The Swimming Pool, our portal to marketing hell for all the snake oil, bullshit, and overhyped trends of this wonderful industry of ours. This month, standing on the penthouse balcony overlooking the pool is Grant Johnson, veteran CMO, now plying his trade at Emburse, who’s ready to commit ‘attribution’ to its watery demise.


This month’s nomination for the Rockstar CMO Swimming Pool comes from the podcast. In an enlightening interview with an old boss of mine, Grant Johnson, now the CMO at  Emburse, he suggested ‘attribution’ for our portal to marketing hell.

Attribution? The moment we can tell sales that we made that revenue happen when the art of marketing becomes science, the sky clears, the sun shines, the bird’s tweet and probably a cherub strikes up a tune on a heavenly trumpet. Marketing might even get a mention in the ’email to all’ that rings the sales bell. And you might shed a tear as someone in sales says… thanks.

Yes, that.

Attribution, the holy grail of demonstrating the value of marketing, that like a digital Indiana Jones we are constantly searching for. Pouring years of lives looking for the map, on an obsessed mission connecting the marketing automation system to the CRM, begging for the good data, the correctly completed lead form, stuffing codes into URL’s and conducting a forensic discovery of the first marketing touch.

Uh-huh…

But hear Grant out. After all, it doesn’t matter what you find when the VP of Sales leans in, smiles, and says this deal happened as “I played golf with the buyer two years ago”.

As Grant says, we should think differently and spend less time trying to be precise with attribution, but think ‘contribution’.

After all, a sale results from many touches, some that may have happened in real life, outside the unerring digital gaze of the marketing automation machine, and cannot be attributed. Like that event sponsorship, you felt pretty good about.

Yes, continue to measure and do your data diligence, but as Grant says, measure contribution, how much an activity moved something through the pipe. Focus less on trying to say we were why it happened, but that we win and lose together, and he suggests we in marketing walk “in lockstep with the CRO and sales”.

Sales and marketing working together! So yes, in the spirit of the theme of this issue of thanks and coming together, attribution has got to go.

And as it tumbles, falling end over end, from the balcony to a splash into our portal to marketing hell, we can spend less time chasing the attribution dragon and focus on our contribution.


You can listen to the entire interview with Grant here:

You can connect with Grant on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Photo of swimming pool by Chris Benson on Unsplash


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