The proverb implies that when deterrents or restrictions are removed, a person is free to do what they want. As a content marketer, when I stepped into a B2B environment educated by marketing attribution, it was like the cat was perpetually out to lunch. There was nothing to worry about. Our content team didn’t have to wait, wonder, ponder, and muse about which half of our content was actually working. We had the data, and we were free to follow it wherever it lead, rather than venturing guesses.
So, what’s all the fuss about attribution? It’s one of the latest mandatory additions to the martech stack, so it makes sense that it’s everyone’s favorite topic of conversation. But how does one use it? How, practically speaking, do you turn attribution data into optimization?
Eva Sharf, Bizible’s illustrious paid media manager sat down with me to explain the ins and outs of ad campaign optimization using attribution. Aside from being an insightful conversation altogether, the details she shared supplied a new picture of the impact attribution can have on top-of-funnel B2B marketing activities.
Historically, ads were evaluated based on impressions, click-through-rates, and minimal conversion data. But there hasn’t been insight beyond those metrics until now. The story ended after the prospect clicked over to the landing page and disappeared into a lead list or nurturing campaign, never to be seen or heard from again -- at least from a paid media manager’s vantage point.
But attribution has changed the paid ad campaign landscape, and it has given paid search managers the capabilities to level up. Time for the mice to play.
Attribution optimizes based on leads, opportunities, and revenue
Prior to attribution, most decisions were made using click-through-rates and cost-per-click. The cost of a click was weighed against how effective the ad was deemed to be, and those decisions were made arbitrarily. Essentially, marketers were playing a guessing game and hoping they picked the right numbers.
Because attribution tracks a prospect’s full buying journey (prospect >> lead >> opp >> customer), paid search managers can see how their initial ‘click-throughs’ are converting to leads and even opportunities. In a large number of curious cases, marketers who use attribution find that ads with lower CTRs can have higher lead conversion rates, which in turn, can result in a comparatively lower cost-per-lead. Here’s an example.
Eva explained that, over the month of January, she had two ads running -- one promoting our blog article “Lead Gen is Dead” (Blog No. 1) and the other promoting the “Periodic Table of Marketing Attribution” (Blog No. 2). The click-through rate (CTR) and the lead conversion rate (CVR, i.e. at what rate those clicks converted to leads) are displayed below.
As you can see, by merely comparing the click-through rates, the Periodic Table seems to be a better budget investment. Without attribution data, it wouldn't be unreasonable to turn down the “Lead Gen is Dead” promotion and reallocate that spend to the Periodic Table’s ad bids. However, if you follow those clicks further down the funnel, you can see that the “Lead Gen is Dead” clicks convert at about 3x the rate.
After Eva ran the math, she also reported that the cost per lead for MQLs generated through the “Lead Gen is Dead” ad is 31.3% lower than the CPL for its counterpart.
The click-through rates provided by the ad network analytics are important to calculating overall ROI, but they form an incomplete picture of the state of things when analyzed apart from attribution. How may 3x ROI campaigns have marketers abandoned because the CTR didn't seem impressive enough?
An example of attribution optimization with opportunity conversion
Eva also told an interesting story about an ad campaign that had a rather abysmal perform rate in terms of both clicks and leads. However, the attribution data showed that, although the campaign converted a low number of leads by percentage, the opportunity conversion rate was surprisingly high. So, she left it running. A fair number of opportunities continue to trickle in from a campaign that originally looked hopeless until attribution proved otherwise.
It’s important to follow clicks and conversions through the funnel. The practice of “optimization” analyzes all of the data and tries to make the best of every opportunity. Proper optimization cannot occur when a marketer only has minimal data at their disposal. Attribution expands the data pool and provides the insights a marketer needs to make the best decisions -- decisions made in terms of revenue.