Hollinden Inbound Marketing for Professional Service Firms

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Marketing Attribution


Until recently, it was probably very easy for you to track the path of a new client—the government passed Sarbanes-Oxley and your phone rang. Perhaps you met someone at a networking event and exchanged cards. A loyal client referred you to a colleague. Today, the buying journey isn’t just one step. With the advent of new digital marketing tools, the opportunity to influence a buyer is vast.

Forrester Research, Inc. defines marketing attribution as “the practice of using advanced statistical approaches to allocate proportional credit to marketing communications and media activity across all channels, which ultimately leads to the desired customer action." In a nutshell, it helps analyze the value of marketing activities to ensure you are making the best marketing investments. Whether a client buys a $100 a month software license or a $100,000 audit, the goal of marketing attribution is the same: to help your firm understand the value of each interaction throughout the process. Was it an email, webinar, white paper, or a phone call that convinced them to hire you—or was it a combination of activities?

There are many forms of marketing attribution, but there are two basic types: single touch or multi touch.

The easiest model to implement is the single touch model. With a single touch model, the focus is on one of the touches along the buying journey. Many CRM and marketing automation systems have this attribution built into them, so it is an easy place to start. Common single touch methods include:

  • First touch: the very first interaction with the client.
  • Last touch: the very last interaction with the client before the deal is signed.
  • Stage-based touch: divide the buying journey into stages and assign attribution during the different stages.
  • Lead creation: assign credit when the lead is created.
  • Opportunity creation: assign credit when the opportunity is identified.

The other option is multi touch attribution. A multi touch model presents an overview of the entire buying journey and, consequently, has more credible data and more accurate insight. Common multi touch methods include:

  • Linear: this attribution gives equal weight to every step of the journey.
  • Time-decay: the touch points closest in time to the sale or conversion get most of the credit.
  • U-shaped: This attribution model attributes a higher value to the first and last touch (typically 40 percent each) and divides the remaining 60% among the touch points in between.
  • W-shaped: This attribution model is similar to the U-shaped model, with one slight change: it attributes a higher value to the first interaction, the interaction that converts the lead, and the last interaction (typically 30 percent each) and divides the remaining 10% among the touch points in between.

There are numerous marketing attribution models to use, but these are the basics. The question is: which one is right for you? The answer is: it depends. You need to consider the maturity and complexity of your sales process and marketing activities in addition to the software programs in use. What is the value of this information to your firm? Is your leadership interested in the information? Is there someone that can drive the process and the results? Do you have the expertise and resources to utilize the data?

If this seems complicated, don’t worry! Begin with the Linear or Time-decay model, but make sure everything is tagged properly in your CRM. Knowing the value of all of your marketing and business development efforts will ultimately help you optimize for more successful campaigns, better targeting by channel, and an accelerated client buying cycle.