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Attribution is a complicated process and it seems B2B marketers are in constant struggle to choose the correct model for their company. First touch, last touch, lead conversion, U-shaped, W-shaped, Time Decay… the choices and data surrounding the different models can be overwhelming. So much so, that 57% of CMOs aren’t confident they are using the right attribution model and 43% chose their model simply because it was easy to implement and use.

We recently hosted a webinar discussing advanced B2B marketing attribution and Bizible’s newest feature, TouchPoints. In this post, we’ll dig deeper into the different attribution models discussed in the webinar and help you decide which is best for your company.


Attribution is the process of assigning revenue value to the different marketing channels in a customer’s journey down the funnel. It helps marketers optimize the channels that drive customers and put revenue value behind their marketing efforts. No longer is it a guessing game as to which channels work and which don’t.

In the 2015 State of Pipeline Marketing Report, we learned that most B2B marketers are using a single-touch attribution model. Traditionally, single touch works well for B2C companies due to their short sales cycles, but for B2B it can prove inaccurate and inefficient.


Single-Touch Attribution

A single-touch attribution model assigns revenue value to, you guessed it, a single touch. It can be the first touch, last touch or lead conversion touch (organizations may have different naming conventions and qualifying events for each). First touch assigns credit to the channel that first got a prospect to visit your site. This can be any number of things from social to paid search, anything that first grabbed the attention of your visitor and drew them to your site. Lead conversion touch is the channel or page that a prospect visited that got them to fill out a form or sign up for an email list, anything that required them to hand over their information. Last touch is a similar concept as first touch, except it assigns credit to the point at which a prospect went from MQL to SQL; the last marketing touch before being passed to sales.

The problem with a single-touch B2B marketing attribution model is that it puts too much weight on one channel -- it’s called model bias. Last touch undervalues the awareness channels like blog posts, social, or advertising. These channels play a huge part in building your brand and are a valuable component to any company.

To the other extreme, first touch overvalues the awareness channels and makes it hard to place actual value on a single visit. B2B sales cycles are long, so what if a prospect initially came in through paid search, left your site and didn’t visit again for another 30 days? Or 90 days? How long is too long to attribute credit to an early source and determine that it had a legitimate effect on the prospect’s purchase?

The moment a lead converts is a valuable touch, but focusing solely on this channel undervalues all of the research B2B buyers do before, and after, filling out a form.

First touch, lead conversion touch, and last touch all provide useful information into the B2B buyer’s journey, which is why the most accurate model for B2B marketers is a multi-touch attribution model. Multi-touch considers and assigns revenue value to the multiple channels that influence a buyer’s journey.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Rarely will a buyer in a B2B marketplace click an advertisement, read a blog post, then purchase your product in one visit. Typically, there is a great deal of research involved in B2B sales and that research requires multiple website visits, sometimes even multiple people. This is where account-based, multi-touch attribution comes to play.


The person assigned to research a product, may not be the same person with the power to make the buying decision. It’s necessary to merge contacts into a single company record because, ultimately, there is only one purchase. The multiple account touches represent the buying journey for the company, not individuals.

U-Shaped Attribution

The simplest multi-touch attribution model is U-Shaped Attribution. U-Shaped assigns greater revenue value to the first touch and lead creation touch, then distributes remaining revenue across the other touches in between.

For example: A customer first visits your website by clicking a display ad, then they visit a week later and read a blog post on attribution and another on marketing trends, two weeks later they fill out a form to download an e-book, then two days later they request a demo and purchase your product for $1,000.

Forty percent of that revenue ($400) will go to the display ad (first touch), 40% ($400) to the e-book download (lead creation touch) and 20% distributed between the two blog posts ($100 to each) [UPDATE: please note that this is only true in Bizible if you push all sessions through Data Warehouse; otherwise 50% goes to each the first touch and the lead creation touch]. The biggest drawback to U-Shaped is that it leaves out the last touch/opportunity creation (demo request). The last touch is important because it ultimately was the last thing a customer saw or did before they decided to buy.

u shaped

W-Shaped Attribution

W-Shaped Attribution model takes into account all major transitions from when a customer first visited your site, to when they converted into a lead and then into an opportunity. Using the same example from above but applying W-Shaped attribution, 30% of that revenue ($300) will go to the display ad (first touch), 30% ($300) to the e-book download (lead creation touch), 30% ($300) to the demo (opportunity creation) and 10% distributed between the two blog posts ($50 to each). This comprehensive model is a great choice for B2B companies as it attributes revenue value to the three most important touches in a customer’s journey.

w shaped

Z-Shaped or Full Path Attribution

If you’re an attribution pro and have mastered the W-Shaped model, your company is ready to look into Z-Shaped Attribution, also known as Full Path Attribution. Z-Shaped is a deep dive into attribution. If you’re doing any marketing that’s targeted at people who are already in the sales funnel, then you should consider using a Z-Shaped model.

Using the same example from above, but assuming the customer didn’t purchase after the demo, they instead visited your booth at an event, revisited your website a week later, and then used the live chat feature to talk to a sales rep and close for $1,000.

Z-Shaped would attribute 22.5% of that revenue ($225) to the display ad (first touch), 22.5% ($225) to the e-book download (lead creation touch), 22.5% ($225) to the demo (opportunity creation), 22.5% ($225) to the live chat (closed deal) and 10% split between the two blog touches and the event ($33.33 to each).

z shaped

Multi-Touch, Omni-Channel attribution gives credit where credit is due. It is the most accurate way to track all of your marketing efforts back to revenue, aligning your sales and marketing teams. If you’re a small company who only uses a few channels, a U-Shaped model may be all you need. But if you’re using multiple marketing outlets that include online and offline channels, and you’re unable to include each one of them in a monthly revenue report, a W- or Z-Shaped model is the way to go.