Marketing attribution setup for B2B companies

September 3, 2020

Analytics are an important part of the content stack – understanding how your content is performing, and whether it’s driving revenue. So we often get asked to advise on, and sometimes help implement, basic marketing attribution.

(By the way, a word of encouragement if you are interested in this topic: Marketing attribution is a very hard problem, and we’re often surprised by how much improvement can be made even at fairly sophisticated organizations.)

This post is intended to show our recommended basic marketing attribution for B2B companies. Our approach is to focus on helping clients get this very simple approach working well – often that can be surprisingly difficult – before moving on to more complex models. It involves tracking 4 pieces of data for each lead and contact:

  • The channel that first brought the lead to the site
  • The campaign (generally equivalent to ‘form’ in this case) on which the first conversion happened
  • The channel that most recently generated a conversion
  • The campaign that most recently generated a conversion

We find that correctly tracking these pieces of data is enough to a fairly sophisticated view into what’s working and what isn’t, and getting the data into a marketing automation or CRM system is, by itself, enough to give a lot of flexibility in reporting. However, we generally recommend starting with first-touch attribution and influenced attribution only.

Marketing channels

A key principle of any analytics system is for any particular measurement, categorization has to be “mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive”. That means that your categories cover every case, but also there’s no case that’s covered by more than one category.

For example, a common mistake we see is having a “Lead Source” field, and having a bunch of possible values including “Organic Search” and also “Webinar”. But if a lead came to your site via organic search and then joined a webinar, it’s impossible to know the correct category.

Here’s the categorization we generally start with for marketing channels (which we suggest storing in “Lead Source”):

  • Organic Search
  • Paid Search
  • Organic Social
  • Paid Social
  • Inbound Link
  • Display
  • Event
  • Content Syndication

Note that these are mutually exclusive; a lead can’t come from both Paid Social and an Event. In addition to these, we usually suggest 2 more. “Marketing Other” is a catchall for other sources that don’t fit in this list and don’t need to be broken out yet. “Marketing Unknown” is for direct traffic, where we might know they came from the web, but we don’t know how they found us on the web.

We track this information using some really simple Javascript, which we’ve posted in our Content Stack Utilities GitHub repo. (You’ll need to hook it up to your marketing automation system to capture the data in a form, and we’ve done it with the major marketing automation platforms including Marketo, Hubspot, and Pardot.)

Marketing campaigns

An easy way to think about marketing campaigns in this system is that they line up with Salesforce campaigns. A campaign is really any conversion point that we can see and log.

Putting them together

Together, measuring marketing channels and marketing campaigns gives you a high-quality picture of lead attribution without being too difficult to set up or understand.

  • A lead might get into your system by following a social ad promoting a whitepaper – then their Lead Source (in Salesforce, say, or in Marketo) is Paid Social and their campaign is the whitepaper campaign. Or a lead might search for a keyword and see an article by you in the search results, which will make their Lead Source equal to Organic Search.
  • Then later, when they come back and sign up for a webinar, that becomes their first campaign.

Conclusion

Marketing attribution is difficult, and most of the complex systems that marketers want to use require discipline and attention that aren’t realistic to expect. Capturing a small set of simple data – while it still requires a lot of work to ensure consistency and analyze – can help provide a rigorous picture of what’s working and what isn’t in your marketing.