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November 3, 2017

Why Attribution Tools Are Critical for SMBs

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

John Wanamaker, American merchant considered to be a pioneer in marketing

Measurement is the most critical part of any marketing campaign; especially when it comes to ROI. This is the information that will enable a business to allocate resources appropriately to acquire new customers.

Scads of smaller companies, however, fail to acknowledge the variety of touchpoints along the customer journey, therefore, failing to understand how to give credit where credit is due.

A 2016 Econsultancy report revealed that 66 percent of respondents use attribution on some or all of their campaigns. Two-thirds isn’t exactly a staggering ratio.

In today’s digital marketing ecosystem, the customer journey is longer and incorporates more potential touchpoints than ever before; even for SMBs and startups.

In 2015, Salesforce uncovered that it takes six to eight touchpoints to create a viable sales lead. As an increasing number of companies continue to launch various cross channel campaigns, which effectively diversify their touchpoints, measuring the potential ROI driven by each becomes more difficult.

With so many factors in play (various social channels, e-mail marketing, AdWords campaigns, SEO, various devices, television, radio, etc.), businesses must understand how to weight certain channels accordingly to increase sales. To successfully do this, brands and advertisers must embrace multi-touch attribution models to manage, optimize, and scale campaigns effectively.

But first, what exactly is marketing attribution?

Marketing Attribution Defined

In the most basic terms, marketing attribution is a technique for revealing the specific touchpoints a customer encountered and engaged with before converting.

Marketing attribution models are essentially a set of rules that define how a business should weight each channel within a campaign, depending on its goals. Though there are others, the most common models are:

  • First-touch attribution
  • Lead conversion touch attribution
  • Last-touch attribution
  • Linear attribution
  • Time decay attribution
  • Position based attribution
  • Custom or algorithmic attribution

This is how a business establishes which portals or materials are driving the lion’s share of the conversions.

Attribution software company Bizible gives an excellent overview of all the marketing attribution models and how they work.

Getting started with attribution models can be challenging work if you don’t know how to use them. There are various attribution platforms and services like Convertro, Engagio, Bright Funnel, or even Google Analytics that can help you manage, connect, simplify and understand your customer’s journey to purchase.

But no matter which software you might end up choosing, you still need to know how to select the right attribution model for your brand.

Choosing an Attribution Model

Each attribution model offers its own unique set of pros and cons, so there are no easy answers in selecting the right one for your business; it all depends on how your brand operates online.

Start by building a customer journey map. This should include all of your different touchpoints and potential channels for consumers to interact with your brand.

Google Analytics reduces the amount of work you must do here as it houses tons of data on each different channel and how users are engaging with your site.

It is important to understand that your models should be actionable, meaning that they provide a definitive answer as to whether revenue will go down if you spend nothing.

This is where things tend to get sticky because the attribution possibilities are seemingly infinite. Once again, using an attribution tool like the ones listed above can save your sanity in this process.

Additionally, you will want to focus on the quality of your leads. This could be defined as the rate at which users convert.

The lifetime value of a customer is the most important variable for you to focus on. If you are focusing only on single-click conversions, customers further down your funnel become neglected.

One of the most important things to understand during this process is that your campaign objectives are the key to determining which model you will leverage.

As you’ve seen, there are a variety of models that each cater to different objects and tactics. By determining your campaign’s objectives, you can narrow down your potential marketing attribution models.

After you have selected your model, testing is of the utmost importance. Through this process, you might uncover that the model you selected isn’t performing as well as you had hoped. For this reason, you should always be prepared to abandon a certain model in favor of another; assuming the results are indicating that this is a good idea.

A/B testing your methods is the key to a successful campaign and fully understanding how impactful certain avenues are.

No matter which model your business utilizes, you will want to establish how conversions are leading to sales through a closed loop analysis.

Closed loop analysis, according to New Breed Marketing, is defined as, “. . . closing the loop between the data that marketing is collecting, usually in a marketing automation system and the data that the sales team is collecting, generally seen in a CRM. This allows marketers to make decisions on actions that occur further down the funnel on what drives the greatest ROI for the business.”

This once again highlights the importance of employing a marketing attribution tool because this can be a relatively tricky process that can be simplified by such platforms. In the arena of closed loop analysis, attribution services can save loads of time, money and frustration.

Marketing attribution is essential for SMBs to leverage because they are often operating on shoestring budgets and can’t afford to allocate resources in the wrong way.

While business owners and advertisers can manage this process on their own, it’s not exactly advised. Your best bet is to seek out a powerful marketing attribution tool to help you navigate and optimize the process. That small investment is likely to pay for itself several times over.

Has your business used marketing attribution? If so, which models worked for you?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.