What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing is hard.

It’s harder when you don’t know what works. Marketing attribution is an effective way for you and your team to accurately track where to focus, what to improve, and how to better allocate your resources.

Marketing attribution empowers digital marketing teams for better ROI, personalization, ROAS, and a shorter sales cycle.

This article covers all aspects of marketing attribution from start to finish.

What is Marketing Attribution?

Measuring success is the first step to optimize & grow. Most of the time, marketers rely on their gut or their experience- not data.

Marketing attribution is the evaluation of a customer’s prior touchpoints with a brand. It helps marketers and businesses understand which activities are working, effecting conversions the most, and how they are doing in the long term. It’s similar to a consumer research, but for your customers.

Moreover it allows digital marketers to prioritize channels, ads, and blog posts as they can understand what works and what not.

A more concrete example for marketing attribution:

You wrote 2 blog posts for the same persona last month, and the first one converted 25% more visitors into customers.

When you dig deep into your data with your analytics tool, you see that visitors who read the first blog post spent 15% percent more time on your website and interacted more compared to other visitors.

With this data, you can create more content that is similar to your first blog post.

This applies to all of your digital marketing activities, including your

  • e-books
  • blog posts
  • paid advertisement campaigns
  • influencer marketing

and more.

attribution models

Why is Attribution Important in Marketing?

Marketing attribution is important for marketers because it leads resources to be better devoted according to their return on investment. (ROI)

If marketers can accurately measure each marketing activity’s contribution to sales & growth, then they can better allocate their & team’s time, company’s resources, and manage expectations.

80% of revenue comes from 20% of leads, and marketing team’s most important role is to uncover those leads so that they can find common patterns.

Marketing attribution allows teams to uncover their ICP, target persona, and the highest quality leads who drive revenue for the company.

What is an Attribution Report?

An attribution report is an evaluation of your marketing channels and their contribution to conversions over time.

It helps you uncover your customers’ touchpoints with your company and how those touchpoints affected their decision making process.

There are a variety of different attribution models and tools to help you with accurate marketing attribution modeling.

The true value of an attribution report lies in marketing team’s decisions. It empowers digital marketing team’s decisions with accurate data on ROI, touchpoint’s role, sales cycle length, and more.

Marketers who measure marketing attribution are always a few steps ahead as they can make data-driven decisions.

attribution report

Image from Hubspot

What are the benefits of marketing attribution?

Marketing attribution is hard and costs you time and resources.

If you want to be sure about its benefits to your business, then check out the benefits of it first.

Optimized Spending

As mentioned above, marketing attribution’s core is to eliminate wasted opportunities & money of the company by allowing the marketing team find the areas to focus on.

Marketing attribution’s biggest benefit is optimizing marketing spend.

Faster Sales Cycle

Sales cycles take long if marketing team doesn’t bring high quality leads who want to buy from the company.

Sales team has a hard time speaking with those leads & trying to convert them into customers.

It’s even worse for the product team as they are trying to retain those customers for the longest possible time.

If marketing team can better allocate their time and energy for demand generation and finding the highest quality leads, everyone’s job will be easier. Thus sales cycles will be faster than ever.

Increased ROI

As the marketing team reaches the right leads at the right time & optimizing marketing activities by their ROI, ROI will increase dramatically.

Reduced Churn

Even though the number of leads will decrease by focusing on the right marketing activities, it’s not a bad thing as churn will reduce too.

Marketing team’s focus on the right leads will allow the product team to better retain them as customers.

Improve Product Development

Marketing team’s better understanding of their ICP will effect product’s development too because they will be able to get more feedback, understand their pain points better, and product team will be able to develop the features accordingly.

Personalization at Scale

Personalization will be easier as marketing team will have a focus. They will be able to personalize their content & strategy according to channel, content medium, and more.

How do you actually use measure marketing attribution?

Marketing attribution might seem like an abstract concept so far, but it really isn’t. In fact, it’s the core of analytics & everything marketers do.

To measure marketing attribution, first you need to choose an attribution model to use.

Marketing Attribution Models

Marketing attribution models assign value to touchpoints of a customer with a brand to understand the customer journey at a user level.

There are different types of marketing attribution models that you can use. Some take all touchpoints into account, some only take the last touchpoint, and some take the first touchpoint. Regardless of your choice, a good attribution model should help you understand:

  • Which touchpoint affected the conversion the most
  • Which messaging brings the highest quality leads
  • What is the ROI of your blog posts, ads, and other content
  • What is the role of brand perception
  • Which external events affected sales the most
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Single-Touch Attribution Model

There are two attribution models that take only one touchpoint into account when measuring marketing attribution: First-touch Attribution and Last-touch Attribution.

First-touch attribution assumes that the first touchpoint of the customer was the only factor for the conversion. It ignores all other touchpoints.

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Last-touch attribution assumes that the last touchpoint of the customer was the only factor for the conversion, and it ignores all previous touchpoints.

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These two models fail to provide a full picture of your customers’ journey.

Multi-touch Attribution Model

Multi-touch attribution models take all touchpoints into account. Thus they provide the full customer journey so that you can understand what works & what not.

Different multi-touch models divide credit in different ways. For example, linear model divide the credit equally and time decay model changes credit based on time.

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How to choose the right attribution model?

As there are a variety of different marketing attribution models to choose from, you might get lost while choosing the right one for your business.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” marketing attribution model, but there are a few things you need to consider before choosing one:

  • Your funnel
  • Sales cycle length
  • Target Channel
  • Your goals

Your Funnel

Analyzing your funnel stages is really important as you need to know the common paths that your customers take, how many touchpoints are there, and how long does it take. (on average)

Knowing this will allow you to choose a better attribution model. For example, if the majority of customers convert on their first visit or last visit, you can choose the first touch or last touch attribution model.

On the other hand, if there are multiple valuable touchpoints, you will need a multi-touch attribution model.

Sales Cycle Length

Models, such as first touch attribution model fails if you have a long sales cycle as cookies have pre-set lifespans, which means you won’t be able to know if the person viewed your company’s website if the cookie’s lifespan has ended. (no worries if you are using HockeyStack’s cookieless tracking)

The majority of businesses have a sales cycle of ≈100 days. If your business is one of them, a time-delay model would work the best as it can account for the gradual increase in interest over time.

Target Channel

If your focus is on a single channel, such as Facebook, you can ignore multi-touch attribution models as your customers won’t have other touchpoints.

If that’s the case, your best choice would be last touch attribution model because it can prove your marketing effort’s ROI with ease.

Your Goals

Your goal is the most important criteria when it comes to the right attribution model for your business.

If you want to measure demand, then first touch attribution model would work the best.

If you want to measure the last touchpoints that affect your customers’ decisions then last touch attribution model would work the best.

You should use a multi touch attribution model only if you want to measure the whole funnel.

Common Mistakes & Challenges of Measuring Marketing Attribution

As accurate marketing attribution is critical for growth & sales, there are some really expensive mistakes that you can do.

To ensure you are on the right track, you should avoid these mistakes at all cost.

Excessive Dependance on Last Touch & First Touch Models

Tracking a single touch and attributing it to the conversion is relatively easy, and that’s why some marketers rely on single touch attribution models like last touch and first touch.

If you are not focusing on a single channel for growth and demand generation, this is a really expensive mistake that you should avoid as it causes you to ignore all other touchpoints that might have contributed to the conversion.

You can depend on these models for specific time intervals, such as when you are focusing on a single channel, but focusing on them for a long time will cost you a lot.

Failure to Get Qualitative Data

In 2001, the average consumer used only two touch-points when buying an item. Today, consumers use an average of almost six touchpoints, according to Oracle.

Marketing attribution has never been harder and the customer journey has never been more complex.

If you solely depend on your attribution model, you will lose your chance to get invaluable insights as you cannot be 100% sure about the customer journey with numbers. Instead you should combine numbers with qualitative data from your customers.

This way, you will unlock invaluable & actionable insights about your brand’s presence from your own customers. P.S: You can use our free survey tool to unlock these insights!

Best way to get these insights is setting up a survey after a short sign up form. If you add a lot of questions to the first sign up form, you will lose conversions, but if you add the survey after initial sign up, you can have the best of both worlds.

In-Market Bias

In-market bias refers to the customers that have been in the market looking for a product that solves their pain, and would have bought your product regardless of your ad, blog post, or social post.

Again, a mistake that could be solved with a qualitative data source like a survey!

Messaging Error

If one ad works better than the other one, that might not be about the platform, time, or your visual. It might be about your messaging too.

You have to take messaging and persona into account when measuring marketing attribution so that you can work on your messaging according to different consumer personas.

Marketing Attribution Tools and software

To get the most out of your marketing and attribution, you should use a software that will help you identify your customers’ touchpoints and the current state of your marketing.

You should choose a tool that will cover all your needs and give you both qualitative & quantitative data.

There are different criteria to choose an attribution tool or software:

  • Site speed
  • Cookies
  • Ability to cover multi channel touchpoints
  • Showing ROI based on page, channel, referrer
  • Providing qualitative data

In addition to these criteria, here are some questions that will help you choose the best marketing attribution tool for your business:

  • Will this tool slow down my website?
  • Will this tool help me uncover unique qualitative data?
  • Will this tool help me prove the ROI?
  • Does this tool have cookies?
  • Can I get insights at all times with this tool?
  • How easy it is to setup this tool?
  • Can I analyze sessions at user-level?

What can you learn from attribution reports?

There are a lot of things to learn from your attribution reports. Knowing what to look for in your reports will make the process far easier for you.

Analyze micro-conversions

Micro-conversions are actions that indicate the visitor is on their way to buying your product. It’s different from an actual conversion as the visitor doesn’t convert into a customer.

A few examples:

  • Visiting pricing
  • Requesting a demo
  • Checking out features
  • Subscribing to your newsletter

Every brand has its own micro-conversions and your marketing attribution report will be the best place to analyze yours and find your micro-conversions.

By knowing your micro conversions, you can think of more ways to lead your visitors to your micro conversions.

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Image from Popupsmart

Calculate your marketing ROI

With an accurate attribution report at your fingertips, you will be able to calculate your marketing spend’s ROI and its contribution to your growth.

Knowing your marketing’s ROI will make your decision making process faster & better than ever.

Learn the channels that are driving the highest revenue

Which is more valuable for your business?

  • Your blog
  • Facebook Ads
  • Google Ads
  • Your podcast

If you don’t know the answer, you should start measuring your marketing attribution right now!

Understand the impact of your content & paid ads

Your content and paid ad campaigns might have different contributions to your customers’ buying decisions.

Your content might be the efficient as a first touchpoint and your retargeting might be the most efficient as a last touchpoint.

To uncover this, you need to start measuring your marketing attribution.

With this information, you can build your funnels and direct right customers to right marketing campaigns.

Benefits of Accurate Marketing Attribution

Measuring marketing attribution, choosing the right methods, optimizing your attribution process, and improving it will take a significant time. Depending on your data, you might even need a seperate team for it.

Before you devote your time and resources into it, take a look at the benefits of marketing attribution will provide to your company & growth.

Marketing Optimization

If you work on your marketing attribution, first aspect that will be improved is your marketing! (just like everyone would expect)

As you will know what works, you will be able to optimize every single part of your marketing, including channels, messaging, time, creative, and more.

Optimized ROI

By focusing on the things that are working, you will optimize and improve return on investment. If your Facebook ads have a better ROI than your Instagram ads, then you can focus on Facebook ads and look for ways to improve them further.

By devoting your time & energy into things that are already working, you will have a better ROI & your team’s time will be better spent.

Better Creative

Your ads’ creatives will be better as you will know the ones that are converting well. Moreover, you can replicate the ones that are working to improve other campaigns too.

Channel & Persona Personalization

Probably the most important part of marketing is personalizing your message for channels and customer personas.

With accurate marketing attribution reports, you will be able to better personalize your message for channels and personas. The best part: it will be based on data!

Shorter sales cycle

With accurate marketing attribution reports, your team will find the leads who are looking for your solution, at the right time, on the right channels, and with the right message. This will shorten the sales cycle as these leads will be open to talking with the sales team.