In a time of intense marketing accountability, attribution is critical. Yet, few marketers have achieved an attribution system that fully takes into account touches, offers, and marketing sources. The vision of a “closed loop reporting system” is still just a dream for too many marketers.

With the right steps you can begin to turn this dream into a reality. The five steps outlined in this post are an evolutionary method for achieving the data necessary to make effective decisions in B2B marketing, meaning you should expect to start at the beginning and work your way toward the end goal: a total understanding of how lead and marketing activities are related.

Here are five practical steps to get you much closer to complete attribution.

1. Capture the right data to make great decisions

First, decide what data you would like to collect in reports. Align with leadership on how they make decisions, and what metrics they need to see for board meetings versus the day-to-day.

Next, decide if you need to collect just Channel data (e.g. email) or Offer (e.g. eBook) and Channel data. Only using the standard Lead Source and Salesforce Campaign stamp will result in a basic understanding of how your marketing efforts influence revenue.

I highly recommend the Offer Channel Attribution Method, which provides a framework for the type of data to collect from each lead. Here is a quick rundown of how this method works:

  • Offer – The content or event the lead was interested in. This would be viewed as:
    • Whitepapers
      • 2014-Mobile-Whitepaper
  • Channel – Where and how the lead found out about the content. This would be viewed as:
    • Paid Search
      • AdWords

When you consider your list of Offers and Channels, it is a good idea to think of all the possibilities, including phone calls. Many marketers are working hard to achieve digital attribution, but they’re losing the thread of tracking as soon as a prospect picks up the phone.

2. Decide on a data model

The model you select will impact how you collect data. Most marketers are starting from first touch attribution, although some already use a first touch-last touch system. By first touch and last touch, here’s what I mean:

  • First Touch (FT): You stamp the lead on the first entry.
  • Last Touch (LT): You stamp the lead on the most recent entry, overwriting previous data.
  • First Touch and Last Touch (FT/LT): Both original touch and the most recent touch are collected.
  • Multi-touch (MT): You collect data on every touch.

3. Collect the data with URL parameters and hidden fields

No matter which model you choose, the data must be collected. The most used methods is URL parameters and hidden fields.

  • FT & LT: This model requires the least amount of data collection. In some cases you can simply have the form default specific data like lead source = PPC.
  • MT: This model requires more URL parameters because the lead can come in from a number of places. Each time the lead comes in, the system needs to collect new data. We cannot assume the lead comes in from the same place or for the same reasons.

To set up URL parameter links, I use a spreadsheet to construct and store all of my URLs. Note: These URL parameters are sometimes called “UTMs.”

Next I setup forms with hidden fields related to the data I capture. In most cases, I use paired fields that capture both LT and FT, allowing me to have a foundation for an MT system. An example of this looks like:

Josh Hill Blog Image 1Inside your marketing automation system, the original fields are only populated if empty. This way you have the ability to edit the last fields. In the end, you will have a series of URLs that look like this:

Josh Hill Blog Image 2

4. Use the Offer-Channel Method and URL parameters

As an advocate of understanding your Channel sources (the how) and your Offer effectiveness (the why), I recommend adding the appropriate fields to your system and to your URLs. Even if you start off with collecting the FT and LT data, this is far more information than most B2B marketers are collecting. For example, you could collect data on:

Josh Hill Blog Image 3

You will use your marketing automation platform to manage this data. To get proper URL parameters, you may have to construct your names with dashes.

Josh Hill Blog Image 4

5. Determine how you will distribute credit across touches

In an FT or LT model, revenue and cost credit is given to the first campaign or the most recent campaign touch, which leaves out other campaigns or nurturing events that have influenced an opportunity.

Using MT attribution will give you the ability to see the entire picture of the lead journey. Many reporting tools allow you to choose an equal weighting of campaigns or modify the weighting in some way. It’s important to make sure your CMO and CEO understand the differences and what reports are chosen. Usable reports are about consistency between activities and timeframes.

Remember, developing a marketing attribution system and applying a model to that data is often an evolutionary process. Think hard about what report you want and then how the data will help you get there.

Josh Hill

Posted by Josh Hill

Josh Hill is the author of, the Marketing Rockstar’s Guide to Marketo, and a Marketo Certified Expert. He has written articles for Marketo, Perkuto, and HubSpot.

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