Attribution: Why You May Be Doing It Wrong

November 13, 2013

When analyzing the results of a marketing campaign, do you attribute each new lead to the action a prospect took immediately before converting? If so, it’s time to take a few steps back and look at the big picture to get an accurate sense of how your company is really generating its conversions.

Single-touch attribution refers to attributing a conversion to the first or last marketing touch that occurred before a prospect converted. For instance, if a prospect received an email promoting a free trial of your company’s software and subsequently signed up for the trial, the email campaign would receive sole credit for the conversion.

What’s the problem? This attribution model ignores every other step of the journey that the prospect took on the path to conversion. For instance, the prospect may have seen display ads for your company four times before seeing that email. While those initial display ads exposed him to your brand and primed him to engage with your content, they receive no credit for their role in the sales cycle in a single-touch attribution system.

One alternative method is a rules-based attribution model. In this system, each marketing channel—such as search, display, and email marketing—is taken into account and weighted according to a set of rules in order to determine their value with respect to the success of a marketing program. For instance, if five separate campaigns are used to promote a new product, each marketing channel might be equally weighted and given 20 percent of the credit when calculating the ultimate cost per acquisition.

In this case, all channels are taken into effect; however, they may not be given accurate weight—leading you to over-invest in marketing channels that are underperforming, or, conversely, to underinvest in those that play a key role in generating conversions.

In contrast to both of the above approaches, data-driven attribution uses algorithmic models to analyze your customers’ path to purchase, and automatically calculates how much credit each channel should receive based on the specific metrics that you are attempting to measure.

Focusing on proper channel attribution can significantly increase the impact of future marketing programs. According to Forrester Research, a “closed loop” attribution system, in which a business’ sales team provides its marketing division with detailed data on the channels influencing a customer’s conversion path, can result in a 15 percent to 18 percent lift in revenue for future campaigns.

For more information on measuring marketing performance, download "Metrics That Matter: A Guide to Measuring the Impact of Display Advertising in B2B."

This post was originally published on the Bizo blog. In July 2014, LinkedIn + Bizo joined forces to build the most robust B2B marketing platform available to marketers. To learn more, check out David Thacker, VP of Product at LinkedIn’s announcement blog post.