image from game of thrones finale

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched the Game of Thrones finale, this article isn't for you.

The Game of Thrones series finale has me thinking about the future of marketing. Let’s be real: it’s not like there wasn’t room for some additional thought coming out of that last episode.

Here we go.

A new marketing world order is coming. No, it’s not Winter. And apparently it's not democracy (sorry, Samwell).

What next-generation customer KPIs should we be looking at in this new age? Should they stand siloed by channel and source, like the North? Or should they represent the whole, unified and working together toward a Night Walker and tyrant-free future?

The answer has everything to do with the fact that we're now able to know what we couldn’t before. In GoT, it was Bran’s foresight of a sharp, pointy thing that did the trick (OK, a few sharp, pointy things). In marketing, it’s a powerful new attribution model.

Your lead-focused approach is Daenerys Targaryen. Once the revered Mother of Dragons, in the end she just won’t win. Really, really won’t win.

Now we have Bran: Intelligent. Unbiased. Predictive. Does a whole lot of … processing.

I am talking, of course, about AI and machine learning, and specifically how those two things are rewriting how marketing can demonstrate and iterate on the most important metric in the modern marketing age: Contribution to revenue.

Related Article: How to Deliver Credible Marketing Pipeline Forecasts

What B2B Marketing Looks Like Today

This is the reality of a B2B marketing organization today:

  • Bigger buying committees (averaging seven people).
  • Longer sales cycles.
  • Increasing number of channels.
  • Relevant data across an average of 13 data sources (online and offline).
  • A whopping 10 to 20 tools in the average tech stack.

B2B marketing is more complex — and expensive — than ever. If you’re still focused primarily on leads, you’re in a losing battle to gain consistent and reliable momentum (Hello, first 70 minutes of Battle at Winterfell).

Think about it. You’re tracking all sorts of things: clicks, downloads, MQLs. You come in to meetings boasting higher metrics month after month. But: Your CEO/CRO doesn’t care about vanity metrics! Over time, if there is no clear connection between your efforts and an increase in revenue, your methods lose their trust. Ultimately, YOU lose their trust.

There’s a reason CMOs have the shortest tenure in the C-suite.

Related Article: Top CMO Challenges and Focus Areas for 2020

Chain-Based Attribution: Marketing That Wargs

Two KPIs that matter in the age of revenue marketing are your customer acquisition cost (CAC), and your customer lifetime value (LTV). Both show marketing velocity and are true indicators for success and failure over time.

You can only show that by taking a holistic approach to marketing. You’ll still be measuring metrics, of course. But the focus must shift to marketing comprising integrated data across sources, automated workflows, and a demonstrated understanding of how to align and build trust with sales.

Siloed data, disparate systems, lack of operations training, long and complex IT/BI projects, you name it. Marketers are drowning in data and starving for insights.

marketing attribution metrics

Best-in-class marketers are moving away from measuring touches, assigning weights and giving credit to channels. Those events in and of themselves don’t provide end-to-end account journeys. Revenue marketers start with the business outcome in mind and work backwards, analyzing Closed-Won/Closed-Lost.

This new attribution model is known as chain-based attribution (CBA).

Here’s how CBA compares with a traditional multi-touch attribution model:


Old/ Multi-Touch Attribution

New/ Chain-Based Attribution



Chains/conversion paths

Reports On


Contribution to revenue


Output-based (clicks, etc)

Outcome-based (engagement, revenue)


Heuristic/Business Rules (subject to human biases)



Probabilistic (using Markov Chains, based on Closed-Won, Closed-Lost conversion path analysis)

Campaign Data

Most solutions are native to Salesforce and require the use of Salesforce Campaigns and cost fields.

Powered by a B2B Customer Data Platform.

Supports both Salesforce and virtual campaigns, can pull cost data and calculate ROI using native connectors to Google Ads, LinkedIn, ABM ads, etc.  

CRM Integration

When reporting on online hosted content with various URLs it requires “bucketed fields” in Salesforce, which has its limitations.


No Salesforce activities tracking.

Uses a standalone Campaign Manager to map campaigns between web analytics, CRM, and Marketing Automation software.


Auto-tracks Salesforce activities.



Identity Management

Requires email ID

Can match anonymous to known early in the buyer’s journey (using identity graph partners)

Use Cases

Small marketing spend, two to three channels, lead vs. account-based, heavy Salesforce use.

Bigger marketing spend across few channels, digital and social campaigns, need to match online and offline data with customizable attribution model and to count touchpoints across leads and contacts.

In addition, companies with a very content-centric approach would benefit from chain-based attribution.

Related Article: What Can You Do With a Customer Data Platform?

Customer Data Platform: The Bran We Could Have Used Before

Chain-based attribution, as described above, is available only because of advancements in technology, namely the customer data platforms (CDP). A CDP is designed specifically with marketing in mind, and is architected with machine learning and AI to integrate siloed data, create dashboards, and automate workflows in ways other tools in the martech stack cannot.

It’s incredibly powerful, and it is paving a new path forward for marketing and sales teams. Hi there, Bran.

Using automated machine learning to work faster and with smaller, less-than-perfect data sets, the CDP can reverse engineer Closed-Won/Closed-Lost account journeys and surface insights and recommendations on the right marketing mix of channels, touches, and cadence, based on the account characteristics.

Take the case of a Fortune 500 tech company that couldn’t find a way to determine the ROI of its multi-million dollar annual customer event. They didn’t know whether to cut back or increase spend going forward. With the switch to a CBA model they easily determined which attendees and engagements at the event were associated with closed deals, and made budget allocation decisions for the following year with confidence. The CDP also integrated event data into overall customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value metrics. 

A CDP is smarter, faster, unbiased and nets more accurate attribution results you can use to make better marketing decisions. Lead-focused marketing is going the way of the Iron Throne. It still stands today, but there’s a dragon in our midst with deep feels and a flame in its belly.

Where will you stand in the new marketing world order?