table comparing pros and cons of 5 marketing attribution models

How to Implement a Marketing Attribution Model: The Complete Guide

As marketers, we all want to answer these questions with confidence:

  • “How much pipeline was driven by that trade show?  By events overall?”
  • “Do we get anything useful from webinars?”
  • “How many total dollars did Marketing source versus Sales and Partners?”
  • “What’s the ROI of this campaign? Should we do it again?”

>>Related: You Wrote Some Content. Now What?<<

But a marketer’s dilemma is the more sophisticated our tactics, the murkier our understanding of what’s influencing pipeline.  Is it the LinkedIn ad?  Blog post?  Demo video?  Nurture email?  SDR call?  Case study?  Yikes.  In practice, most of us are hacking it together in Excel.  Which, if we’re honest, is kinda the same as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

This is why you implement a Marketing Attribution Model.  Attribution is understanding which tactics move pipeline forward.  While attribution sounds complicated and expensive, it’s doesn’t have to be.

Just do it:  it’s time to implement a marketing attribution model

No doubt marketing tech is getting overwhelming, and it’s pretty miserable trying to track leads and opps across Facebook, WordPress, Lead Pages, Hubspot, Salesloft, and Salesforce (and that’s a pretty simple tech stack).

a periodic table of martech software

BTW this Periodic Table of Martech by Jon Blumenfeld is a damn delight!

But the inconvenient truth about attribution?  It’s a [simple] discipline.  No attribution tool, or genius developer, or algorithm, or $$$$ is going to ”solve” attribution for you. (sorry attribution software vendors)  You just have to consistently do the work.

The great news?  That work isn’t a herculean lift.  You’re probably two weeks away from better insights.

All in?  These are the 4 steps to choose and implement a marketing attribution model:

Step 1:  What reports do you crave?

Yes, begin at the end.  There are a lot of ways to attribute pipeline:

  • Content asset – specific content titles
  • Content type – videos, blogs, case studies, reports, ebooks
  • Channel/Medium – website, organic social, paid social, email
  • Campaign – Gartner Magic quadrant, product launch
  • Lead source – a list buy, a tradeshow, inbound

Envision your perfect dashboard… the one that’s going to change which campaigns you run and how you invest your budget.  Which 5 questions are the most important to answer?

The 5 reports we recommend

We come back to these insights over and over, but you know your business (and your Sales leadership) best.

  1. Funnel History by Month: how many MQLs were created last month?
  2. Current Funnel Inventory by Stage: how many people are currently in MQL stage?
  3. Funnel Conversion Report: how many / how quickly did MQLs convert to other stages?
  4. Campaign Performance Report: how many MQLs came directly from that tradeshow?
  5. Campaign Influence Report: how many opps were influenced by that tradeshow?

Step 2:  Gather the data you need for attribution

You feed the attribution model with a specific kind of data.  Yes, it’s time to get serious about UTM codes.

It seems so Marketing 2005, but a lot of teams aren’t using them diligently. Forgive the history lesson:

  • UTM codes (AKA parameters) are added to the end of URLs to help Google Analytics track where traffic comes from.
  • Here’s a normal URL without any tracking: www.yoursite.com/pricing
  • And here’s the same URL with UTM parameters added: www.yoursite.com/pricing?utm_source=active-users&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=feature-launch&utm_content=bottom-cta-button

UTM codes go everywhere, every time you link to your website.

  • In an email
  • In a social post
  • On direct mail piece or collateral
  • On a booth backwall
  • The “contact us” button on Facebook
  • Every time! Everywhere!*

*The only exception is on your website – Don’t add UTMs when you’re linking between pages on your domain (ex: from a blog post to a product page).

URLs with UTMs are ugly/weird, especially on printed pieces like collateral.  Hide them with vanity URLs that redirect to the full UTM-ed URL.

So, hard question time:  Whose job is it to create and use UTMs? Do they know what they’re doing?  Does their boss?

FWIW, this is a great explainer to train someone, and this is a handy UTM generator.  

Step 3:  Pick an attribution model

Attribution models get really wonky really quickly.  Keep your eye on your 5 questions and you’ll probably find a simple model will suit.

The five most common attribution models

Meet Avery – Avery was scanned at a trade show 3 years ago. Since then we nurtured them by email. Today they clicked on an ebook link and registered for a demo.

Pros/Cons of different attribution models

Often a model just “feels right” for your business. We usually recommend using these two:

  • Use a Last Touch report to track the last campaign response before becoming an MQL.
  • Use a Multi Touch by Influence report to show how, over time, a certain campaign accrues a lot (or a little) influence.

Using both ensures you’re capturing the value of content or campaigns like user conferences, which aren’t a good source of new MQLs, but influence pipeline and bookings over time.

But honestly, the exact model is less important than using UTMs.  In fact, start using UTMs now while you debate which model(s):  discuss a recent closed-won deal:  Which touches led to it?  Which model would reveal those insights?

Step 4: Actually implement the marketing attribution model

You’re using UTM parameters every time, everywhere!  Google Analytics is collecting the data!  You’ve decided how you’ll model influence!  Now what?

Depending on your Marketing Ops resources, you’ll use the UTM data to implement a marketing attribution model one of three ways:

  • Good: events/goals in Google Analytics
  • Better: unique campaigns in Salesforce
  • Best: custom attribution (Full Circle Insights/Bizible)

1. Good attribution: events/goals in Google Analytics

The Gist
  1. Set up goals/events in GA to fire when forms are filled.
  2. Use GA’s native reporting to drill into which channels and mediums generated the conversions.
Pros
  • GA is free and ubiquitous.  It’s easy to hire contractors or staff with the skillset.
  • You probably already have it!
  • Goals are fast/simple to set up.
  • You can annotate GA as things change and create a richer record/narrative.
Cons
  • This doesn’t track offline conversions (sales calls, sales visits, events, traffic that’s not on your domain).
  • You can only attribute leads, not opps or revenue.
  • The data doesn’t live in Salesforce… it’s another place you need to go to do analysis.
  • The GA interface is… intimidating.
Steps to Set Up
  1. Set up GA conversion goals
  2. Measure in GA

2. Better attribution: unique campaigns in Salesforce

The Gist
  1. Pass UTM parameters through hidden fields on your forms.
  2. You assign these leads to a content-and-channel-specific campaign.  An ebook distributed on LinkedIn, and the same ebook distributed by email get two unique Salesforce campaigns.
Pros
  • All the data ends up in Salesforce.
  • This doesn’t require much custom development… simply drop a script and create some fields.
  • You will immediately have last touch attribution reporting–no additional manipulation needed.
  • And you can easily attribute opps and revenue.
Cons
  • Creating a unique campaign for every combination of content and channel is a lot to set up and keep straight.
Steps to Set Up
  1. How to Capture URL Parameters in Marketo with Cookies
  2. How to Use Process Builder to Stamp UTM Parameters in Salesforce

3. Best attribution: custom attribution (Full Circle Insights/Bizible)

The Gist
  1. Pass UTM parameters through hidden fields on your forms.
  2. Full Circle Insights/Bizible and similar tools “do the rest”
Pros
  • Your model is completely custom and you can do whatever you want.
  • You can tweak your model without code.
Cons
  • $$$
  • It’s another place you need to go to do analysis.
  • There is a serious learning curve—you need an adept Salesforce admin with months to dedicate to it.
Steps to Set Up
  • Will depend on your provider

 

This is definitely Attribution 401.  If you’re leaning towards attribution software, do you have the talent to manage and interpret the findings? Will your campaigns get so efficient that you’ll get a return on this investment?

You’re still here? It’s over. Go home.

Time to go have some honest conversations:

  • Why do we want attribution? Will it change our behavior? Is it worth constant maintenance? 
  • Which 5 questions are the most important to answer?
  • Whose job is it to create and use UTMs? Do they know what they’re doing? When will they start using them?
  • Which touches led to a recent closed/won deal?  Which model would reveal those insights?
  • Do we have the talent to manage and interpret the findings? Will we get ROI?
  • Are we reviewing the insights? Are we making different/better decisions? (+90 Days)

 

Ready to take attribution to the next level in Marketo?  Read the second post in this series:  How to Capture URL Parameters in Marketo with Cookies.

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