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Attribution -Must Contain Season 2 Ep. 2 with Rachel Squire

Join Kristin and Kristin as they talk attribution with Rachel Squire. Can you justify your existence? Rachel talks about how you can no matter your maturity.

Learn how you can get started with attribution using the most basic tools, tips for aligning with sales on what success actually is, the variety of model shapes, and much more.

A reminder that we have an open call for guests. Submit your buzzword using this form or type the link into your browser –  We can’t wait to hear what topics you want to break down with us in Season 2. 


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:00)
Hey there. Containers. Yep. I stuck with containers. I did not spend our extended spring break off coming up with a new name for y’all. Sorry about that, but if you’ve got one, I’d love to hear it. Anyway, we’re back with season two of Must Contain. We’ve got some great content coming every two weeks and can’t wait for y’all to hear it. But before we get started, one quick reminder. MOPsCON is coming. Early bird registration closes on June 17, so head over to MOPSCON.COM to register today. And now here’s the show.


Hosted by Kristin Anne Carideo(KAC) and Kristin Crowe (OGK)

Theme Song: (00:01)

Intro Theme Music


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:36)

Hi, I’m Kristin Crowe.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (00:38)

And I’m Kristin Carideo.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:40)

And this is Must Contain, the podcast from Etumos where we help explain the how of marketing, although we can’t always explain the why. Join us every two weeks as we break down marketing and corporate topics and discuss what they really mean and if you enjoyed this podcast, please remember to like follow or subscribe in all your favorite podcast platforms.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:02)

Welcome back to another episode of Must Contain. Today we’re going to talk about one of the thorniest questions in B2B marketing I think.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:10)

So we already talked about sales and marketing, fighting, I mean, alignment. So that’s probably not it. Are we debating GIF versus JIF?


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:21)

Good guess. But no, today we’re going to be talking about how we all justify our own existence; attribution.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:29)

Aah a classic that is both a buzzword and an extremely important topic. There tends to be so much focus on which model you adhere to, but that’s pretty surface when it comes to justifying your existence if you ask me.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:43)

Yeah, well, helping us justify our existence today to talk about attribution is Rachel Squire. Welcome to the podcast Rachel.


Rachel Squire: (01:52)

Thank you, it’s great to be here. So I am the director of marketing intelligence at Power School. And as you can imagine, being in a marketing intelligence role attribution is my whole life, my whole world spend most of my day doing that. So very passionate about the subject.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (02:07)

So let’s jump right in. Can you define attribution for us?


Rachel Squire: (02:14)

I think if you asked a hundred people what attribution was, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Here’s my answer. So attribution is a way to allocate your pipeline and revenue, basically your dollars, and associate them back to the marketing efforts and the campaigns or the initiatives that you’re doing. Sounds really simple, but it can definitely get complicated the more you get into it


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (02:36)

Before we get into the right things to do, and you know what you see being successful, I think I want to start with talking a little bit about the wrong things to do. So like what common mistakes do you see marketers make when trying to implement a more robust attribution solution or trying to create that kind of reporting?


Rachel Squire: (02:58)

I think the biggest mistake that I see companies go down is this idea that you have to find the right model because there are dozens, probably hundreds of different attribution models out there. And not every model is right for everybody or even every situation. So it’s very easy to get down this path of I need to figure out what the right model, the perfect model is for me.

I need to make it perfect before I can start using it and start learning from it. And you’re basically setting yourself up for failure at that point because you’re never going to have a perfect model that matches every single opportunity and every single engagement. You’re not going to be able to make any better decisions based off of it.

You’re blocking yourself. A lot of times I’ve seen models put in place and someone will say, Here’s one opportunity where I feel like this specific trade show probably had more influence than we’re giving it. And it can invalidate everyone’s idea of whether or not a model is successful. Going that deep into detail, and expecting every single opportunity and engagement to match up perfectly, it’s just never going to happen.

And if you force yourself to – to find something that’s perfect you’re not going to be able to make progress and to have any decisions that you can implement based off of whatever model you have chosen. I’m a big believer in progress over perfection, so if you can find something that works two thirds or three quarters of the time, you’re winning, you’re coming out ahead.

So find something that works most of the time or more often than not and use it and continue to evaluate over time until you have something that you’re fairly confident with.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (04:33)

Let’s talk about models. I feel like that’s the next concept that gets brought up whenever anyone mentions attribution, it’s like, What model are you? What team are you? You know, U models, W models, first models, last models. It ends up all over the place. There’s always so much confusion. So give us your take on the models.


Rachel Squire: (04:54)

It’s like imagine there are lots of different models and there are some very popular ones right now. So I would say the most common model and one of the simplest models is what I would what the industry would consider first touch model, and that is to oversimplify taking the lead source and copying that onto the opportunity and saying that’s our that’s our attribution.

Everything that this opportunity is bringing in, all the credit goes directly to that first thing that brought in that first person and we’re good. And that works to an extent that does get people a bit of the way there. And it helps you get a base understanding of what is driving new people and new opportunities into your system. Another common model is this last touch idea, trying to figure out what thing pushed someone into the opportunity stage or some people will say what pushed them into the MQL stage and eventually that turns into the opportunity. You can already get pretty complicated just trying to make decisions off of the last touch model. But it is one touch, one thing that gets the credit for the full opportunity.

Any time you start to look at more touches than that, it’s considered multitouch. And now we can get into things that are a little bit more interesting. A simple multi-touch model would say every engagement that happened with every person that gets equal credit, equal weight for the opportunity. So five people do five different things. You knock 25 touch points, 125th of the opportunity goes to all of them. That’s your baseline multi-touch opportunity or multi-touch attribution.

There are other models like U-shaped model or the W-shaped model or I’ve even seen like a wiggle T shaped model. I just heard about basically –


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (06:40)

Wiggle T?


Rachel Squire: (06:42)

It’s like, it’s like you think of like a sinusoidal curve where it goes up and down, but then it has like a depth in the middle. It’s interesting. I can’t say I fully understand it myself. I don’t know if anyone does I think this- people try really, really hard to have a scientific approach to modeling, and that’s fantastic. Go ahead and put in as much data and research as you can into it, but definitely can get a little haywire if you get too deep into trying to figure out every little detail.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (07:13)

So how do you decide what’s right for you in – with all of that? How do I how do I like, say, like, oh, I know what it is, it’s a wiggle T.


Rachel Squire: (07:24)

Right that’s a fantastic question, especially with that example. I think sometimes I think that sometimes a crawl, walk, run approach is useful for most companies who are just getting their feet wet with attribution. So if you don’t have anything in place, starting with that first touch or even that last touch model, might be a great first step for you because it’ll give you a very basic sense of what is driving your different opportunities and engagements. And if you start there you really quickly start looking at the data and realizing where your gaps are.

Oh, this person was saying we got from an ad, but they went to 17 trade shows, so maybe that should have some sort of credit too. As you start to look into that, you will develop a need for a maturity, a need for a model that goes a little bit deeper. And as your budget grows and your marketing spend grows, you will need additional support because you need to make better decisions about what’s going on with that budget.

So as you basically outgrow that initial model, that’s when you need to start taking a look at your data and understanding where are my gaps? I, I think like that U shape or that W shape actually are pretty good first maturity level, next steps because most activation tools already have those built-in for you and there’s a lot of resources out there to help you build those out even in Salesforce or Marketo.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (08:48)

So I imagine as you move up the maturity curve for this kind of reporting and you are moving into potentially looking at multi-touch attribution tools, can you talk a little bit about what tools exist for attribution capture and modeling?


Rachel Squire: (09:06)

There are a lot of tools out there for attribution, and they all provide different, different values, different benefits. So depending on the cost and that level of investment, you’re willing to put in them the needs that you have different tools might be better for even the same company at different stages in their marketing journey. Platforms have some basic functionality built in, but there are additional tools that you can take it to that next level.

Bizible is a really popular one, especially within the Adobe atmosphere. I know Lean Data has an attribution tool full circle. There’s a tool called ORM Technologies which spoke at my recent user group and they looked interesting. Probably there are hundreds of them, and I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface, but getting – getting into the atmosphere and learning what different tools are available, they’re all super different. So it’s really important to understand what you need to get out of it before trying to figure out which tool is right for you.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (10:08)

So in trying to determine which tool is right for you, how do you kind of even get to the point to looking at tools like how do you know something is going to add value, be worth the cost, versus doing something manual or using what you have built into a tool you already own.


Rachel Squire: (10:26)

It’s a great question because you don’t you can’t truly know if you’re going to get a positive payout from it until you use it, till you buy a tool, implement it, use it, make decisions based off of it. And then if you make more money and you can say, I had a positive way that it works, which is not how marketers or data people like to do anything. One thing I’ve done in the past is hire an agency to do a predictive type model temporarily to say This is where you have in the past to help you make a few decisions and see if that pays off because it’s a much smaller investment. And if it does, then you know that maybe I’m ready for that next step and and I’m going support with the attribution side.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (11:07)

How can companies that have, say, like a basic implementation of lead source infrastructure within their MAP or their CRM, meaning like they’re capturing hidden UTM fields maybe on their forms, assigning an original lead source, that kind of thing, how can they start doing some meaningful attribution reporting?


Rachel Squire: (11:27)

For companies that aren’t doing any first touch or anything, there is built-in functionality in almost every marketing automation platform or CRM, at least Salesforce Dynamics, the big ones, that can help you get started with that lead source first touch attribution. So you can there are a lot of great resources online for how to set up lead source tracking, and that would be the first step that’s not already happening. And you can create automations that assign that over to the opportunity depending on which CRM you are using.

That’s a fantastic first step. Most companies that are already invested in this are already doing that as well. So for those that are not or for those that are already doing that and are looking to take it to the next step in their existing tools, creating a last touch field where you can decide, maybe it’s my last touch before MQL, maybe it’s my touch before an opportunity is created.

Whatever milestones you want to track, you can create a field for every stage to create the last touch before anything and start aggregating it. I think it’s I think that’s how you can actually in practice start to know when you’re ready for a better tool, when you kind of outgrow. I’ve got 30 fields I’m trying to track here and I’m trying to piece together it gets super complicated and that’s probably when it’s time to move on to a tool.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (12:50)

So let’s talk about a component of attribution that is pretty important, whether you’re using a tool or not. Success definition, how do you define what success looks like in a marketing campaign?


Rachel Squire: (13:06)

Probably again, if you asked a hundred people, you probably got a hundred different answers. That’s a fantastic thing to be thinking about. And so it’s so tied into this idea of attribution. It’s almost a precursor for it, right? Because if you are trying to understand if certain engagements led to opportunities, you have to know what is an engagement in order to get there in the first place.

And most of the time attribution is not only used within marketing but it’s used within a business. So you might allocate certain portions to different departments. It’s because of that. It’s really important to align with every team that touches the dollar, the opportunity, marketing, sales, SDRs, whoever that you all have the same agreement on. What does an engagement mean so that you’re all approaching it with the same lens, and sometimes that requires multiple conversations and that’s OK.

I think in Salesforce they call their success a response status on purpose because it shows that the person is engaging back with you, which I think if you asked themselves or the SDR team, they would say that’s that’s all they care about because they don’t care if you send someone an email, they care if the person actually consumed the content that you’re pushing. And as marketers, we need to be aware that that’s what we’re ultimately trying to do. We’re trying to get people to engage with us and with our brand and with our offerings. So it’s a really long way of saying I really like the idea of reciprocated action, what you’re trying to do for them, you want them to do back for you. You’re trying to say, here’s a fantastic piece of content. I want you to consume it. They got to consume it back in order to count as an engagement or as a success. So email back, the content download, at a trade show could be talking with a rep at your booth, could be attending a webinar that plays out in a lot of different ways.

But anything that shows that actual intent and engagement with your brand, that’s what I would consider a success.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (15:08)

So within that success tracking, what have you seen as a good approach to offline channels or things that happen off domain in order to properly attribute revenue to those kinds of activities in the end?


Rachel Squire: (15:27)

Direct mail is a tough one because you don’t click on it, so you can’t track things the same way. And actually, it’s like our our whole world is shifting away from this cookie view and PII anyway. So the timing of talking about offline channels is perfect because we’re all thinking about that from a lot of different ways. With direct mail specifically, what I’ve done in the past is I figure out a certain attribution window, a certain time frame where I say, I know that my thing that I sent was shipped or delivered on this date, which means I’m going to say if, within a certain time frame, there was an opportunity created or an MQL created or however you define your success, some some intent happened, some reaction or response happened from the prospect that I sent it to. I’m going to back associate and say, OK, I’m going to just assume that they responded to my direct mail since like a week later they called a sales rep.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (16:28)

So what happens if you have a really long sales cycle, which many B2B marketers do? How do you think about determine good timeframes for attribution?


Rachel Squire: (16:43)

I think the first part is to decide what you’re looking out for your sales cycle. Are you counting from when the lead was acquired? Are you counting from when you handed them off to your SDR team? Are you counting from just the opportunity cycle? Because once you know that you’re going to base everything off of that so I don’t even know if it matters what you would pick. Just pick something, set your time frame and start making – start doing some research. So again, things I have done in the past is I, I like to take a probability approach. So I, at a previous company we sat down and we said OK, within let’s map out all of the responses that we’ve had to each campaign type.

So we did it unique to the campaign type. Easier way, faster way, roll it up overall. And we might say for this group of people who responded, they were X percent likely to become an opportunity to convert to pipeline or revenue within however many days mapped that out, and what we what we found, at least in our situation, was that for almost every tactic, there was a specific point where we saw a clear drop off where after maybe 90 days or 180 days, if they didn’t convert they the chances of they did convert basically were like nothing.

So if you can identify a time frame where you have that drop off, that’s your attribution window, it hopefully it changes over time because you’re improving your marketing, but it’s important to stay up to date on that. But I think that gives you a really good baseline.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (18:20)

How do you go about once you’ve done all this work, you’ve looked at like what your window is. You know, you’ve gotten to the point where maybe you’re a little bit more mature in how you’re tracking. How do you go about future-proofing, the attribution model you’ve come up with just because like marketing changes all the time, new channels might get added to your marketing mix and how do you make sure that you’re like capturing attribution with the possibility of channels and tactics that don’t exist for your organization yet?


Rachel Squire: (18:54)

I think I have two answers to this. So the first part actually comes back to what we chatted about a few minutes ago about PII and cookie tracking going into a cookie-less world. Any time you can use statistical correlations and set up like what we talked about the 90-day attribution window, instead of relying on specific people, that’s something that’s going to help futureproof against the ever-changing technology.

In addition, I think it’s important to understand how the impact of adding new channels is going to change your attribution. So one way that I’ve done this frequently actually in the past is trying to associate my lead scoring and my scoring weights with my attribution, weights cause if I’m going to tell my company that a trade show is worth three times as much as an email click, then I better make that count for my SDRs too right, then that better be true. And if it is true, then my SDRs and the AQL or MQLs however you call em’ that you’re sending over should be reflective of that. So if you align your scoring weights to the attribution weights, that actually kind of requires that you very thoughtfully introduce both of those. And when you introduce new channels or when you change your tactics or when you adjust success criteria all of these things kind of require that you’re very thoughtful and intentional about that.

In addition, I have seen this tendency to say, well, I have to have a way that someone does all of these things – they all add up to 100% every time. That’s not necessarily going to work, because if you introduce new tactics in the future, you’re just throwing out your whole balance. So having yourself giving yourself a model where I can introduce new tactics and have it compliment what I already have, instead of having it take away from what I already have, that’s going to help you grow without breaking everything you’ve done in the past.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (20:44)

All right. So now that we’ve learned how to crawl and then walk and then run and future proof everything we’re doing, I think we’re ready to talk about our key takeaways from our discussion with Rachel. So if you know nothing else about attribution, know these things;

One: – and this is kind of a theme of the podcast, you don’t need fancy tools to track attribution at first. The maturity model is something like first touch attribution using your MAP and CRM as the lowest maturity solution, but still a step in the right direction. Then using one of the multi-touch attribution tools with pre-built reporting like Bizible or Full Circle, then finally graduating to creating your own slices and dices of the data you are collecting in your BI tool.

Two: Aligning on what success is with marketing and sales is really important to any attribution model, no matter how mature your organization. Rachel’s advice is that you consider a reciprocated action from the prospect or customer as being success.

Three: Attribution is a macro view of your marketing channel and tactic success. There are going to be individual campaigns that any model you choose misses or gets wrong, progress over perfection when it comes to this kind of reporting, the goal is always to make better decisions, and if your model allows you to do that two-thirds of the time, you’re doing great. Keep going.


Kristin Carideo (KAC): (21:59)

That’s it for this episode of Must Contain. We’ll be back in two weeks with another great MOPs topic. Until then, remember, website is not a channel.


Kristin Crowe (OGK): (22:08)

This episode was produced by Kristin Crowe, Kristin Carideo, Ali Stoltzfus, and Lindsay Walter. It was edited by Kristin Crowe, theme music by Rusty Hall. Special thanks to Rachel Squire. And that’s it for must contain I’m Kristin Crowe and we’ll see you in two weeks.

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