to allocate your money, time, and energy moving forward. This is truly powerful, game-changing stuff.
This is rather big news, in that marketing has been a mostly unaccountable practice, and this makes it finitely accountable. Revenue attribution doesn’t happen all by itself, though. Here are four primary things you’ll need to put in place: a conversion-driven website, a CRM tool, marketing automation software, and some practice. Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Conversion-Driven Website
The first thing you’ll need is a conversion-driven website capable of integrating with both a CRM and a marketing automation tool. The site’s job is basically to attract, engage, and capture leads. Your site does this by enticing them with quality content and guiding them into the lead channel through form-based CTAs (or calls to action) on the site. As soon as a user submits a form on your site — whether that’s to download an asset, sign up for an email subscription, or register for an event — the site needs to be able to identify and track that user. It also needs to be able to pass that data on to the CRM and marketing automation tool.
The CRM’s job is to log all the data gathered about users by the site. It basically functions as a repository in which the sales process is documented. But the CRM also helps to support your sales activities as you take a prospect through the stages of the buying cycle, from researcher to evaluator and finally to the purchasing stage. As the sales process progresses, your salespeople need to use Salesforce to identify and create specific sales opportunities and take notes on all the different stages of the opportunity. Whether you win, lose, or draw, your sales activities are documented inside of the CRM.
3. Marketing Automation Software
The marketing automation tool is where everything starts to come together, because it’s the piece that’s capable of drawing lines between your digital marketing activities and the sales results. This is where the revenue attribution reporting will happen.
The biggest obstacle to the success of the whole revenue attribution system is the humans who actually use it. In order for revenue attribution to work, agencies need to provide quality content and opportunities for engagement, create thoughtful marketing automation campaigns to deliver that content and those opportunities to the right people at the right time, and carefully document their activities inside the CRM. This, of course, takes practice. A lot of it.
But the good news is that if it’s done consistently, you’ll be able to build up an incredible history of cause-and-effect outcomes related to your marketing and sales activities. Imagine being able today to pore through ten years of data and see which content has driven the most sales — is it the blogs, the webinars, the email campaigns, the whitepaper downloads, the case studies, the pricing page, the testimonials page, or some combination? Surely, those trends exist. Some things you’re doing have a far greater impact on your sales than others, and most firms today have no way to know or prove what those things are.
The firms that start using revenue attribution now will gain new insight immediately, and over the long run, it’s sure to have a very clear and positive effect on their bottom line.