Hot Takes

Attribution isn’t Broken: It’s Misunderstood

Half of the blog posts published online today dramatically like to claim that attribution is broken. It’s not broken, though; it’s just misunderstood.

This was the opinion shared by Perry Nalevka in his Hot Takes Live talk. Perry is the CEO of Penguin Strategies, which is a growth agency that helps tech brands scale fast. 

He shared that a recent mini-event yielded the following results:

  • 605 page views with 50 form submissions and 19 new contacts coming from direct traffic
  • 212 page views, 40 form submissions, and 23 new contacts coming from organic social
  • 128 page views, 30 form submissions, and 13 new contacts from email marketing 
  • 96 page views, one form submission, and 0 new contacts from referrals
  • 7 page views with no form submissions or new contacts from organic search 

This was according to the attribution software, however, which, as Perry says, sometimes is just attribution speak for “I don’t know.”

After diving through the results, they discovered that over 50% of the people had actually heard of the event through what they call “dark social media,” like a WhatsApp message or a Slack channel. Those users saw the link and then shared, clicked, and converted. 

So attribution software isn’t giving us the full picture. There’s no getting around that. 

But it’s not broken. We just need to know how to operate within the misunderstood and often confusing system.

To address the crisis of disconnection, Perry says that we need to look at the following:

  • Systems—we’ve put together so much tech over the last 3-5 years that has helped us become more efficient while also muddling some of the data in terms of data connection 
  • People—people are disconnected, with reduced in-person meetings
  • Customers—there can be a disconnect between brands and potential customers when it comes to finding meaningful value 

Most teams focus on output, with differentiated DemandGen messaging and a content plan. They’ll then put together a DemandGen strategy and content plan based on audience insights research and invest in remarkable content creation.

Finally, they run “DemandGen” campaigns that are measured by page views, time on the site, and the number of returning visits to your site instead of just optimizing for leads. 

The missing piece, though, is regulating audience insights research (AIR). This is what Penguin Strategies uses:

Attribution Isn't Broken: It's Misunderstood: Slide Of The Penguin Audience Insights Research (Air)

The idea here is that you start at the very beginning before starting content creation. This means understanding your true ideal customer profile (ICP) in depth before you start testing content to see what sticks. 

And as the economy recedes, you can expand into new ICPs quickly by interviewing them, understanding their worldview, and really grasping what they need that you can deliver.

Once you have that, you can look at which problems you want to solve and what content you want to create, and then the attribution comes back into play while you assess qualitative and quantitative data surrounding your audience.

And when it comes to non-sales outreach, the following best practices are a good place to start:

  • Start a podcast
  • Interview customers or other experts for your blog
  • Have a peer group
  • Have an ongoing webinar series you can repurpose
  • Or, the classic, just ask for help! 

This is a new approach—but it’s an effective one in Perry’s experience. And as his favorite hockey player (Wayne Gretzky) put it, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” 

Want more? Join 48 of the top SaaS leaders on February 16th, 2023, as they dish out hot takes and surprising insights on product-led growth, RevOps, marketing, and sales. Save your seat now!