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Solve Attribution Woes: Adjust Your Settings & Expectations for a More Comprehensive Marketing Strategy

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solve attribution woes adjust your settings expectations for a more comprehensive marketing strategy

Very rarely in my PPC life do I bring up the subject of attribution with clients, colleagues, or industry friends without seeing a look of pain cross a face that may have been perfectly congenial a moment ago. Much teeth-sucking and drink sipping ensues when the difficult topic of attribution enters the discussion.

We all fear we aren’t properly attributing our conversions to each platform, be it paid or organic. Namely, this frustration stems from 3 main factors:

  1. The customer journey is more complex than ever before. Customer journeys are not linear, between multiple devices, long sales cycles, and mere impressions (view-throughs) that may or may not have encouraged the user to convert. Facebook and YouTube now have brand-lift studies to close some of the gap, but the cost for these kinds of prove-the-brand-is-improving tests is often beyond the financial reach of smaller brands.
  2. There are more attribution platforms, both free and paid, offered in the digital marketing space. And we have no idea which one has the true data. We are at full saturation and everyone has a solution, including the new Amazon Attribution Beta, and Facebook Attribution, which became available to all advertisers in October 2018 after testing for a year in beta. Third-party attribution vendors crowd the market too, and marketers have decision fatigue.
  3. Getting any attribution source to play nice and line up with another seems like an impossible task, in a world of walled gardens. In the /r/PPC subreddit, it’s common to see cries for help every week regarding two reporting sources misaligning – most commonly, Google Ads and Google Analytics failing to align.

So what can we do to make more educated attribution choices? There are a few main things every marketer must take into account.

1: Pick Your Windows Wisely

Aligning your attribution with the truth starts with the windows you choose in each ad platform. A conversion window is a defined period of time in which a publisher can claim that a click or impression led to a conversion (be it a lead, app install, purchase, or otherwise.) You can set your conversion windows in every single ad platform except Google Analytics, which has reports specifically built for comparing windows.

The Google Analytics Time Lag report is a good place to start if you want to understand how long it takes a user to move from consideration to conversion:

Google Analytics Conversion Time Lag copyThe Google Analytics Time Lag report counts number of days between first touch and conversion

You can use the Path Length report in Google Analytics and segment by specific goals:

Google Analytics Conversion Path Length copyThe Google Analytics Path Length report counts the number of interactions a user takes before converting

Which window do you choose? 30-day impression, 7-day click? 7-day impression, 1-day click? There are several ways to find out! Your window will depend on:

  1. The Nature of your Business
    • You’ll want to pick longer windows for your conversion settings when your products are more expensive, high-consideration products such as software as a service, home remodeling, etc. Comparison shoppers take their time. This is where tracking different movements of users from trial to paid subscription, email signup to quote request are vital so you can track the entire journey of the user. Each movement – from a potential customer learning about your brand to putting money in your pocket, must be tracked in all the platforms you can, from Facebook Analytics Event Source Groups to training salesmen to properly label leads in your CRM software.
    • You’ll want to set your windows to a short period of time if most of your customers are buying with their gut. This is true for those random products you buy from Instagram without much thought. Pony-Os Instagram ads, I’m looking at you! (I swear, it felt like a good purchase in the 7 minutes it took for me to consider it, toss it in my cart, and purchase it!) If your windows are short, you’ll want to align them with the settings of each and every platform you use, as well as your reporting software.
  2. You’ll want to consider the purpose of the advertising channel. Are you advertising for a conversion result, or a lift in brand awareness? For example:
    • Search tends to be a low-funnel channel and results in more direct conversions due to search intent.
    • Social channels tend to suffer from misguided budget cuts, due to marketers not recognizing that these channels are often first-touch or awareness-based. For example, we have a B2B client who runs LinkedIn campaigns to grow brand awareness among a highly specific, professional audience. Just having these high-quality audiences visit their site is improving the quality of their retargeting audiences and will be worth the investment in the long run. But by no means do we treat these campaigns as a conversion-producing, direct channel.
Pony-O low consideration productPony-Os are the fastest I’ve ever gone from watching an Instagram video ad to tossing my money at an advertiser. If you have a product with a short window like this, consider changing your attribution windows to more accurately reflect your buyers!

2: Learn How Different Platforms Attribute Conversions Differently

For Google Ads, the Attribution Playbook is a good place to start. Google also is helpful enough to provide an attribution tool that allows you to compare different search attribution models before taking the plunge and adjusting your conversion attribution settings:

Google Attribution Modeling comparisons

If you haven’t picked through the Google Attribution modeling tool in a while, you’re missing out. You can model cross-device activity, paths and time-lags (similar to what you’ll find in Google Analytics), and first and last click analysis, among other handy tools to slice and dice your data.

Most marketers agree that “Last click” or “Final click” attribution does not even begin to tell the truth and it is no longer recommended. Industry leaders agree, and this Invoca blog on how Google last-click attribution leads marketers astray clearly lays out the reasons why.

It’s easy to look up how each platform uses attribution modeling. A quick search turns up these resources:

3: Appreciate Lag & LTV when Testing a New Channel or Campaign

One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make is deciding a strategy isn’t working too soon. When testing, make sure you have a specific statistical significance you’re shooting for or even a time period in which you’re willing to stick it out and test. If you need a refresher, this post on calculating statistical significance from our own Carrie Albright is a great place to start! Once you have concrete goals, it will make your analysis a lot easier, although patience is always needed when testing any new channel or initiative.

4: The Source of Truth is Beyond the Platforms: It’s in Your Sales Data

This should go without saying. But I’m going to say it anyway! Your salespeople are sure to know more about lead quality than your marketing team. Train your team to gauge lead quality in their CRM. If you’re an e-commerce company, use internal resources to understand revenue and lifetime value. It is vital to have complete clarity between each marketing dollar spent and trendlines of success in your company.

As an agency, Hanapin is always pushing to get more internal information and reporting transparency because if leads do not lead to revenue, we want to know about those failures as quickly as possible. The same for successes – Have regular meetings between all teams to make sure your marketing dollar is balanced between first-touch and bottom-funnel, brand and non-brand. The ultimate source of truth will be money in your pocket. For new clients, often the process of clarifying attribution is working hard to ensure all tracking flows smoothly from campaigns into whatever system is being used to measure success, be it Bizible, HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce, Pardot, Shopify, BigCommerce, or any number of propriety systems.

The Best Time to Fix Your Attribution was Yesterday. The Second Best Time is Today

We are having more conversations with our clients about attribution every day. This is natural. The rise of automated systems within platforms (Google’s automated bidding settings, Facebook’s mysterious way of using their algorithm to find potential customers) is going to depend on your attribution settings being correct. So if they aren’t correct, fix them today. Look at your attribution windows. Check your settings. Talk to your agency, and get your sales reports in line.

The marketing stack is more complex today than it was yesterday. But there is no time like the present to evaluate your attribution within and without your digital marketing platforms. Review often, and review thoroughly. And make use of absolutely free tools like Facebook Attribution, which uses advertisers in similar verticals and products in the same price points to inform your attribution choices, and Amazon Attribution – they’re free and comprehensive, why not use them?

I hope this blog has given you some places to start auditing your own attribution settings and systems to cut through to the truth and pave the way for a more informed marketing strategy.

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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