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Terminus Blog

November 15, 2021

The Attribution Mirage: Uncovering The Hidden Channel of Social

Category: FlipMyFunnel Post

Measuring revenue channel success can be tricky in modern times. Before, executives could look at incoming leads, and other traceable metrics to know how well they’re doing. 

But in the digital age where word of mouth through social media carries a hefty amount of the revenue, it might be time to ditch attribution software for less conventional tactics like asking customers directly. 

To walk us through why it’s important to move away from attribution software, we speak with Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs

Why attribution software is no longer enough

When Chris started work for Vapotherm back in 2017, he employed a lot of the traditional marketing tactics to grow revenue: collecting leads, pushing the leads through marketing automation, running lead scoring, and running lead generation among various channels. 

But, when he measured the pipeline and revenue, he knew that it would be impossible to convince executives to scale the operation when the data made it look like Chris’ efforts were in vain. What was going wrong? Why weren’t his efforts reflecting in the pipeline and revenue? The answer came down to how success was measured. 

”I completely removed all the constraints that most marketers operate under. The constraints that I see right now all are based around measurement.” — Chris Walker”

Imagine trying to measure the success of a local electronics store solely by its website. Anyone analyzing the data would be confused by how little revenue the business sold through their website compared to the revenue success they’re seeing. That is, until they realize that most of this store’s revenue generation is from word-of-mouth. 

This is exactly what was happening to Chris. So, instead of focusing his time and energy on lead generation to show measurable data to executives, he looked to the customers to draw success from.  

Chris comments on how the moment he knew their social content was working was when customers started to tell their sales team how impressive they thought the social content was. 

The attribution mirage

Another obstacle Chris ran into was what he calls the attribution mirage. A situation where customers are entering the buying cycle in a completely different way than what the attribution software is telling you. 

“This typically drives B2B companies to make the wrong decisions,” Chris explains. 

A 600 person SAS company found that paid search and organic search were their best performing channels. As a result, they gave up on social and invested more into their paid and organic. 

But what exactly are the measurable ways to show social is working? Along with the strategy to let customers tell you what’s working with social, Chris shares some other measurable approaches: 

  • Run win-lose analysis
  • Surveys
  • Putting ‘how did you hear about us?’ on the main form for customers

Just because these tactics aren’t the norm doesn’t mean they won’t benefit your company more than your current setup. It just takes the initial effort of making the shift.

”Once you change how you measure marketing, what you optimize for and how you think about attribution, it opens up an incredible amount of opportunities of what B2B companies could do that nobody does right now.” — Chris Walker

The modern customer

Think of the average customer shopping for a product like a new shower curtain. They will research on their own well before they ever reach out to your company to complete a purchase. By the time they reach you, they’ve compared your product to multiple others and won’t be swayed easily. 

But if your attribution software is telling you that this customer initially entered the sales cycle the moment they clicked onto your site, you’re losing crucial data that’s needed if you’re looking to grow your revenue.

According to Chris, attribution software showed 72% of people were finding them through organic search or paid traffic. However, when those same people were asked how they found Chris’s company, 82% said it was through social media or the podcast community.

A key takeaway

Social media has opened up multiple channels where word-of-mouth marketing is taking place. While it might be harder to measure than traditional marketing strategies such as lead generation, the effort is worth it considering the level of revenue social word-of-mouth is producing. 

All the statistics are there to show that social is important. Take the steps to transition your business to measure those hidden channels and profit from the results. 

People make the wrong decisions with this data in a vacuum, than if they just listen to their customers and make decisions.” — Chris Walker.

This post is based on an episode of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast. Check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or here.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Flip My Funnel in your favorite podcast player.

Written by Sangram Vajre

Sangram Vajre is the co-founder and chief evangelist of Terminus, the leader of the account-based marketing (ABM) movement transforming B2B marketing. Before co-founding Terminus, Sangram led the marketing team at Pardot through its acquisition by ExactTarget and then to Salesforce. Sangram is the author of Account-Based Marketing for Dummies and is the mastermind behind #FlipMyFunnel. Follow Sangram on Twitter at @sangramvajre.

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