Updated by Eric Westerkamp
Summary: Learn about the differences between attribution solutions that are stand-alone and live outside of Salesforce.com versus ones that are embedded directly in the CRM.
Here at CaliberMind we are often asked by Marketing teams what is the difference between how CaliberMind handles Attribution and other tools that are embedded directly into a CRM, most often Salesforce.com.
The reality is that there are a lot of core differences, both in approach and also in capability and functionality. In this article we will talk a bit about the differences and the core advantages and disadvantages of both.
The biggest difference between the two models is where the information is stored and how the event graph is created and managed. CaliberMind is, at it's heart a Customer Data Platform (CDP). A CDP is essentially the combination of a data-warehouse, integrations, workflow engine and analytics.
The way an Attribution system works is to understand, at a high level, all of the events that are relevant to the marketing organization. Those events then have to be mapped to a company, a person, a date and an activity. There then needs to be some way to relate those activities to specific actions from marketing, say an Email campaign, a webinar, a marketing event. Finally this event has to be linked to some core metric - say pipeline creation, won deals, or even increased engagement.
With all that information an Attribution platform can start to create models that show you how much credit any given Campaign or marketing event is being given, based upon the rules implemented within the Attribution platform.
So, in an Attribution platform that is embedded within a CRM, like Salesforce.com, all of that information and data needs to be stored inside of the CRM itself. The good news is that some of the information is already their like Opportunities, Contacts, Leads, Accounts and Campaigns. However, the data model itself does not relate the information directly into an event graph so that needs to be created inside the platform - usually by adding lots of date and time-stamp fields, and deploying custom code into the system.
A CDP based Attribution platform works very differently. Instead of relying on the data models of Salesforce and requiring all Attribution related information be stored in objects in Saleforce, it instead creates a data-warehouse for all the information from all the relevant systems and builds up the event graph there. For example a CDP would connect directly to Salesforce.com, the Marketing Automation Platform, Google Analytics, your web-sites and other data sources (like Financial, Customer Service, etc..) and pull all the needed information into the data store. There the CDP creates the event graph, a timeline of all the events for all the contacts and leads across all the platforms. Attribution models are then created on top of that data.
Advantages of a CDP/Data-Warehouse based Attribution Platform
- A Campaign in a CDP is not restricted to Salesforce.com Campaigns - One of the biggest differences between an embedded solution and a CDP based solution is the reliance on Salesforce Campaigns as the primary object managing relationships. In an embedded solution everything has to end up as a Campaign member, inside of a Salesforce Campaign. All attribution models are built on top of that data. A CDP platform is much more flexible and can create campaigns out of just about anything - including Salesforce Campaigns, but also Campaigns from your Marketing Automation Platform, virtual campaigns based on web-page visits, UTM Source and Campaigns, or even landing page/forms visits for known visitors that don't submit or view ungated content.
- A CDP can store data indefinitely - A Data-warehouse, by it's definition, stores all of the event and data inside tables. No data is ever deleted, just appended too. This means that the information is never lost. So if your Marketing Automation Platform or Salesforce.com platform does not keep data after a certain period of time (say 9-18 months) it would be lost forever. With a CDP that information is kept around. This is especially important for companies that have longer sales cycles, say ones that are 12-18 months themselves.
- A CDP can see events not in Salesforce - A CDP has direct connections into not only Salesforce, but also the Marketing Automation Platform, Web-site, Google Analytics, Enrichment Tools, outside data-vendors, and many more sources. Because of this the marketing related events that the CDP can see are typically broader than the typical Salesforce.com based platform. For example:
ex. Website Views- The CDP can place a tag on the web-site and see all events that occur there. This means that everything from anonymous traffic, through intent data and web-page views can be included (if needed) inside the attribution model.
ex. Content - With a CDP it is easy to classify Content Assets as if they were a campaign. For example individual views of ungated content can be treated as if it were a campaign and Attribution credited to it.
ex. MAP Campaigns - Not all campaigns are synced to Salesforce.com. A CDP can see campaigns inside the MAP directly and add them to the attribution model alongside campaigns in Salesforce. For example every email campaign may not mapped to Salesforce.com, but a CDP could pick them up and show them directly in the Attribution model.
ex. Blog Posts - Many companies use blog posts to help drive traffic, but it is difficult to attribution that as the content is often not behind a gate. A CDP can see known and unknown visitor events to the posts and assign them attribution credit.
- Integrate with other platforms like google spreadsheets - Often there is information relevant to creating an Attribution model that is not stored or managed within Salesforce. A classic example is cost and budget information related to campaigns. A CDP can pull that information in directly, say from a Google Spreadsheet, and use it when displaying the ROI for different campaigns or calculating the Cost per Lead for a UTM model.
- Does not require extra licenses in SF - The licensing for a CDP is often self-contained, for example when purchased everyone from Marketing to Sales and Finance can get direct access without incurring extra costs. Salesforce.com embedded platforms have their own licensing scheme, but also require anyone that want's to access their reporting and data have a Salesforce.com user license and access. For some organizations this means adding Salesforce.com licenses for all the members of the marketing team.
- Can plug in third party BI tools - Because a CDP is built directly on top of a data-warehouse, like AWS Redshift, customers can often get direct access to the underlying data and models. This makes if very easy to replicate reporting and models being ruin in the CDP to third-party BI tools like Tableau, Looker and Microsoft BI.
Advantages of a Salesforce.com based Attribution Platform
- You can leverage Salesforce.com reporting - Tools that are embedded directly inside Salesforce.com can directly leverage Salesforce report building and dashboard tools. So for marketing teams that are already building out reporting in Salesforce and are familiar with the tools and dashboards the learning curve for creating new reports is much smaller. To replicate the same functionality a CDP would have to push some of the attribution data back down into Salesforce.
- Great if all data and information is managed in SF Campaign objects - If you are managing all of your campaigns and campaign members diligently within Salesforce.com already then an embedded tool can pick that up easily and leverage it. For teams that are very Salesforce focused this means that setup and installation time could be reduced.
- If all data is synced to SF does then no new integrations required - If all of your data is already synced to Salesforce.com from your marketing automation platform, web-site, and other third party tools - using an embedded application could simplify the administration of connections and integrations.
- Does not use any SF API calls - A CDP based tool needs to make API calls into Salesforce to retrieve the information. Now this is often not a huge load, but does incur extra Bulk API and REST calls. An embedded solution should not require the extra API calls as all the data work is done inside of Salesforce.
The last big difference between a CDP based solution and embedded is focus. Embedded solutions are almost always 100% focused on solving the Attribution and data-analytics problem. A CDP typically is used for a broader set of capabilities including Lead to Account Matching, Automated Enrichment, ABM Based Engagement Scoring, Segmentation and Campaign Management - alongside the data and analytics capabilities for Attribution.
If you are looking strictly for Attribution and all of your data is already inside Salesforce.com and built out on existing campaigns then an embedded solution may be perfect for you. If you are looking at data that may not be inside your CRM already, need more than just Attribution functionality, are looking to see Engagement Scores alongside Attribution or have campaigns that are not 100% tied to Salesforce campaigns then a CDP based Attribution solution may be the better fit.