What do ambitious and successful people always talk about? Their goals.

In creating the State of Pipeline Marketing report we wanted to understand the goals and priorities of B2B marketers who enjoy the highest return on ad spend.

We asked marketers to indicate their marketing ROI, and then pivoted our data around goals, attribution models, sales marketing alignment, and pipeline marketing expertise.

Our findings are pretty simple: marketers who are most effective with their ad budgets do things a little differently. Let’s explore what those best practices are.

For more reporting on our findings from the State of Pipeline Marketing, catch up on our industry comparison and article on 2016 CMO budget priorities.

The Priorities And Goals Of High Achieving B2B Marketers

First, let’s look at what B2B marketers’ goals are for next year. We asked whether they will focus on generating leads, converting leads into revenue or understanding the ROI of their activities.

We found significant goal differences between marketers whose return on marketing spend is less than 0.5x and marketers whose return is 1.5x or more.

High ROI marketers are more likely to prioritize converting leads into customers over generating more leads or more demand. Furthermore, these marketers are more focused on understanding the ROI of marketing activities.There is much to be learned from understanding the channels that are cashflow positive. Those marketers who can identify the highest performing channels and convert more leads into customers make each marketing dollar more effective.

While lead generation is focused on top-of-the-funnel prospects, pipeline marketing is understanding how to use bottom-funnel metrics to convert those leads into customers. Pipeline marketers demonstrate the benefits of prioritizing both the top and the bottom of the funnel: revenue and improved ROI from lead generation activities.

Comparing The Attribution Models Used By High and Low ROI Companies

Attribution modeling is an important component of pipeline marketing. It’s how pipeline marketers monitor the performance of their marketing channels and reduce wasted ad spend. It also allows B2B marketers to allocate budget to the channels that have a higher chance of performing with a higher ROI.

As a result, B2B pipeline marketers enjoy a greater ROI from their marketing spend.

The chart below shows the majority of B2B companies with high ROI from their marketing activities are using either a single-touch or a multi-touch attribution model.

Many companies with a lower ROI of 0.5x or less do not yet have an attribution model in place. The chart below compares the percentage of attribution models in place (or lack thereof) in high ROI and low ROI B2B companies.

High ROI companies are more likely to be using an attribution model compared to low ROI companies.

A number of factors may explain this. Sales cycle length and measurement methods vary by company and industry. Startups are more likely to invest heavily in marketing during early stages and it may take years before they make positive returns on their marketing investments.

It could be that those using an attribution model are better at measuring ROI or more focused on ROI.

There is a connection between marketing ROI and the use of an attribution model. Though, exactly how much success a marketing team can attribute to pipeline marketing and attribution modeling remains to be discussed further.

High Performing B2B Marketers Pay More Than Lip Service To Sales And Marketing Alignment

We recently wrote an article for the Heinz marketing blog and discussed the most important sales and marketing alignment topics for B2B companies.

For a topic that is no fun to discuss, it becomes relevant when we ask, “Is there a material impact when sales and marketing are aligned?”

The data suggests there may be a connection between alignment and marketing ROI. When comparing marketers who reported ROIs of greater than 1.5 we see they perceive their alignment with sales to be tightly aligned. Marketers who report returns of less than 50 cents on the dollar were more likely to report being seldomly aligned with their sales team.

Pipeline marketers use bottom-of-the-funnel metrics and revenue as the guiding metric for report and optimization. As a result, coordination with sales is strong and both teams speak the same language.

By becoming tightly aligned with sales through becoming a pipeline marketing organization (link), marketers are seeing the benefit of greater return on their marketing spend.

There may be other factors at play here. Given the subjective nature of the question, it is unclear how marketers discern the difference between “tightly aligned” and “generally aligned.” Further investigation is needed to understand what sales and marketing alignment looks like for these high performing B2B marketing teams.

Does It Pay To Be A Pipeline Marketer?


The data shows a greater percentage of high achieving B2B marketers consider themselves to be experts in pipeline marketing. In other words, they are extremely familiar with the concept of gaining full transparency in the customer journey and using that information to understand and drive revenue. It’s proof in marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

Are there other factors at play? One of the conundrums researchers face when surveying is taking into account the effect of the survey itself. Some respondents may choose the answer that is “correct” or the answer they think researchers want to hear.

Self-reporting is never foolproof.

For example, mobile apps that help track what you eat and how much you exercise are all dependent on users being honest and proactive in self-reporting. It’s always tempting to fudge the numbers. It’s like asking a grade schooler to give themselves their own grade.

This issue aside, the data shows quite a strong difference between the percentage of marketers who are extremely familiar with pipeline marketing and those that are moderately familiar.

Marketing ROI appears to be a factor that differentiates the two camps.

The Future Of Pipeline Marketing And Attribution

There are a few reasons marketers are using their current attribution model. They can be broken up into two camps: the right reasons and the most convenient reason. The data we’ve gathered from the State of Pipeline Marketing shows the most convenient reason may not be the best reason for choosing an attribution model.

While the options for the previous generation of marketers were limited by high development costs and lengthy implementation times, today’s marketers no longer have to ask themselves whether convenience and effectiveness are mutually exclusive.

Why am I bringing this up?

The data below offers a glimpse of the future of B2B marketing. Today’s pipeline marketing organizations that focus solely on the activities that generate a return — after first identifying them using attribution — are leading the way when it comes to deciding why to implement their attribution solution.

The chart below compares high and low ROI B2B companies, and breaks down percentages of marketers by why they are using their current attribution solution.

When marketers were asked why they chose their current attribution solution, the ones with the highest ROI from marketing spend were more likely have an answer, and that answer was because it accurately gives credit where it’s due.

One of the surprising takeaways from our data is that marketers with ROIs between .1 and .9 don’t know why they are using attribution modeling. This could also indicate that they are unfamiliar or not using their current solution.

We also can see that ease of implementation is a major factor in why today’s marketers chose their attribution solution. From there, there’s a slight increase in the number of marketers who chose their attribution model because it gives credit where it’s due. This increase is shown only among marketers whose ROI ranges from 1 to 1.5x and above.

A small section of marketers are realizing that marketing attribution solutions do not require a complicated implementation. These marketers report a higher return from their spending, too.

The future of pipeline marketing may be defined by a breed of marketers who can improve their marketing ROI and do so through finding an attribution solution that helps them give credit to the teams and channels that are most productive.

Read more: 13 Useful Demand Generation Ideas for B2B Marketers