Dec 14, 2020
Accurately reporting on marketing attribution has historically been one of the biggest challenges facing marketers. Here's how one expert solved it.
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Dreamdata founder Steffen Hedebrandt spent years working as a marketer trying to accurately measure the ROI of his marketing campaigns and investments. After struggling to find a software tool that could do it for him, he finally built one for himself.
Today, Dreamdata helps marketers process data from multiple platforms to make sense of what's working, and which marketing efforts are driving results for the business.
In this episode, he shares some of the key lessons he's learned, and what marketers need to know about marketing attribution reporting.
Check out the full episode, or read the transcript below, for details.
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Kathleen (00:00): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm your host Kathleen Booth. And this week, my guest is Steffen Hedebrant who is the co-founder of Dreamdata. Welcome Steffen.
Steffen (00:22): Thank you so much, Kathleen. I'm happy to be on a show that is about my, one of my very favorite topics as a marketer.
Kathleen (00:31): I am excited to talk with you because we're going to talk all things, data, and my listeners know that I am a huge marketing nerd and I love to nerd out on really specific marketing topics like this and data is, is one of my favorites. So before we get into it, I would love it. If you would tell my listeners a little bit about yourself, your story how you came to be a co-founder of Dreamdata and what Dreamdata itself does.
Steffen (01:01): Thank you very much, Kathleen. So ever since I left university I've been working with all things growth. You can see where it kind of, basically I started out doing doing a lot of SEO, then moved into more like regular business development that then like then I became a marketing leader and now I'm a co-founder of a company. So I've been doing a lot of different stuff that needed to grow. All of it has been B2B though. So when I'm, when I'm talking here today all of my experiences based out of a B2B world and not at the B2C world. So I think that's always important to, to know today. I'm a, I'm a, co-founder at at Dreamdata and we make a, a B2B revenue attribution platform. And we so this is kind of a big thing for us.
Steffen (02:01): We first of all, we do B2B attribution. You can say, and, you know, B2B is quite a lot more complex to track than, than the B2C scenario. You have multiple stakeholders and a deal. The deal takes three, six, 12 months. The deal is closed by a team effort from marketing to sales, to maybe customer success as well. So there's a ton of touches involved in this, and that's why we call ourselves a revenue attribution platform, because we heavily believe that all touches matter and not just the marketing touches here, like doing only marketing attribution would be seeing that the effort of the sales people was not important in the B2B deal. And we want to give the holistic picture, not just the contribution of marketing to it. So if I take a step back and why I find this really interesting, I was a marketing leader at a company called Airteam, which does school screen-sharing devices for schools and businesses.
Steffen (03:11): And I joined when there was like 15 people and left around a hundred and from zero ad spend to $150,000 a month. Initially I knew every time I pushed a button, I knew the effect on the other side, but as you go and you've picked all the low hanging fruits and that you're running on all channels, it gets pretty muddy, whether it makes sense to add in another 10,000 euros or 20,000 euros to the monthly ad spend. And that's because of this problem that does maybe three or four people involved in making a decision. So you might make your marketing investment on getting one person to your website. And then another person comes to validate the product. And then a third person comes to pay for the product. Then you can only see that you spent your money on like getting the new step to sign up or the demo call where in fact, all three people were actually part of the same journey. And that's why you want to kind of, you want to be able to actually match the spend you had on the first person with the revenue you make with the, on the last person who comes with the credit card.
Kathleen (04:20): This is so interesting. And, and the timing of this conversation is perfect because I was just having a debate with somebody on LinkedIn about marketing attribution. And he was rightfully saying that, you know, while everybody loves when marketing can report on like marketing sourced leads, like, Oh, we brought this person in, you know, there's also marketing influenced leads and, and, and marketing influence pipeline. And we were talking about how, at least in my experience, most C-suite people don't really care about marketing influenced pipeline because it seems like a vanity metric to them. Like, and I think it's because of a lack of really good data. I think they just think it's like a made up thing. Like, what do you mean you've influenced this pipeline? And there's also this natural tension between sales and marketing of like, who gets credit. And I feel like, I feel like so much of that almost like toxic attitude is, is, comes because we don't have really clear visibility into what's really happening.
Kathleen (05:36): It's like, you know, it's like marketing saying, okay, this lead, I get a hundred percent credit for, because I sourced it and sales saying, well, I get a hundred percent credit for this one because I sourced it. And there's like, it's very binary. There's no in-between. And, and that's precisely because of what, like you're describing, we don't have that crystal ball into like, what are all the touches, the journey with all the different people in the mix. And so I'm so interested in, in what you do, because it seems to me that that having that kind of data would open the door to maybe changing the conversation that happens around attribution within companies.
Steffen (06:15): Yeah. I have so many comments but you can say, so how I fundamental approach to attribution is let's get all the touches there before we talk about anything else, which means if you have this sales and marketing alignment conversation, then the first thing you can see is, look, this is all the touches that we have on this account. Then after that, you can then discuss, you can have an opinion about what was the important part that magazine actually started the journey or that sales finished the journey, but you got to have all the touches there. And I think what, what most B2B companies are struggling with is that they are the CRM system is dictating dictating what's going on or what, what, what is perceived as the true, if you can say. And the problem about that is that I think a lot of them have this original source field and that original source field can be modified constantly by whoever wants to know, move us this webinar.
Steffen (07:24): Or I met him at this event and kind of then like just the fact that you can constantly change it, according to your opinion is a big problem, but it's also a very narrow field into a, kind of a less, it's kind of a less touch before you converted the the person. But what goes ahead is all the kind of anonymous behavior until that you actually convert them into the first time, you know, what person. So that's kind of also what we, the way we approached this, this, that we, we give our clients, the, each we put on the website and that script starts to assign everybody who comes to the website with an anonymous ID. And then we record everything that the anonymous ID is doing. And then at the point of time where they identified himself, we get the consent to go back and look at the anonymous ID. So it's not just the last touch. He came from this retargeting thing. Then the first time we heard about him was this original source in the CRM.
Kathleen (08:22): And you're pulling data in from a lot of different platforms, correct? I mean, you're sitting outside of kind of the rest of the tech stack and, and aggregating all of that.
Steffen (08:34): Yeah. And this is where I probably couldn't, we, we could need your advice as well because we, we feel like it's kind of, we're kind of trying to make a new category where we kind of want to be the center to check in the middle. So we basically built data pipes to every tool that you would use. So sales would have their CRM marketing, some automation, customer success, a tool, maybe just a BDR tool that's as well. So you basically, we integrate all the data over to us. And then instead of Kathleen being five Kathleen's in each system, we would organize you to be one person that are present and have touched us in all the tools. And then we map you to the account. So every person, or we basically build a timeline. So if there's Kathleen and then Steffen from the same account, we'll just put every time there's a touch, we'll put it into the timeline.
Kathleen (09:24): So how are you, I mean, in principle, that sounds great, but I imagine that the potential for like duplication at the, at the individual contact level is there, I imagine trying to somehow, like the biggest nightmare I have in my many systems is trying to associate all the various contacts with the parent account and like capturing all of that. So how, how do you handle that across so many different systems?
Steffen (09:55): Yes. That's some of what you you pay us to run our algorithms to fix, we can fix it inside of whatever tool, but we will fix it on our end. So like, we will identify duplicates on persons, on accounts, et cetera. And then we have like a hierarchy of like rules that kind of run through and then fix this, these things done in this way.
Kathleen (10:24): And how does that work? Is it bi-directional so like when you clean it up I, you know, I assume like, let's say I have HubSpot and Salesforce and outreach and all these different tools then desk. And I have like my messes in each of those platforms. And then it goes into your platform, you clean it up, is there, do you then have a function where you can sort of like push it back out and correct.
Steffen (10:52): Right now we don't push it back out, but we, like, we fix the we, we fixed it within our, you can say data model and we also expose the data model to the client. So if they want to like use it to, to push back, then they can they can do that.
Kathleen (11:08): So what would be, obviously people are using your system for attribution, but I imagine they're also using it for other things, because it sounds like if you had insight into what's happening at an account level with all of your contacts in my head immediately goes to, this is so great for account based marketing. I could, I could do account level scoring. I could use it to run ad campaigns. What are all the different ways that people are using this?
Steffen (11:40): Yeah, so I can think are like main main users right now are the marketing, the attribution, and it's also the customer journey to get an insight of all the touches, but I use it myself when I do business development to sort of see, okay, now that account that I had been targeting, he actually came back to our website. Now it's a good time to reach out. And what I mean by that is that it's a great way to, for your reps to know who to work with and what to do, because you can see now that account is active in some sort of system, would you, and you can see what they've done. So you can kind of also figure out what you want to do next.
Steffen (12:27): Does that make sense? It can also be kind of figuring out your, your channel mix more like on a, like a leadership level because we, and if we do attribution all the way down to a specific campaign, but we also aggregate it up per channel and some channels play very, very, very different yeah. Roles. And if you look inside of Google analytics, you would only see kind of less touches, but there's actually a lot of channels that work well, if you're able to track from, like, where did they start campaigns that don't start campaigns? What would be some examples of that? Oh, that's a lot. But like, for like, let's say digital businesses, it's very typically a Google ads, for example, a search ads. I've never, I have to confess, I've never been able to make Google ads, looks profit, look profitable inside of Google ads.
Steffen (13:24): And the problem is that if, when we go back to the example that I gave you before, is that you do your investment on some sort of persona that has some sort of intent, but then some person comes with a credit card afterwards, which is to touch. You would see in the Google analytics and those sorts, but the spend was made at another place. So the spend actually starts a ton of journeys, but it's the first touch. It's not the last touch. That's so incredibly important to understand, because if there's a 10 X difference in revenue from first to last touch, then Europe probably heavily investing in a source. I'll give you another example. In my old company I, I had the beginning of 2018 or so I went to the CEO and said like, now we need to really heavily bet on content.
Steffen (14:17): And we went out and hired two writers, a designer, eh, a videographer, and then a manager for the team and for the first nine months or so, the only thing we had to show was, Hey, look, organic traffic is going off in Google analytics. And it's like, yeah, but you can't really pay salary with organic traffic increasing in in Google analytics. And that was actually the point of time when at the end of 2018 met my two co-founders who had just left their old jobs to, to build this company. And basically because we'd been using Segment, I don't know if you're familiar with that.
Kathleen (15:04): I haven't used it. I've heard of it, but I have not used it.
Steffen (15:09): It's a customer data platform. And because we had been using that, we were able to replay our data from like all the visitors from the website and what they've done, and whether they, they ended up becoming deals. And so, and what I could suddenly see is that basically with that technology that now co-founder of it, we were able to prove that the content actually started a ton of journeys, but it was not the last touch on those journeys to become a revenue. And then we started seeing specific clusters of content that were super valuable, but completely impossible to see inside of Google analytics.
Kathleen (15:54): And why is it so hard to see that in Google analytics?
Steffen (15:58): It's because this thing, as the example I gave before, like it's very, it's very rarely at the person with the credit card that does the research and what Google analytics shows you is like they came in from this source or this source, and they did this and this, and then, then your direct channel will be the channel with all the money. And that's a, you can't really scale that somebody comes directly to your website, they give, give you money. You need to kind of understand that full journey in order to sort of do more of what works and do less of what not doesn't work. And let's see if I can let's let's go on to just talk a little bit about concept then, because I think what I've, what I've seen is really that it's so important that you look at what you do, content that has a strong intent versus a big volume.
Steffen (16:54): When I look across all our B2B customers here at Dreamdata, all those articles that they've done, where they've done keyword research, and they have a lot of traffic on the keywords. So rarely that there's any revenue on those those articles, but very narrow articles with a lot of intent, like searching for an alternative to a competing product or that those sorts, they drive so much revenue out of very small chunks of traffic. And I think that's a mistake I've made so many times because you get so fascinated by this large amount of searches, but when did it arrive on your website? There's several intent behind it.
Kathleen (17:38): I'm so glad you said that because this is something that I have been preaching for a while. You know, and it was funny at the last company, I was, we made a very niche product and we, there was like almost no search traffic for it. It's a tiny, tiny amount of search traffic. And I think most people, had they done keyword research would have been like, it's totally not worth creating any content around this. But, you know, my thing is the 20 to 30 people who searched this every month are like the 20 to 30 people who will buy from us. And, Oh, by the way, at that company, we were selling to government. And so one sale could be like millions of dollars. So we did this whole content strategy, like a whole pillar content and topic, cluster strategy around this like extremely tiny, tiny niche topic.
Kathleen (18:35): And we, the great thing is we were very quickly able to own it. And Google, like we had all the top search results. In fact, we'd beat the national security agency and we beat Wikipedia for one of the topics and it worked. So I totally agree with you. Like, it's just funny to me that people do, they, they, they try to, like, as somebody once said, like eat the elephant in one bite, when, you know, there's just an easier way to do things. And it's to go after those tiny, tiny topics, when, you know, the intent is so good. So I love that you have data to back that up.
Steffen (19:09): That means also kind of, when you then pull them to your website, you don't pull a big audience that you have to pay a ton of money to retarget, but you know that the people who then come you'll want to pay a lot of money to, to get in front of it.
Kathleen (19:22): Yeah. It's worth it to spend a lot more, you know, per impression or per click, if you know that that's the right person. And it's funny because I had the same conversation. This is like making me think of a bunch of things. I had the same conversation recently. I was doing some training for my team on how to use LinkedIn really well. And we were talking about hashtags on LinkedIn and people, a lot of people don't even realize like how useful they can be. And one of the questions I got was yeah, but how much search volume do those hashtags have? And I was like, I don't even care if they're super relevant to us, even if there's like a tiny number of people searching, like those are the people that we want to see. So it's just, I I'm so on the same page with you about this,
Steffen (20:08): But it is kind of also when you compete for the big things, like you also most likely competing with some extremely powerful players that you can kind of, you can forget about outspending them because they have a ton more money than you have. So you want to go around those big guys in there and find the topics where, where they're weak.
Kathleen (20:27): That's exactly right. So now I want to know all the other cool things that you've discovered looking across your customer's data, because that's really interesting that you're able to surface those insights.
Steffen (20:39): I think yeah, it's also, you know, I'm a marketing leader by background myself. So being able to peek into these different kinds of machines, it's it's very interesting. One component that I would like to stress as well is it's a metric. We call it time to revenue, which means from the first person from an account who was anonymously on your website until the account is close to one, how long does that take? And it's significantly longer than most of our customers expect. So, so what companies don't do really, really well is that from the point of time where an account hands over an email, then the typical CRM sales machine, they know exactly how each stage, how long that takes. But they forget to actually add all the research time where customers are anonymous and actually like still trying to understand what you do. And it's part of the same journey. I think that's my point,
Kathleen (21:39): Right? That famous statistic, everybody cites that people get 75% of the way through their buying journey before they want to speak to a sales person or whatever that number is.
Steffen (21:48): Yeah. And so like the reason why this is so important is that a mistake I made a ton of times in my, in my old job was I was trying to judge my ad spend in the same month that I made the investment. Even though I know that the average journey is maybe six months or so, but it was all I had kind of say, okay, I spent this money and we made this money this month, but it's, it's a ridiculous thing to do because the number you pull up is vanity. So what were you able to prove with this is that we can help people actually understand when they can judge an experiment. If the average journey is like, let's say 160 days, you cannot do the confusion after 60 days or, or, or the sorts of that. And also kind of for us, marketing people the CEO cannot come in November and say, Hey, you need to impact the budget this year, because I actually know my time to revenue is 160 days or so. So if you want me to impact this year, we need to start that investment a lot earlier.
Kathleen (22:53): Oh, that's so interesting because that is a mistake I see people making a lot is trying pay-per-click ads and deciding within 30 days that they're not working. I can't tell you how many times. I used to own an agency. So I I've seen a lot of different companies, I've been, you know, in a lot of companies Google analytics. I'm now in house myself. But so often I see people try it for just a short amount of time, 30, 60 days. And then they conclude pay-per-click advertising doesn't work for me, you know?
Steffen (23:27): The problem as well to that is that it's not going to hurt the first month because you've sort of stuffed the funnel then like three months go by and you realize, Hey, we're not getting any SQLs now because it takes 90 days to become an SQL. For example.
Kathleen (23:46): You've got to know that it is so important to know what your leading indicators are for pipeline. And I mean, I feel like in sales that's a little bit easier cause I used to be in sales also. And, and I knew, for example, when I was in sales, that if I didn't do a certain number of like initial, we call them exploratory calls. If I didn't have enough exploratory calls in a given week two to three months later, I wasn't going to hit my target for closed one deals in marketing. We do a much poorer job of that. And I think because it's less straightforward and you know, harder to measure. So I think it's really interesting that you you're able to pinpoint that time to revenue and give marketers a better sense of like what they need to do now. And if they're not doing it, what the effect is going to be in that future timeframe.
Steffen (24:35): And if there's another thing to preach around, this is also that the granularity matters when you're looking at your pipeline, meaning that it's kind of vanity. Let's say you're judged on delivering a hundred MQLs per month. Then you don't just want to increase that a hundred MQLs to 150 MQLs. You want to look at who actually moved on and become, became a sales qualified lead. And then you want to granularly understand each of those, let's say 25 journeys. Where did they come from? Was it specific ads, specific content or something else? And then you want to focus on increasing the amount of SQLs or basically the accounts that kind of go all the way through your pipeline. You want to repeat the success of those campaigns and the new one is stop everything else almost because that's wasting your own money. And it's wasting also the salespeople's time,
Kathleen (25:37): For sure, like knowing which types of leads are the best and then turning up the dial on those.
Steffen (25:43): It's kind of, I think most sales people like say sales leaders and CEOs are saying, they look at the spreadsheet and say we had 50 SQLs. Give me 50 more. And then, then you just scale your whole spend to try to hit that overall number, but you just waste so much money if you have no, if you don't understand the kind of granularity that is driving the specific SQLs.
Kathleen (26:09): Well, and I think part of the problem, I was just talking about this with somebody. Part of the problem is that so many marketers are judged by the number of MQLs they're able to deliver. When in reality they should be judged on the same thing sales is, which is revenue at the end of the day. Revenue growth. Because the incentive, if you're judging marketing on MQLs, is for marketing to send over everything. And half of it could be garbage. I was having this conversation and we were talking about like, sometimes you, you know, marketing will send over a lead that's like, Oh, this person downloaded an ebook. Well, that is not a person who's ready to be called by sales. Like not at all. If you're being judged on revenue, you're more likely as a marketer to say, okay, this person only downloaded an ebook. Let's hold off. Let's make sure we're nurturing them really well and push them to become a hand raiser. And then once they've raised their hand, let's send them over. But absolutely reverse incentive in place the way I think a lot of companies incent marketers.
Steffen (27:15): Very much agree. I'd like to see, I think we will see, I would rephrase it. The thing I think we should see marketing wanting to go to SQL focus or like later stage pipeline focus. Of course there are some parts of the deals that they are not in control of, but you want to be tracking them onwards from MQL to like, are they actually really quality leads? The ones you sent through?
Kathleen (27:42): Yeah, for sure. And it's funny because we started this conversation talking about like sales and marketing, kind of sometimes being adversarial and wanting to take credit for things. And I think this, this almost comes full circle and brings us back to that because sales and marketing are both being judged based on revenue, as opposed to MQLs, SQLs, all of that. And if I also sort of believe that like compensation for both should be tied to revenue, if everybody's being judged on the same metric, then all of a sudden there's no need for anybody to claim credit. Everybody's getting credit based on the same number. So you, you row together as a team, right?
Steffen (28:24): Actually I have a few customers who trust our data so much that they're starting to assign compensation to the marketers based on the attribution models, like are marketing actually starting journeys that ended up converting like three months later. So that's radical, but they are judged on whether they actually just have these first touches on the deals that actually end up becoming like actual signed deals.
Kathleen (28:50): That's interesting. What about influence? Are they compensated on their influenced revenue too?
Steffen (28:56): Not that I think, but they're also pretty radical in the thinking, but I like that it's kind of the they're so data-driven that they want to reward the market system that sense.
Kathleen (29:06): See, it goes back to what I said in the beginning, which is that nobody in the C-suite cares about marketing influenced revenue. I just haven't found anybody yet. Marketers love it, but leaders don't.
Steffen (29:18): And I think this is also kind of, if you want to be taken seriously as a marketer, as a marketer, you want to, you need to have the narrative, you need to be able to explain why, what you do becomes revenue, because then it's, it's a lot harder to let you go during a pandemic. If you're actually delivering, like, let's say 70% of all deals marketing touched or something like that.
Kathleen (29:45): Well, I love that point that because heads of marketing, CMOs, VPs of marketing, have the shortest tenure of any position in the C-suite. And so anything that can help us justify our existence and keep us around longer is a good thing.
Steffen (30:03): So incredibly complex to be a marketing leader, because one day they're shouting leads and then your day it's like, we need to new have a new branding, a new position or something like that.
Kathleen (30:15): Everybody thinks they're a marketer, right?
Steffen (30:20): So also super different kind of, I think my strong side. So the more like numbers serving my marketing, which makes me struggle sometimes when it's about like communication and positioning and those sorts of things. So I guess did the challenges too. I can now I'm the, I'm the founder, but for markets this out that they really need to be explicit about what they're good at and what the CEOs can expect when they hire you as a marketing leader. Like I'm not going to do the perfect branding campaign. I'm looking to do stuff that drives revenue or, or the opposite,
Kathleen (30:56): Right. Or, or if I'm weak in this area, we're going to have to be ready to hire somebody. Good to support me. Yeah, absolutely. Well, we're going to switch gears for a minute here cause we're coming up on our time and I want to make sure I have a chance to ask you a couple of questions that I always ask all of my guests. So the first one is, you know, this podcast is all about inbound marketing. Is there a particular company or individual that you think is really setting the gold standard for what it means to be a great inbound marketer these days?
Steffen (31:29): So now by me being Danish I think I can throw a company out there that you haven't heard of before. Normally I would say like Intercom or Segment or something like that who do superior content, but there's a Danish company called Sleeknote where I'm a huge fan of their continent, their CMO is called Emil. And they've produced kind of the thorough content that like makes you feel bad about to continue to do it yourself. So precise and so like dense and rich and yeah. Check out their blog. I think that's fantastic.
Kathleen (32:09): I'll definitely check that out. And I always love when I get answers to that question and it's a company I haven't heard of before. So thank you for bringing Sleeknote to my attention. Second question is, digital marketing changes so quickly and I always hear marketers saying that one of their biggest challenges, it's so hard to keep up with everything. So how do you personally keep yourself educated and, and stay on the cutting edge of everything with digital marketing?
Steffen (32:37): I think for me, it's the, the newsletter from growthhackers.com, which is kind of a weekly digest of the top posts in there. I think nowadays, it's the five best posts that they share. It's Monday evening when it comes out. And I think that's the most kind of cutting edge stuff that I see. And I think I've reached, I don't read many blog posts anymore because I've reached the kind of an experience level where I know that the basic tactics of most of the stuff, but in there I still like get "Oh, that I haven't seen before. And I want to implement that ASAP."
Kathleen (33:18): Yeah. I'm going to have to take a look at that. I have, I switched roles recently. And so my email changed and I haven't been getting the growth hackers emails, but it is good stuff. And you're right. Like when you reach a certain point in your career, it becomes harder to find content that makes you go like, wow, that's really cool. I didn't know that.
Steffen (33:37): So I've also like recently switched from like being a marketing leader to like marketing and sales leader. So like now I'm back to reading books, like High Quality Prospecting, Predictable Revenue and all that kind of stuff. So within sales, I feel I still have a lot, a lot of stuff to catch on. So there I'm actually willing to, to open the books again, but within marketing, I feel pretty comfortable about a bunch of stuff.
Kathleen (34:04): That's great. Well, growth hackers is a good one. All right. If somebody is listening and they want to learn more about Dreamdata or they want to connect with you online, they might have a question, what's the best way for them to do that?
Steffen (34:16): I think LinkedIn is where I'm the most active. I read everything on Twitter, but just reach out on LinkedIn. That's, that's a good spot. And the marketing innovation that we do, you can read on the Dreamdata.io blog to follow that I put out pieces there once in a while as well.
Kathleen (34:35): Fantastic. And I'll put links to all of that in the show notes. So head there if you want to check out the Dreamdata website and blog, or if you want to connect with Steffen on LinkedIn. And if you're listening and you learned something new or you enjoyed this episode, consider heading to Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice and leaving the podcast a review, that's how other people hear about us. And if you know somebody who's doing amazing inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork because I would love to make them my next guest. Thank you so much Steffen. This was a lot of fun.
Steffen (35:11): It was a big pleasure to be here. Thank you, Kathleen.