Credit Where It’s Due: Marketing Attribution Methods That Prove Your Value

“Show your work.”

And the trap was set. Or at least that’s what it felt like. It was as if the teacher was saying, “I’m going to expose your lack of understanding once and for all!”

It wasn’t a trap. We know that now. Our teachers were just making sure we actually knew what we were doing. They wanted a correct answer, yes, but they were more interested in knowing that, if given a similar problem, we had acquired the knowledge and reasoning to solve that, too.

Then there’s the flip side. Those other times when we were almost giddy to show our work because we knew how to arrive at the right answer and wanted to show how smart we were. We had to go through the process anyway – why not showcase it?

If marketers everywhere were suddenly responsible for showing the full scope of work behind generating quality leads, or how we landed that perfect customer, most of us would be in trouble – roughly three-fourths of marketers have an attribution model, yet fewer than a quarter of marketers believe they’re using the right attribution model.

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Of course, there’s a difference between showing our work in math and marketing. Math is governed by universally accepted laws we can abide by. Content marketing attribution? Not so much. There’s no perfect attribution model that can be applied to all companies.

As Curata’s Pawan Deshpande puts it, “As technology advances, marketing attribution models have become increasingly varied, complex, and accurate … Assigning attribution is tricky and one of the more philosophically contested areas of marketing.”

In other words, the journey to more accurate attribution will likely feature plenty of debate over intricacies. If you’re among the majority of marketers who currently use single-touch or no attribution at all, take comfort in knowing that you don’t need to replace your current model with the most scientific, algorithmic, leading-edge attribution model known to man because that doesn’t happen overnight, for anybody.

Instead, aim for gradual, achievable improvements. These improvement opportunities will vary from one company to the next. That’s why it’s important for marketers to test attribution models, tailoring them to better meet their needs over time.

Here are a few marketing attribution tips that can help you prove marketing’s true worth, score a bigger budget and maybe even a substantial raise in the year ahead.

Don’t Completely Dismiss Single-Touch Marketing Attribution Models

For all the flack single-touch models get, sometimes they really are the best option. If your sales cycle is on the shorter end of the spectrum (think B2C products typically bought during the first interaction with no aid needed from a sales rep) or you only use one or two channels, a single-touch model may be all you need.

As for which single-touch model to use, it depends on which information is most helpful to you. If you want to understand how your bottom-funnel content influences decision-making, look to last-touch. For a better understanding of which sources are generating initial interest or leads, look to first-touch. There’s also a lead conversion model in which total credit is given to the content that ultimately converted the lead.

Total credit is nice in that it’s clear-cut. But if your buyer’s journey typically includes more than one touchpoint, giving total credit to a single interaction is often misleading because it devalues every other interaction by default. Think of it as automatically awarding the MVP award to the player who scores the winning goal while neglecting to credit the player(s) who may actually be more responsible for the win.

When Multiple Interactions Influence a Win, Multi-Touch Becomes a Must

If you’ve been to an NHL game, you’ve probably noticed that, at the end of the game, the announcer called your attention to “three stars,” the three players who played best that night.

I’m not suggesting NHL teams use an algorithm to determine their three stars, but by spreading credit when there’s credit to be spread, the NHL gives its fans a fuller story behind each win than if it were to assign a single MVP after each game.

For marketers, multi-touch attribution is gaining the ability to not just allocate wins to multiple valuable “players,” but also to understand how those valuable players worked together to earn the win. Think of it this way: If someone were to ask how we won, with single touch-level insight, you could only say, “we won by two and Stryznczyk was MVP.” With multi-touch, you could describe in more detail how the win unfolded, recalling pivotal plays from puck drop (discovery) to the final horn (conversion to SQL and ideally tracked further to correlate attribution with lifetime customer value). If someone were to ask how we’ll win the next one, you’d be grasping at straws if your only recollection was the score and the single player credited for the win.

In the end, attribution is really about increasing our ability to win the next one. When multiple interactions exist, single-touch attribution is an oversimplification that causes us to make decisions that may actually be detrimental in the long run. Most of our content teams have activated hundreds if not thousands of content experiences spanning the entire buyer’s journey, only a fraction of which require a form fill. If we are to create winning formulas, we need to understand how customers interact with our non-gated content during their journey. After all, if we don’t understand how customers interact with the majority of our work, how can we adequately prove our value?

Getting Started with Multi-Touch Content Marketing Attribution

You’ll find a wide variety of multi-touch attribution models on the web. But in particular, there are three basic multi-touch models that can help us allot credit more accurately than single-touch.

U-shaped attribution doesn’t account for opportunity creation, but gives marketers a much fuller picture than first-touch or last-touch alone.

W-shaped attribution accounts for the opportunity creation touch as well, splitting credit three ways.

Full-path attribution allows credit to be assigned to any and every touchpoint, making it the most effective multi-touch attribution model.

While full-path attribution is the goal, getting there is a process. Visual IQ co-founder Manu Mathew recommends seven best practices for implementing multi-touch attribution at your company:

  1. Select an attribution leader
  2. Educate stakeholders
  3. Define shared success metrics
  4. Produce a data plan
  5. Create a taxonomy
  6. Begin with a single channel or campaign
  7. Activate optimization recommendations

It also helps when your content marketing platform makes it easier to visualize all tactics and assets that you’re deploying for specific campaigns, and performance of those assets once deployed. Why not try out DivvyHQ for two weeks to see how a calendar-based content planning and collaboration tool can get your content programs organized and aligned.