5 Best Practices for Marketing Attribution

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing has been around since industrial trade magazines launched in the 1800s, but the advent of the internet and subsequent technology boom has accelerated the industry more in the past two decades than it has in the past two centuries. So much so, in fact, that if you ask five people what they think marketing does, their answers may surprise you. 


There are many misconceptions about marketing but two of the most common — that marketing is only to acquire new customers and that marketing delivers immediate results — are rooted in the idea that quality products and services will sell themselves. Marketers, however, know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Great marketing involves identifying the ideal customer profile (ICP), testing (and retesting) messaging, implementing various tactics aimed at engaging and converting that audience, analyzing the results, and starting the process over again. 


Because there are so many moving parts, methods like marketing attribution were born to help businesses determine which channels and messages have the most significant impact on decision-making — whether it’s a purchase or something else (download, scheduled meeting, demo request, etc.). Identifying the most successful channels helps marketers get a clear picture of which efforts provide a return on investment (ROI) so they can better determine how to allocate their spend. 


What are the best practices for successful marketing attribution?

When the majority of your company (and maybe even many folks on your team) are unfamiliar with marketing attribution, it’s important to approach its introduction in a thoughtful and structured way. Here are five best practices for a successful marketing attribution strategy. 


  1. Educate your key stakeholders. Keep in mind that educating key stakeholders about your marketing attribution strategy is less about the definition (what it is) and more about the benefit (why it’s important). Help them understand how marketing attribution fits into the larger company strategy, what data they can expect to see from these campaigns, and how it contributes to moving the business forward. Proper education will help curb confusion before you even begin sharing charts about which emails or ads received the most clicks or why a particular video or resource is the most engaging.
  2. Set clear goals. Now that your internal stakeholders are on board with your marketing attribution strategy, it’s time to identify your goals. There are a variety of models and choosing the right attribution for your business depends on the goals of the campaign. Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Then a single-source model might be best. Does your product or service have a long or complex sales cycle? If so, one of the many multi-touch models is likely more appropriate. 


Remember, marketing attribution models are not one size fits all nor are they written in stone. If departmental or organizational goals change, your marketing attribution model should morph as well. 


  1. Track and organize data. The not-so-secret sauce of successful marketing attribution is the data. Before implementing your chosen model, take time to define your data strategy — where the data will come from, how often you’ll pull numbers, what methods you’ll use to collect information, who will handle the data collection, how you’ll analyze the results, etc. As you can imagine, the more complex the attribution model is the more complex the data. Fortunately, there are companies out there that specialize in marketing attribution software so make a list of your data needs before researching a partner.
  2. Start small but build to scale. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are marketing attribution campaigns. Pilot your program with a single campaign — whether it’s attached to a brand, channel, or asset. Doing so enables your team to familiarize themselves with the basics of marketing attribution and gives the appropriate amount of attention and testing to build benchmarks that inform future decisions. It also allows you to report results back to your key stakeholders without inundating them with information overload.  
  3. Revisit and relaunch. After you’ve built, tested, and analyzed individual marketing attribution campaigns, it’s time to put together a full-fledged marketing attribution plan. Armed with findings backed by data, you’ll receive less friction or uncertainty because your audience is already warmed up to marketing attribution. Be honest about results — if a campaign didn’t perform well, make the necessary adjustments to reverse the outcome. You’ll have the trust and support of your team and key stakeholders to implement a long-term plan that straddles various campaigns, channels, methods, and models. 


Marketing isn’t a guessing game nor is it a strategy where you can hit ‘enter’ on the keyboard and hope for the best. Customers aren’t algorithms we can predict — they’re beings driven by emotion and marketing is at its best when tailored to appeal to those emotions. Data-driven marketing methods like marketing attribution contribute to the bottom line and prove marketing ROI by revealing high-performing content and the most effective channels for delivering it.