Once you’ve come to the realization that marketing should generate revenue and that you need marketing attribution to track that, the next question is, which attribution model should you use?
Obviously, it would be ideal to track the entire customer journey and be provided with insight into the mind of the buyer as to why they made the decisions they did at every inflection point. Unfortunately, for us humans, that is not yet possible.
The next best thing is attribution modeling -- tracking as much of the customer journey as possible, and then using a model to give weight to the touchpoints that we think were most important to converting the person into a customer.
There are dozens of possible attribution models, but in general, they can be narrowed down to three categories:
Single-touch (e.g. first/lead-creation touch, last/opportunity-conversion touch)
Multi touch attribution (e.g. W-Shaped or Linear)
Full-Path (which includes post opportunity stage marketing)
To help marketers like you find out which attribution model is the most appropriate for your individual scenario, we built the flowchart below. We’ll also walk through some of the key decisions involved in the flowchart and explain why they lead to the paths that they do.
B2B or B2C Marketing
The first differentiator that guides the attribution model decision is B2B versus B2C. In general, B2B marketers should use a multi-touch attribution model, while B2C marketers can use a single-touch model. There’s a couple reasons for this. First, B2B deals often involve several people that act together as an “account” which means more overall touchpoints and, second, B2B sales cycles often take weeks or months from discovery to closed deal.
The only catch here is that if you’re a B2C company with a sales team, your marketing (and therefore your measurement) may act more like a B2B company than a typical B2C company.
Number of Marketing Channels
Marketing teams that only use a handful of marketing channels can often get away with bootstrapping an effective attribution system using a single-touch model as the base. Especially if the activity volume is low on each channel, there’s just fewer chances for wires to get crossed and for double-counting to happen.
However, as other factors are entered into the equation (e.g. how much you spend on marketing channels), hacking a multi-channel attribution solution using a single-touch model as the base becomes increasingly challenging.
As a general rule, if you are using five or more marketing channels, no matter the spend on each, it’s beneficial to use a multi-touch attribution model.
Marketing & Sales Cycle
The next factor to consider is how long your marketing and sales cycle is. The primary reason the length of your sales cycle plays a factor in this decision, is that longer cycles means more touchpoints.
If your average sales cycle is just one day, a single-touch model may capture the only relevant touchpoint. However, if your sales cycle is two months, it’s likely that the buyer will interact with your company many times through many channels. It’s important to capture all of these touchpoints, as several may have played an important role in moving the buyer down the decision path.
Even if you only have one or two marketing channels, a multi-touch attribution model would give you insight into which specific content the buyer engaged with over time, and which content moved the buyer down the funnel. Let’s say that you only use paid search. You may promote different blog posts, ebooks, your product page, your homepage, and maybe a compete page. Over a long sales cycle, a buyer may visit, read, or download several of these. Even though each of these interactions may have taken place through just one marketing channel, there is a lot of valuable insight about this customer’s lengthy journey that only a multi-touch model could surface. Which blog post had the most impact? Did the ebook drive a demo request or did the compete page?
Marketing spend is pretty straightforward. An advanced attribution system helps marketers optimize based on revenue and ROI, not top-of-the-funnel engagement metrics. The more you spend on marketing, the more impact optimization can have.
We find that around the $10,000/month region, multi-touch attribution pays for itself.
Marketing to Prospects After the Opportunity Stage
If you’ve made it to this point in the flowchart, you’re a good fit for multi-touch attribution. Either you use a good amount of marketing channels, have a lengthy marketing and sales cycle, and / or spend a significant amount on paid media.
In many B2B organizations, once a prospect has reached the opportunity stage, he or she is firmly in the hands of the sales team. However, many B2B organizations are now seeing the benefit of marketing to these prospects in hopes of improving the likelihood of having a positive bottom-of-the-funnel experience.
If you’re doing this, a full-path attribution model is the only way to capture the value that this post-opportunity stage marketing is providing.
If you’re not doing this, a multi-touch attribution model such as W-Shaped is sufficient.
BONUS! Omni-Channel Attribution
The final element of an advanced attribution model is omni-channel capabilities. If offline marketing (think: outbound calling or conferences) is an important part of your marketing strategy, it’s necessary to measure those efforts the same way you measure your digital marketing efforts. The only way to do that is with omni-channel attribution.