Marketing attribution models give Marketing and Sales teams information on the type of activity that drove a lead to perform a specific action or reach a particular milestone in the buying cycle, providing key insights on the buyer’s journey through the sales pipeline.
Because a variety of factors (including sales activity) can cause major lead events, it’s important for marketers to track conversions at multiple steps during the buyer’s journey. By doing this, marketers will be able to gather the necessary information to make data-driven recommendations for future campaigns and receive credit where credit is due.
The essentials of marketing attribution
Marketing systems that use a simple, single-touch attribution process either record data at the point a prospect is created or prior to a conversion. These first-point and last-point touches provide critical information on the success of marketing initiatives. They tell us how leads are being generated and how sales are being made. They’re also the easiest to keep track of.
Make sure your contact database includes a “Lead Source” field that records originally came from such as:
- A contact us form submission
- A tradeshow / conference
- 3rd party list purchase
- Outbound sales efforts
- A downloaded asset (case study, white paper, data sheet, etc.)
Likewise, track the last source before conversion if possible. Marketing automation programs usually log these automatically, but if you’re a small business with a much more rudimentary marketing system, these are fields you’ll have to set up and track in your CRM.
If your organization makes use of a marketing automation tool, you should go beyond the essentials, that is define conversions outside the final sale—i.e. content downloads and demo requests—and record these whenever possible.
A case for the multi-touch attribution model
Multi-touch attribution—also called w-shaped touch attribution—is a process that collects data on different lead actions and their channels. It provides insight into the value of each step to conversion, reporting on the impact of marketing and its singular efforts.
In the B2B world, an organization’s buying cycle can range from a couple days to several months and sometimes even longer. During this time, prospective customers may consume content (i.e. whitepapers, case studies, blog posts, etc.) and have continued conversations with Sales that will ultimately lead to the final purchase. Single-touch attribution models cut out the different conversion paths, or actions, a buyer can take and provide marketing attribution to a single event. This leads to missed opportunities in tracking the various marketing efforts taking place throughout the sales process.
To provide you with a better sense of what this can look like, say the Sales team uncovers a lead through outbound prospecting. They send a couple of emails, but don’t get a reply. This lead gets logged with a lead source crediting the Sales team, and gets classified as a cold lead. A few weeks later, the lead is browsing industry blogs and lands on the company’s website. They vaguely remember the company name, so they download a white paper or two, come back for a case study, and then finally contact the sales team asking for more information. When this lead and others like it convert, the marketing team can’t prove its contribution to a sale without including the actions taken in between in its ROI reporting.
Source attribution best practices
Whether you’re maintaining your database with a marketing automation tool or through manual data entry, avoid entering new values for each lead source or conversion. Sources should be segmented and standardized in a way that will allow you to report on them in the future. We recommend defining a source-by-channel taxonomy, using channel buckets such as paid ads, social media, website and further segmenting those by specific campaign or asset. In other words, track both content and channel by implementing values like “Web – Case Study XYZ” and “Social – White Paper XYZ.” This way you’ll have insights on the performance of specific content types, content channels, and individual pieces of content.
If you decide to leverage, or are currently leveraging, marketing automation tools, consider creating a recent source, an opt-in source, and an initial online source in addition to the standard lead source. These will help you keep track of the last touchpoint a lead had with your organization—the offer that enticed a subscriber to opt into communications or the path a lead took to discover your company’s online presence.
Multi-touch marketing attribution gives visibility into which channels or content—and at what order—drive the most conversions. It’s not always within the Marketing team’s means to track multiple touches, but it’s worth the effort to at least track the major events. Not only does a multi-touch model help to prove the value of marketing, it also informs future initiatives to drive future success.