Lead Attribution for Real-World Small Business
From an introduction to attribution modeling all the way to specific marketing tactics, we’ll show you how you can use lead attribution for your small business.
What is Attribution Modeling?
“Attribute: to regard as resulting from a specified cause” —Dictionary.com.
Measure, analyze and optimize.
The recipe for marketing success is to continuously increase your understanding of what’s working and what’s not. This process enables you to maximize the return on your marketing investments.
One way to increase ROI is to find out which touchpoints, contacts between your company and your audience, are most successful in triggering lead and sales conversions. These contacts can be anything from an online ad to one-to-one conversations. An attribution model is a set of rules a company uses to credit various touchpoints for lead conversion and customer acquisition.
Once you identify the most influential touchpoints, you can strategically allocate more of your marketing and sales resources to those activities.
Why Is Attribution Modeling Today’s Hot Topic?
Lead attribution is a hot topic partially because digital marketing and big data now enable us to track individual paths to lead conversions and sales in ways never possible before. Also, marketers recognize there’s power in understanding the impact of each contact. Just as averages can blur statistics, aggregate data may hide the truth. It cannot pinpoint where to spend your marketing dollars.
When you look at combined data, it’s easy to come to the wrong conclusions. For example, we often see research that claims email marketing is the most effective online tactic. Believing this, you might be tempted to put all your money into the email marketing bucket. In doing so, however, you would forego some of the touchpoints that enabled you to do email marketing in the first place.
After all, for the best email marketing, you have to build a list of people who want to receive emails from your company. That means attracting people to your website and converting them to leads by offering white papers, e-books and more. So, you cannot attribute all the success to email marketing just because it’s further along in the marketing chain. The early touches are essential to the success of email marketing. It tends to get full credit, however, because it is often the tactic that tips the scales for a sales conversion.
Types of Attribution Models
That said, there are many types of attribution models, and the most popular one is the last touch attribution model. In digital marketing, this is sometimes called last-click attribution. As you might expect, this model assigns all the credit to the last interaction. In this case, email marketing would appear to be the hero.
On the other end of the spectrum, the first touch attribution model gives credit for the sale or lead to the first interface with an individual — perhaps a pay-per-click ad or social media post.
Other attribution models divvy up the credit between all the touchpoints in the conversion path. But how they assign the credit between the buyer’s steps varies. It may be equal credit for each interaction, weighted to touchpoints later in the cycle, or shared mostly between the first and last contacts with just a small amount of recognition given to intermediary contacts.
The Reality of Lead Attribution for Small Businesses
Knowing exactly which marketing and sales tactics have the most impact on results is a business manager’s dream. While the tools to make it happen are more sophisticated than ever, there are still drawbacks. The more complicated your sales process is, the more difficult it is to develop an attribution model that reflects reality and helps you to make sound business decisions.
For starters, not all contacts are easily measurable. While the marketing world is increasingly governed by digital footprints, human-to-human and other offline interactions still play a role. There are referrals, conversations with colleagues, speaking engagements, sales efforts and more. Even if a visitor lands on your website, you sometimes don’t know what brought them there — it might have been a conversation with a colleague.
Secondly, the more complex the buying decision, the more likely your prospect is to be skipping from one channel to the next to learn about products and solutions. It’s hard to keep track of their movements.
Given these challenges, it may not be a good idea to depend on your technical team to implement an attribution model. Creating one will consume much time and expense and still may not produce the right framework for decisions. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Even though you may not have the resources to create an iron-clad attribution model, you can still get some of the benefits that come from lead attribution.
Lead Attribution without the Fancy Models
Instead of creating a model, you can use the following procedure as a workaround to get the marketing insights you need quickly and inexpensively.
#1 Capture critical data in your CRM system:
- The lead source
- The point at which lead becomes marketing-qualified
- The point at which lead becomes sales-qualified
- The marketing materials you share with visitors, leads and prospects, from marketing emails to printed brochures and direct mail pieces
- Individual sales communications with the prospect, such as phone and in-person sales calls, and personal one-to-one emails from your sales team
#2 Survey new customers to find out which interactions and materials influenced their decision to purchase.
#5 Do win/loss analyses to determine why customers purchase and why prospects walk away.
#4 Conduct an observational analysis of your buyers and prospects.
Select five to ten ideal new clients and ask a simple question, “How did they interact with our company on their journeys to becoming customers?” Since you’re capturing all the relevant information in your CRM system, you can review all their interactions with your business. Pay attention to the lead source, length of sales cycle and last interactions before the sale. Also, talk with your sales team for their insights on what worked with these customers. Determine if there are commonalities in the path to a successful sale.
Perhaps not so much fun, but highly valuable: pick five to ten prospects that did not convert into a sale and repeat the steps above. If your salespeople are like others, you may hear, “The price was too high.” This may be true, but often there’s more to it. Dig deeper to discover the real issues. What is the difference between the prospects who walked away and the successful sales conversions?
#5 Pull it all together.
With your CRM system, you have a veritable treasure trove of data at your fingertips. So, take what you’ve learned from your deep dives into the areas above and pull the following reports from CRM:
- A win/loss report by lead source
- The path to lead conversion
- The percentage of marketing-qualified leads by lead source
- The percentage of sales-qualified leads by lead source
- An influence report that shows what persuaded leads and prospects to convert
- The communications that your successful sales received
By reviewing this information, you can garner insights about what drives prospects to buy. Then, focus your marketing and sales efforts on those activities. That’s the goal of lead attribution…and you can do it without a sophisticated, expensive model.