Marketing

8 Ways to Get Started with Marketing Attribution

Where do leads and sales come from? In this post, dozens of marketers share their advice for getting marketing attribution right.

Archita Sharma Archita Sharma on September 10, 2020 • 12 minute read

Where do sales come from?

As its most basic, this is what marketing attribution aims to answer––it helps marketing and sales teams better understand the specific activities that actually drive results.

So, that all sounds good. But, how do you actually report on it? How do you actually get started? We asked a bunch of marketers to find out.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the following:

What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution or multi-touch attribution is a way to learn the ROI of the marketing channels you are using to get potential customers.

Put another way, marketing attribution tells you how a customer discovered your product or service in the first place.

Was it a specific landing page? Blog post? Facebook advertisement?

Marketing attribution helps us understand which campaigns actually drive results.

What are Marketing Attribution Models? 

A marketing attribution model shows you the touchpoints of channels your prospects come across before buying from you. This helps you understand the key points that are encouraging conversions.

There are 6 attribution models that businesses typically use:

  1. First interaction
  2. Last interaction
  3. Last non-direct click
  4. Linear
  5. Time decay
  6. Position based

There isn’t a ‘best’ marketing attribution model that fits all businesses. Each attribution model runs on a hypothesis that you’ve set for your business.

Here is what the experts we surveyed shared, and how they do it.

8 Ways for Measuring Marketing Attribution

In short, here’s what the experts we surveyed had to share:

  1. Use marketing attribution tools and plugins
  2. Single-touch attribution model
  3. Implement the last touch model
  4. Using the time decay attribution model
  5. Use the Closed-loop reporting approach
  6. Apply the custom-attribution model
  7. Use multiple attribution models
  8. Hear from the users

1. Use Marketing Attribution Tools and Plugins

Attribution is made much easier these days with the number of software solutions out there that help. We asked contributors to share some of the best marketing attribution tools they’re using. 

marketing attribution tools

Jacob Lundy of Leighton Interactive explains, “Having a tool that can layout out every stage of what happened. Did this person click on your tracking URL link from your ABM message on LinkedIn and become a contact? If so, how does that marketing look different from contacts coming through an organic search? “

“The closer you can get to measuring accurate marketing attribution, the better you can tailor your content to their specific needs.”

Matt Woicik of Digital Marketing Extreme, recommends a plugin for marketing attribution.

On your website, you might have a website form to have visitors enter contact information or request more information. The form will typically send the information to you as an email. But, there is no marketing attribution with the email. However, if you use Campaign Tracker for WordPressby HelpForWP, you can add different marketing attributes.”

So, how does this work?

“The WordPress plugin allows you to add fields for Google Analytics UTM tracking fields like Source, Medium, and Campaign. These values will be added to the email that is sent from the website form. You can also add the GCLID variable from Google Ads. The presence of this value will let you know that the email was a result of a Google Ad,” says Woicik.

Robin Madelain of Ranksoldier International suggests another attribution tool that works like a charm for mobile (device marketing) attribution. 

Out of many tools which contribute to marketing attribution, ‘AppsFlyer’ tops the rank of being the most trusted platform to achieve, measure, and elevate app user acquisition plans for mobile for high and loyal Return on investment(ROI). It’s translucent and even-handed. It generates compelling effects in B2C businesses, gaming, and retail, etc. AppsFlyer works like a hybrid while you are performing monitoring of mobile apps and mobile attribution.”

And Shoumo Ganguly of Obligent Consulting, suggests Eventbrite. “I find Eventbrite tracking links are great to attribute traffic and conversion,” says Ganguly.

2. Single-Touch Marketing Attribution Model

Single-touch attribution models equal to fewer efforts. It can be either working with the first touch or last touch model.

Jennifer Willy of Etia suggests, “There are various models that would work for your business model. One of the simplest and widely used models is the Single-Touch Attribution model. Generally, it is overlooked by marketers because of its simple operation and lack of complexities in comparison to other models. But its pros include affordable and easy implementation for start-ups.”

3. Implement the Last Touch Marketing Attribution Model

“It depends on the marketing method, but in general, last touch attribution works the best for us,” says Stefan Smulders of Expandi.io.

While some may prefer the first-touch model, it clearly depends on the type of marketing and your company goals. Here’s what experts have to say on when to use the last-touch model.

Alex Birkett from Omniscient Digital shares a tip, “If you’re not running a ton of paid ads and if you’re a relatively small business, worrying too much about attribution modeling is probably a mistake. Just use simple last touch (or last non-direct click, like used in Google Analytics) and look at your top-line business metrics. 

However, if you’re running tons of multi-channel campaigns and have dozens of potential conversion or signup paths, look into data-driven models (the premium version of Google Analytics includes algorithmic modeling, or you can code your own using Markov chains in R or Python).”

Editor’s note: Looking to track your Google Analytics metrics under one dashboard in a customized fashion? Here’s a free Google Analytics template by Databox to your rescue! 

Databox Google Analytics dashboard

Sam Olmsted of DC Social agrees and points out why the last-touch model works the best for them, “The most effective way to measure marketing attribution is through the Last Interaction model where the last touchpoint a customer has with a company receives the credit for the sale.”

“We find that this model provides us with the most up to date information about a customer’s buying behavior and allows us to tweak our strategies to make sure that the last touchpoint happens sooner and sooner for each customer.”

Related: How to Measure Blog Attribution Using Google Analytics

4. Using the Time Decay Marketing Attribution Model

In the time decay attribution model, each user activity is credited along preference given to ‘when’ the event takes place. 

Melanie Musson, CarInsuranceComparison, opines this is the simplest when you’re looking to get started with marketing attribution. 

“This is model is simple. It may not be the most accurate, but it is easy to understand and good for beginners. Once you grow familiar with attribution, you can work toward Custom Attribution. Custom Attribution is best for experts but can be a bit dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing,” says Musson.

5. Use the Closed-Loop Reporting Approach

Closed-loop Reporting by its name means tracking all the metrics that close the buyer’s cycle from discovering a product to becoming a customer. The data that you gather from this, can be used for your marketing attribution. 

Why?

Alejandra Melara SmartBug Media explains, “It allows both, your marketing and sales team to have full visibility of your data, from prospect to deal closed. It ensures that you have everything stored in one single source of data and it allows us, marketers, to connect all our marketing efforts back to revenue connecting every lead, opportunity, and customer to their first point of contact (first marketing campaign) with the company.”

6. Apply Custom Marketing Attribution Models

“Custom attribution is a great way to measure attribution for a business that already has a strong knowledge of the touchpoints that drive their conversions.”

Casey Dawson Acadian Windows and Siding shares, “Through a custom attribution model, we are able to name which touchpoints have been the most useful in driving conversions according to our business analytics. We then apply different levels of credit to various touchpoints based on this data, ensuring that the most valuable touchpoints on our site are placed at a higher value than others. If you’re looking for a marketing attribution approach based on relevant business data, custom attribution is the most accurate way to go.”

“Measuring marketing attribution is complicated and never perfect. Marketing attribution is the practice of tracking and evaluating all the marketing touchpoints that contribute most to your business in driving revenue. Analyzing this can help you tweak and optimize your sales funnel to drive even more sales. But there’s no ‘right’ way of measuring marketing attribution; you must see what suits your business and aligns with its goals,” adds Srish Agrawal of A1 Future Technologies Pvt. Ltd

Why custom attribution models are preferred?

“Custom-built attribution models based on individual touchpoint value weights is the only way to ensure the attribution is correct,” says Egor Matveev of inSegment LLC

“This model enables you to attribute different credits to multiple touchpoints. And you can perform this based on analytics that you consider the most vital. For e.g., if you find out that your marketing Webinars are driving more value, you can attribute more credit to that marketing channel.” 

“This is mainly a strategy used by advanced marketers with a deep understanding of the actual value of different marketing touchpoints. The custom attribution process must be framed out of consistent data, and not mere assumption.”

“As assumption could foster erroneous credit attribution. I do vouch for this model, as it is a custom pattern that is aligned with your unique sales pipeline. And such a model will only yield accuracy more than any other standard model,” says Agrawal. 

Jenny Coupe from ActiveCampaign explains in-depth why custom attribution will help. 

“Most companies start with a single touch attribution model, based on the first or last customer interaction. This is problematic because it gives full credit for a purchase to a single point of engagement, which is incomplete since the customer often has many pre-purchase interactions.”

“Instead, a weighted model, applying percentages to different touches throughout the journey based on time of engagement or importance of engagement, is more accurate.”

“One way to start is to apply a weight of 40% to the first touch, 40% to the last touch, and 20% to everything in between, optimizing these percentages further as you learn more about how your customer’s purchase.”

“Another important factor in managing attribution is standardizing fields to track engagement in your CRM, often through a field called “member status” that reflects the engagement of the campaign member.”

“For example, a webinar campaign may have member status values such as invited, registered, or attended. These member status fields can then be factored into your attribution model and different weighting can be applied based on the likelihood that the action causes a purchase.”

“In this case, you may decide to apply less weight to someone who registered for a webinar versus someone who attended the webinar. Most importantly, ensure fields and data are standardized across your systems to ensure you are comparing apples-to-apples and enabling data-driven decisions.”

7. Use Multiple Marketing Attribution Models

“Viewing different attribution models allows you to identify which channels are most effective in the initial acquisition of new customers versus those that bring users back to the site to convert.”

Two birds with one arrow situation, right?

Oeuyown Kim of Portent suggests, “Analyze conversions through multiple attribution models to discover when certain marketing efforts might play a role in a conversion path. Neglecting to do this analysis could cause you to cut budgets for channels that acquire large volumes of new users who are likely to convert in a subsequent session.”

Bonnie Crater of Full Circle Insights also suggests “Instead of picking a single attribution model, use multiple attribution models to best understand how your marketing campaigns are performing” 

“For example, if you’re trying to fill the top of the funnel, a first touch model can be useful to see which campaigns are driving the newest leads that reach a closed/won stage. If you’re trying to attract a particular role, a CIO for example, build your attribution models to reward campaigns where CIOs are responding.

You may have a more nuanced strategy where perhaps you want to give some weight to all successful outcomes, but more weight to campaigns that drive sales engagement and, at the same time, attract software developers.

Review the information by individual campaign or group the campaigns in useful ways such as campaign type (e.g. channel). Stack rank the results so you can see what is performing the best vs. what’s performing the worst and then reallocate plans and budget accordingly.”

Pro Tip: Use marketing attribution in combination with funnel metrics.

Crater suggests, “Don’t forget to use attribution with funnel metrics which measures your operations. Often, funnel metrics will identify an area where the team’s process is significantly under-performing, and simply tweaking the process can create enormous efficiencies. 

By using attribution models in combination with funnel metrics, you’ll start to understand how your marketing is working, you’ll be in a better position to demonstrate marketing’s contributions and optimize campaign outreach.

Additionally, it’s key to connect your CRM and marketing tools together so that sales and marketing teams can work more efficiently together.”

Related: How to Create & Measure Your Content Marketing Funnel

8. Get in Touch with Customers

If you’re fairly new and tight on budget, and if it’s easy for you – getting in touch with your customers to know more about them helps. This is not a scalable method but worth a try.

Sean Si of SEO Hacker says, “Ask from users about the channels that they use to engage with your business and this will help you naturally see how you can train your efforts to that channel.”

Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap! We hope this addressed ways you can implement the best attribution model for your business.

There’s no perfect model for marketing attribution and hence, we’ve broken it down for you: when to prefer first touch, last-touch, custom model or go for a marketing automation tool. 

Happy Attributing 🙂

About the author
Archita Sharma
Archita Sharma Archita helps B2B SaaS businesses with marketing (with a focus on content). She is happiest while helping founders unleash the power of content marketing and telling stories about her weekend artistic cafe visits!
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