Revenue attribution increases alignment between CMOs and CROs by acknowledging a shared impact on revenue. Marketing leaders must shift the conversation away from lead volume and lead quality (when has a sales team ever been happy with both of these?) towards measurable business impacts from their programs. In doing so, marketing will have healthier, more strategic conversations with their peers in the C-Suite while also being able to better defend their budget during tough times.

Let’s face it—if you don’t have revenue attribution in place, you’re behind the curve.  B2B companies are realizing an average lift of 15 to 18 percent in revenue as a result of implementing closed-loop revenue attribution and optimizing investments across their Go-to-Market functions.  CEOs are looking at their sales and marketing leaders and expecting consistent stories without finger-pointing. Modern CMOs are seeing that Marketing’s success can no longer be measured in terms of demand volume if it doesn’t translate to revenue growth. Has your Marketing department ever celebrated hitting departmental targets as the company misses its revenue goal?


Revenue attribution gives sales and marketing leaders a common platform to measure success and focuses alignment to the same objective: revenue.


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Getting Started


Revenue Attribution, sometimes referred to by the misnomer ‘Marketing Attribution’, is a cross-functional, collaborative program that serves and needs buy-in across sales and marketing.  A shared attribution model is a foundational component in understanding the impact of historical activities and investments, making fact-based revenue planning decisions and budget allocations, and managing go-to-market functions throughout the year.


Here’s how to get started:


  • Gain cross-functional alignment
  • Examine your foundation
  • Experiment to find the right approach
  • Launch


Gain Cross-Functional Alignment


Getting buy-in from the leadership across sales and marketing and setting goals early is vital for the long-term success of any revenue attribution program. Many CMOs have an existing culture of measuring top of funnel lead attribution and will find revenue attribution a logical progression. Some CROs may see this as a foreign concept, or it may not align with how they view their business. Avoid attribution being seen as ‘just a marketing thing’ and show the value in understanding the level of contribution needed by the sales team and how to collaborate with marketing on driving the right types of touchpoints throughout the buying process.


Working across sales and marketing to define objectives of a revenue attribution program will help serve as a North Star as you go through the attribution design process and communicate to stakeholders what attribution is and isn’t.


Examine Your Foundation and Fill in the Gaps


The foundational elements of a revenue attribution program can be viewed through four lenses:


Talent: If you don’t have analytically-literate people on your team, any attribution program will fall flat on its face. Ensure the people creating and maintaining the attribution model can not only analyze the data but can transform it into a story and communicate it effectively with sales.

Process: Understand the buying process from lead to cash along with all major milestones and handoffs. Components for any attribution model will need to consider sales cycle length, buying team size, and types of interactions. 

Systems: Ensure the full buying process is overlaid into a closed-loop system where information is connected across buying centers, contacts, opportunities, and sales & marketing touchpoints. It’s also important to note if your current technology ecosystem can support attribution modeling or if you will need to acquire any supplemental solutions. 

Data: Understand what historical data is available and ensure any data that will go into the model is accurate. Develop a plan to validate and augment data as it enters the mode.


Experiment With Different Methodologies to Discover the Best Approach


There are 6 common attribution methodologies used by B2B organizations with varying levels of complexity. A natural tendency for organizations is to overcomplicate attribution models, making them difficult to maintain and suspect when explaining their complexity to internal stakeholders. Best practice attribution models follow the Good Enough Principle in that they are simple enough to implement, work reasonably well, and meet the minimum requirements.


First Touch: All attribution credit is given to the first interaction a lead or contact has with your company. This model is best suited for companies with low complexity and short buying cycles. 

Last Touch: All attribution credit is given to the most recent interaction a lead or contact has with your company. 

Linear Attribution: Credit is distributed evenly across all touchpoints with a lead, contact, or buying team. 

U-Shaped Attribution: This methodology combines First and Last touch attribution by assigning the majority of credit to the first and last touchpoints while assigning a lesser or no credit to touchpoints in the middle. 

Time Decay Attribution: A sliding scale assigns the most credit to the last touchpoint while prior touchpoints get lesser credit the earlier they were in the buyer’s journey. This sliding scale can also be reversed. 

Customized Attribution: Algorithms or customized point systems are used to allocate credit based on touchpoint position, program type, or buying team member. This model is best suited for companies with long, complex sales cycles with multiple buyers.


If the right historical data exists, experiment with different models in a testing environment, and validate the outputs with sales and marketing leadership. If no historical data exists, Excel calculators can be used to show different scenarios, weightings, and outputs to show how the model would score them.




Once the right model has been agreed on, systemize it into your CRM or reporting systems. Create documentation and communication plans to communicate the purpose of attribution modeling at your company, what factors go into the model, why it’s important, and how it should be used.


In Summary


Revenue attribution reduces friction and encourages sales and marketing leaders to work together to drive the same outcome. CMOs are building upon this capability and transforming the way they measure results, plan investments, and drive bookings. While the upfront investment in time, effort, and potentially technology may seem daunting, benchmarking proves that companies utilizing revenue attribution outperform their peers and the market.


SBI’s Marketing Investment Survey is designed to surface trends in how B2B marketers are making the most out of their budget in 2020. Complete the survey today to receive an early copy of the research.


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Alex Kirkpatrick

Leverages expertise in analytics, technology, and operations to help clients make their number.

Prior to joining SBI, Alex spent six years at Apptio in a fast growing, category creating SaaS environment. He has significant experience utilizing data and technology to drive efficiency and scale. Working with sales and marketing leaders, he has built attribution and segmentation models, managed enterprise wide demand reporting, and governed sales and marketing technology stacks to drive bookings growth.  Areas of expertise include analytics, data visualization, data modeling, revenue operations, CRM, and Marketing Technology. Alex’s experience allows him to drive data driven decisions in complex environments.


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