By now, most B2B marketers understand that multi-touch attribution is a better, more accurate way to quantify the effects of their marketing efforts, compared to single-touch attribution. What often remains in question is, how much better is it? And does the added benefit outweigh the cost of implementing a more complex solution?
Cost-benefit analysis is the fundamental exercise of any business decision. Unfortunately, when it comes to determining the products and services that your marketing team uses, you often are stuck estimating the amount of impact that the new service will have before you decide to switch. Underestimating the benefit, and not going through with the move, can result in a huge missed opportunity. Overestimating the benefit can be painful, too -- nobody wants to go through an arduous transition and onboarding process for just a small benefit.
When making the decision whether to change marketing attribution models, it’s important to know as much about the future value of making the switch as possible. But marketing messages like “more accurate data” don’t really offer much in the way of tangible or measurable value. You want actual data.
We made the transition from single-touch to multi-touch attribution, and it resulted in a new way of thinking about our marketing. In this post, we’ll show you the actual results -- what the data looks like -- from our marketing team’s switch from first-click attribution to multi-touch attribution...then you can decide if the benefit is worth it.
Why We Switched To Multi-Touch
A few months ago, the marketing organization here at Bizible switched from a first-touch attribution model to a multi-touch (W-shaped and Full-Path) attribution model to measure our marketing team’s impact on the company’s bottom line. We produce content and pay for media that touches all parts of the marketing funnel -- from awareness to lead creation to lead nurturing to conversion -- and we wanted to make sure every effort was accurately recognized for its contribution to closing sales. So a multi-touch attribution system was necessary.
For the purposes of comparison, we’re looking through our various attribution lenses (models) at the same data: the number (or amount) of leads, opportunities, and revenue driven, by marketing channel source from July to December 2015.
Single-Touch Attribution Data (First Touch and Lead-Creation Touch)
When looking at this data, the first thing that stands out is that Paid Media (mostly search and social) is the primary business driver. It also looks like a highly efficient marketing channel, as shown by the upward trend as you move from lead to opp to revenue. Because we invest a significant amount in paid media, it naturally brings the most people to our website.
A first touch attribution model overemphasizes the top-of-the-funnel marketing activities -- things that bring visitors to the website. They are important, but it’s a poor indication for understanding true lead quality. Therefore, when using this model, marketers risk equating driving visitors with driving revenue.
As expected, using a lead-creation (LC) touch attribution model led to an overemphasis on middle-of-the-funnel marketing activities. This leads to takeaways and strategy adjustments that inefficiently allocate time and money towards those particular activities.
A lead-creation touch attribution model, like a first touch attribution model, picks a specific stage in the funnel to represent influence over the entire funnel. In this case, the marketing channel that influences a form fill (a.k.a. lead creation) is emphasized.
For many B2B organizations, including us to some extent, the data from first touch and lead-creation touch attribution models doesn’t look extremely different. Because there is a heavy focus on creating leads in B2B marketing, the first session and the session where the first form is filled out is frequently the same.
However, the data does become more noticeably different as you move down the funnel, such as in revenue reports. For example, using the lead-creation touch attribution model, Organic Search is responsible for driving 13% of revenue, compared to 18% when using a first touch model, even though both attribution models give Organic Search about the same amount of credit for driving leads.
Multi-Touch Attribution Data
Multi-touch attribution helped us determine, and layer on, the impact of middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel marketing channels, which are necessary to identify which marketing channels are truly efficient drivers of business, not just efficient drivers of leads.
By seeing the true value of these lower-funnel marketing channels, we were able to back up our decision to invest more time and resources into these areas with data, which we will discuss in-depth a bit later.
Social, Organic Search, And Direct
One of the biggest impacts of multi-touch attribution is eliminating model or channel bias -- the overemphasis of TOFU or MOFU marketing channels due to the attribution model singling out a specific part of the funnel. This is most apparent in the data when looking at Social, Organic Search, and Display.
Social is widely recognized by marketers as a top-to-middle-of-the-funnel marketing channel. While primarily a source of discovery, with the increasingly advanced advertising capabilities of social channels, it’s now become useful for middle-of-the-funnel nurturing activities as well, like retargeting. According to our first touch and LC touch attribution models, social is responsible for about 37% of our revenue. But when looking at the entire funnel via a multi-touch model (Full-Path), it’s only responsible for about 30%.
Social is an extremely powerful marketing channel higher up in the funnel, but decreases in influence as prospects travel down the funnel. Because of that, single-touch models that focus on the top of the funnel will over-represent Social’s influence. Using the Full-Path attribution model helped us understand Social’s true impact on the entire customer journey. It showed us that we needed to re-focus some investment and re-think our strategy on how we can use Social to also impact the bottom of the funnel, such as using Social for sales enablement purposes.
Because our industry (B2B marketing attribution) is relatively young, the content that we create is primarily educational. We answer questions that people have about their marketing, even if they don’t know at the time that it’s directly related to marketing attribution. As a result, our traffic from organic search tends to be in two camps: from B2B marketing topics (top-of-the-funnel) or from direct searches, i.e. searching “Bizible,” which is more bottom-of-the-funnel. What we get less of is product comparison or other middle-of-the-funnel search terms.
We can see how this plays out in our various attribution models. Using a first-touch model, Organic Search is our second most influential marketing channel, driving 18% of our revenue. But when looking at a LC touch model (that emphasizes middle-of-the-funnel activities), Organic Search is only credited for driving 13% of our revenue. When looking at our multi-touch attribution model, we find that Organic Search receives credit for driving over 16% of revenue, an accurate balance of the full funnel.
Direct is rarely a true first touch. In fact, the assumption is that much of what data says is “Direct” is actually due to limitations in marketing tracking technology. When using a first-touch attribution model, Direct receives credit for 11% of leads, 12% of opportunities, and 9% of revenue, significantly less revenue credit than when using a LC touch attribution model (11%, 8%, and 16%, respectively). What’s interesting is that when using a multi-touch model, Direct gets credit for even more of the total opportunities and revenue, but way less credit for leads.
That’s because Direct is one of the most frequent marketing touchpoints for bottom-of-the-funnel engagements, like when the prospect is ready to request a demo, which only shows up in attribution models that represent the entire funnel.
How Multi-Touch Attribution Has Impacted Our Marketing Strategy
Multi-touch attribution added a layer of nuance to our understanding of what was working and what wasn’t, which played a vital role in improving our marketing efforts. Quantifying that, after switching to multi-touch, we discovered that some of our marketing channels were being over- or under-valued by as much as 30%. That's huge when you're investing thousands and thousands of dollars on marketing each month. Additionally, we now have a better understanding of where our content fits in the customer journey (via organic search rankings, and social to a lesser extent) and whether we are hitting the funnel where we aim to.
Here are just a few areas in which our multi-touch attribution has impacted our marketing strategy:
We are now producing more content with an eye on search terms aimed at the middle-of-the-funnel because we know that that is where our education-style content is best suited. And whereas before we were just hoping that it was making an impact, we now know that it is making a positive impact in terms of revenue. With multi-touch attribution, we can see that Organic Search is actually one of our most efficient marketing channels. While it only contributes to 7% of our leads, it’s producing 16% of our revenue -- an incredibly efficient ratio. Using a last-touch model, our data would show that Organic Search has just an average efficiency.
Multi-touch attribution has also impacted where our paid media budget goes. Clearly, social is a priority -- it generates a large portion of our revenue. When drilling deeper into the data, we can see that specific social media campaigns are more effective than others and that certain social channels are better for targeting specific parts of the funnel.
Because of the better, more accurate data that multi-touch attribution provides, we have reprioritized particular campaigns and have seen significant improvements.
And finally, with multi-touch attribution, we’re able to see that our brand efforts are paying off, as can be seen in the Direct channel. Typically, the effect of brand efforts can only be seen in surveys that measure things like awareness and sentiment. But with powerful attribution data, we can actually see its long-term impact on revenue.
From my perspective as a content marketer, the shift has made a tangible difference. It has impacted my day-to-day contributions to the organization, how I think about what content to write, as well as my overall understanding of how we’re moving prospects all the way from new visitors to happy customers.
Multi-touch capabilities, however, is just one of many components of an advanced attribution solution. Things like omni-channel, account-based, and more also contribute to having the most accurate and actionable data. Learn about all of these components below.