Multi-touch attribution is the key to proving your marketing’s ROI

Sammy Tatla18/04/2019

Since the term ‘marketing mix’ was invented in 1949, B2B marketers have been searching for ways to prove the ROI of their campaigns. Now, an accurate model for marketing attribution could be within your grasp.

Marketing attribution questions are notoriously tough to answer.

The thought of walking into an important meeting without a good response to the most common ones will probably send a chill down your spine.

What’s the ROI of this campaign? How is this activity driving sales? Is this really the best way to spend our money?

Of course, you can run your colleagues through the theory behind your campaigns and try to explain how they will lead to sales in the long‐term. But there are certain company stakeholders you’ll never truly convince unless you’re speaking their language.

The CFO often doesn’t care about brand awareness, audience growth or even if you’re hitting your lead gen targets. Her job is to help the CEO decide which investments are best for the company.

So, if you can’t say how much revenue your work is delivering, you may not get the budget you need.

The right marketing attribution model can provide a solution to this challenge by revealing the impact marketing has on your company’s bottom line.

HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report reveals that 39 per cent of marketers say proving the ROI of their activities is their top marketing challenge. But, those who can do this effectively are 1.6 times more likely to receive higher budgets.

Better yet, when you can see how each touchpoint in your marketing mix helps to guide buyers through the customer journey, it will be far easier to make decisions about how best to allocate your resources.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to know which of the many possible attribution models out there is right for you. Every business is different, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution that suits everyone.

So today, we’ll outline how to create a bespoke attribution model that accurately measures marketing’s impact on the company bottom line. At the same time, we’ll consider the crucial role your sales team will play in the conversation about marketing revenue attribution.

By the end, you’ll have a far clearer idea about what it takes to design and implement an impactful marketing attribution model.

But first we should say a word about the technology that’s making this all possible – because until very recently, marketers simply couldn’t access this level of insight about complex B2B customer journeys.

How martech is transforming marketing attribution

The origins of marketing attribution can be traced back to 1949, when a Harvard professor named Neil Borden first coined the term “marketing mix”.

But it wasn’t until the dawn of the internet that marketing attribution really came into its own. With the latest cloud‐based marketing technology, you can now access analytics insights in real‐time and adjust your campaign tactics accordingly.

What’s more, it’s now possible to build up a complete picture of all the digital touchpoints on a given customer’s path to purchase and evaluate the impact each of them had on their decision to buy from you.

This approach has become known as ‘multi‐touch attribution’, and marketers across the globe have invested more than £40 million in the technology that’s making it all possible to date.

Sadly, B2B marketers haven’t been so quick to incorporate multi‐touch attribution into their marketing strategies.

Bizible’s 2018 State of Pipeline Marketing report shows that 29 per cent of B2B marketers still don’t have any model in place for measuring their performance – and a further 44 per cent use outdated attribution models that aren’t fit for purpose.

Why multi‐touch models deliver the best insights

The first two questions you need to answer in order to accurately measure your marketing programme’s ROI are:

When someone buys from you, what experiences contributed to that decision? And what influence did each of those experiences have on their decision‐making process?

Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll be able to see exactly how each element of your marketing mix moves leads through the marketing pipeline. But to get the insights you need, you must consider the whole picture.

Despite this fact, many marketers focus on just a single touchpoint when measuring campaign performance.

For example, when a customer clicks a PPC ad and buys a pair of shoes, it’s common to attribute the whole sale to that advert. We see the same thing in B2B when a salesperson gets all the credit for closing a sale.

The thing is, that final touch is just one piece of the puzzle. Without the other pieces, it’s impossible to know how important that last customer interaction was in relation to everything that came before it.

We know from Salesforce that it generally takes 6 – 8 touches to generate a viable B2B lead. Meanwhile, research from LinkedIn and Edelman shows that the content buyers engage with at the start of the customer journey has a huge impact on their purchase decisions.

So, there really is no question that B2B purchase decisions are based on how customers experience your brand across multiple touchpoints throughout the buying process.

That’s why it’s so important to invest in quality CRM tools and craft effective campaign plans that let you track your prospects as they progress through the customer journey. For smaller businesses, that might seem like a big investment. But the rewards for companies that do this well can be huge.

Marketers with sophisticated attribution models in place are 71 per cent more likely to report positive ROI, 84 per cent more likely to be aligned with their sales team and 127 per cent more likely to believe they can effectively measure the performance of their campaigns.

Involve sales from the very beginning

In order to measure marketing’s ROI at all, your model for revenue attribution must include both marketing and sales touchpoints.

Considering marketing touchpoints on their own is still useful for seeing which of your activities are the most effective. But only a complete end‐to‐end model will allow you to measure genuine marketing ROI.

As you’ll know if you’ve tried it, getting buy‐in from sales to stake a claim on their deals is not easy! Unless your colleagues genuinely see the value of the work marketing does, there’s a real danger they’ll see the exercise as an attempt to steal their lunch.

So, be sure to involve sales in the revenue attribution conversation from the very beginning and ensure they are involved in deciding what model works best for your business.

To stand a chance of success, you’ll need to include sales in the conversation about revenue attribution from day one. Work with key stakeholders to map your customer journey and decide what weighting each of the key touchpoints you identify deserves.

Choosing the right attribution model for you

Let’s say a customer clicks on a PPC ad that takes them to a landing page where they subscribe to your mailing list. From there, they view your case studies, claim a demo of your services, read your nurture emails and attend several meetings with your sales team before they finally close the deal.

Historically, the credit for all that work would have gone to the salesperson who closed the deal. So, if marketing deserves some of the credit, how much are these other touchpoints worth?

One option is to say that every touchpoint has the same value and the credit for the revenue that’s generated should be split evenly between them all. This approach is known as ‘linear attribution’ – but it’s generally viewed as being too simplistic for companies with complex customer journeys.

Another more popular approach is ‘positional attribution’. This model holds that the first and last touchpoints in the customer journey are most important, and the ones in between should receive less of the credit.

When you take a closer look at your own business, you might even find that certain activities in the middle of customer journey play a pivotal role in the purchase decision, and also deserve a large chunk of the credit.

In this case, simply add in extra engagement touchpoints to your attribution model and rebalance their relative weightings accordingly.

Remember that the aim here is to create something that accurately reflects the role each touchpoint has on the buying process. You can add in as many touchpoints to your model as you need and assign any weighting you like to each of them.

Where possible, incorporate data‐driven insights into this process to judge the relative value of each interaction a customer may have with your company.

Larger brands will be able to use enterprise tools like Google 360 to do this. And basing your model on solid evidence should make it easier to secure company‐wide buy‐in for your proposal.

Testing your marketing attribution prototype

Once everyone involved has signed off on your proposed model, you’ll finally be in a position to begin trialling it, gathering more data and tweaking the formula accordingly.

It will take time to arrive at an attribution model that accurately measures the ROI of your campaigns. If you’re starting from scratch, this project will be a huge undertaking and you may want to bring in a specialist agency if you don’t have the right skills in‐house. But, the rewards for getting it right will make all the effort you put in worthwhile.

Once you have a working model for attributing marketing revenue, you’ll never have to worry about proving the ROI of your campaigns again. You’ll be able to see exactly which of your marketing activities are worth investing in and help your sales team move customers over the finish line.

Key takeaways

  • Multi‐touch attribution is the future. It’s the only revenue attribution model that accounts for the whole customer journey.
  • Getting sales buy‐in is crucial. Involve key stakeholders early on to map the customer journey and develop a prototype attribution model.
  • Test, improve and repeat. It will take time to tailor your attribution model so that it accurately measures the impact of your campaigns.