Marketing Attribution Best Practice Guide
An introduction to attribution platforms
Attribution platforms help businesses answer a range of questions about their audience, the performance of their campaigns and areas where channels may be underperforming.
They do this by applying statistical models to help marketers attribute the value that different customer touchpoints added to a conversion. This is important because it empowers marketers to understand how tactics are performing and allocate their marketing budget towards the best performing tactics. This translates to more effective marketing, more efficient marketing management and higher return on investment.
Why are marketers using attribution platforms?
- Evaluate channel effectiveness
When orchestrating an omnichannel marketing strategy, it can be a challenge to analyse which touchpoints are working, and the role they have to play across a complicated customer buying journey. This can make it more difficult to evaluate what tactics are working, and which need to be improved.
This is why marketing attribution platforms are becoming more important for marketers. Almost 60% of marketers surveyed for our 2022 Martech Report said that they had added marketing analytics and attribution platforms to their marketing stack in the last 12 months. Further, many plan to add this capability to their tech stacks in the next 12 months. (1)
- Proliferation of channels
Macro trends including a proliferation of digital channels, digital ubiquity and long periods of Covid lockdowns have accelerated ecommerce and expectations around digital customer engagement. These forces have led to changes in how customers research, interact & transact. This has implications in terms for media investment and channel optimisation. As people spend more time and money online, marketers need to decide where they should allocate budget.
With changing expectations around different channels, marketers increasingly need to optimise tactics across the customer journey rather than optimising channels in isolation. This increases the importance of attribution and analytics to understand those journeys. After all, customer journeys are central to a customer’s experience of a brand.
- Customer data management
Use of data is a key concern for customers and a growing challenge for marketers. Data is vital for marketers to understand and be able to optimise customer journeys, but there is an issue around trust. Almost 60% of respondents in the PwC survey are more protective of their personal data than they were just six months before. (4)
Choosing the right marketing attribution platform can help mitigate privacy issues by aggregating, normalising, and managing data from different sources. The ways in which businesses use customer data can help to build trust, such as using data to meet customer expectations and/or make purchasing easier.
The key here is that the value of giving up personal information must be clear to the consumer, that is, data is given by consumers with the expectation that there will be a clear benefit.
When used well, marketing analytics and attribution platforms benefit consumers by enabling businesses to personalise and streamline marketing and communications, providing relevant information when and where it’s most useful across the buying journey.
What are marketing attribution platforms?
Marketing analytics and marketing attribution are related and often combined in the same platform, but are not always the same thing. While there is some overlap between them, there are some differences.
Marketing analytics platforms
Marketing analytics platforms such as Google Analytics collect, track, and measure marketing data primarily from digital channels like websites, email, and apps. Many platforms can also track analytics from traditional channels like phone calls, TV, radio, and out-of-home ads.
HubSpot’s Marketing Analytics & Dashboard software is an example of a marketing analytics platform that’s basically a reporting tool where marketers can view performance of their campaigns via dashboard-style interface.
Marketing attribution platforms
Attribution models are statistical approaches that help marketers understand which touch points along the customer journey have contributed to a conversion, such as a purchase, download, or website visit, depending on the objective of the campaign.
Marketing attribution platforms got a step further than analytics platforms by doing the statistical heavy lifting for marketers to help them understand the marketing tactics, interactions, and channels that contributed to a conversion (e.g., a sale, purchase, subscription, or lead.)
They help quantify the value of your marketing interactions with your customers and connect the different touchpoints and channels so that you can understand how they work together to generate the desired action.
HubSpot’s Ruler Analytics is considered an attribution platform because it offers “closed-loop” marketing attribution features which include online and offline conversion tracking and different attribution modelling capabilities.
Understanding attribution models
Attribution helps you understand which tactics and channels work at every stage of the customer journey or funnel by incorporating different attribution models. Some attribution models work by allocating credit to a single touchpoint. These are known as single touch attribution models. These include:
Multi-touch attribution models compliment the way modern customers interact with businesses (namely, across many channels and touchpoints).
What can an attribution platform do for you?
Attribution platforms help marketing teams justify their marketing expenditures and optimise their marketing strategy.
Businesses use them to gain insights into customer behaviour so they can identify the channels, messages, tactics, and strategies that are most successful (and refine their marketing approach accordingly).
An attribution platform can:
How do I choose an Attribution Platform?
As with any technology, choosing an attribution platform requires comprehensive research and team collaboration to ensure the tool matches your needs.
In our 4Ps of Marketing Technology model, we present the optimal process for onboarding all kinds of marketing technology solutions. (5)
We’ve narrowed down a few key pointers here.
We’ve picked out a couple of those steps to help you narrow down exactly which attribution solution is going to suit your business best.
Business use cases
1. Justification of marketing expenditures
2. Optimise marketing spend for improved efficiency
3. View detailed marketing analytics
4. Map the full customer journey
5. Lead scoring
For each of your business use cases, it helps to document exactly what you want your platform to solve. Below is a framework that might help you lay out your argument succinctly:
A framework helps you pin down specific arguments. Expanding on them to outline the scenario in a storytelling format helps formalise your intentions and explain your needs clearly to the rest of the business. For example:
“Our Chief Marketing Officer, Emily, wants to make sure we are giving proper attribution to every touchpoint and tactic across the customer purchase journey. Her team’s analysis of key customer segments suggests many buyers start their research on a search engine, click on a search ad and browse content on our website.
More than 90% leave the website without completing an action such as filling out a lead form. 35% of customers return to the website from our LinkedIn profile then download a whitepaper.
Of these, 20% respond to outreach from a sales representative and 15% go on to become customers after speaking with the rep and viewing a virtual demo. Improving conversion by ensuring all tactics are included in an omnichannel marketing campaign has the potential to reduce our CPA by 12% within these key customer segments.”
Outlining your needs in a vivid and specific way doesn’t just help you get support internally. It is a vital tool for helping MAP vendors to understand your needs and should form a key part of your RFI/RFP documentation.
Once you have your shortlist of vendors, creating a vendor scorecard to rank each vendor on their relative capabilities is the next step.
You could assess each business use case against:
- Key functionality in the scenario demonstrated
- Ease of implementation
- Alternative approaches demonstrated/explained
- Ease of use – the admin experience for managing the use case
- Positive impact on end users
- The likelihood that goals are met
Platform use cases
Each business use case will be supported by a series of features and functionality. These form the platform use cases to frame and score vendors from a different perspective. It’s helpful if you can create a score covering both areas.
Outlined below are some example features and functionalities:
Creating a vendor scorecard
Creating a vendor scorecard to evaluate each vendor is the next step. That way you can take a systematic approach to evaluating products.
Creating a scorecard involves being clear on your use cases so that you can evaluate whether there is functional fit between your requirements and the vendor product. You might also need to evaluate architectural fit to understand what technical support is required to manage integration with existing tools. Beyond business use cases and technical architecture, you also need to assess what kind of training and support the vendor will provide.
We’ve created this basic scorecard with suggested weightings to get you started. It doesn’t cover everything but our Essentials of Marketing Technology contains a comprehensive guide to support your vendor selection process.
Course participants will also receive a much more detailed worksheet to help you evaluate vendors.
With your use cases documented, vendor scorecard defined, and RFI/RFP created, it’s time to start connecting with vendors.
Creating a short list based on your company profile and preference is a good starting point; events tech capabilities and ratings, focus, functional specialism, industry and company size match.
As you progress to chatting with vendors, we would recommend you:
- Take your time & prepare. Don’t rush the process. Make sure you have done your research to better understand the space. Ensure you have details of your needs available and your vendor scorecard and questions.
- Run a custom demo. Make sure vendors have your business use cases and business background weeks before your demo so they can sufficiently prepare and tailor what they present so you can make a fair assessment.
- Get into the details of your expectations around the technology. Get into the nuts and bolts of your needs/goals to really assess the ease, speed and cost of tech.
- Review vendor case studies. Ask for customer case studies showing key results of their platform.
- Get vendor customer references. and ideally direct access to chat with some of their clients.
Making your Attribution platform work for you
Researching and onboarding a vendor is only the start of the implementation process. Whether you’ve bought an attribution platform because you want to begin the process of digital transformation, or you’re looking to refine and refresh your omnichannel capabilities, the journey evolves along with your needs and those of your customers.
To get the most from your platform, you should add the following steps to your omnichannel management process:
Appropriately attributing revenue to the right marketing touchpoints is critical to driving sales and growth in the most efficient and effective ways possible. It’s also one of the most challenging aspects of modern marketing. The mix of channels, touchpoints, and possible customer interactions is varied and fragmented.
It’s also getting more difficult to identify users across channels and devices as the use of third-party cookies diminishes, requiring the need for marketers and advertisers to rely on first-party data and other approaches.
Attribution platforms help manage first-party data to create effective omnichannel marketing campaigns. This will become increasingly important to establish proper attribution across platforms, devices, and channels.
And as with anything complex, following a methodical process of investigation, assessment and optimisation is likely to deliver the best results.
1 Source: Martech Alliance, ‘The Martech Report 2020/2021’, Martech Alliance in association with Moore Kingston Smith, October, 2021. (https://www.martechalliance.com/martechreport)
2 Source: Ed Kennedy, ‘Why analytics are failing CMOs in today’s multi-device, multichannel environment’, Optimizely, February 24, 2020. (https://www.optimizely.com/insights/blog/why-analytics-are-failing-cmos-in-todays-multi-device-multichannel-environment/)
3 Source: Kitewheel, ‘State of The Customer Journey 2021’, Kitewheel, 2021. (https://www.csgi.com/resources/csg-state-of-the-customer-journey/)
4 Source: PwC, ‘December 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey’, PwC, December, 2021. (https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/consumer-markets/consumer-insights-survey.html)
5 Source: Carlos Doughty, ‘The 4Ps of Marketing Technology. The what, why, who, how of martech’, MarTech Alliance, 2020. (https://www.martechalliance.com/what-why-how-martech-marketing-technology)