What is Campaign Attribution? How to justify US$1000 CPL

Janis Weiss

Author: Janis Weiss, Head of Corporate Marketing at Openprise

What is campaign attribution? Ask anyone who’s ever worked in marketing about the biggest thorn in their side, and they’ll almost always say the same thing: showing how their marketing efforts directly led to new business. It’s impossible to determine a program’s value to a company without being able to quantify success. That’s just one reason why campaign attribution is so critical.

Campaign attribution uses automation to provide visibility into a buyer’s journey. It enables companies to see which marketing campaigns are working, and it empowers marketing to make adjustments in-flight to lesser-performing campaigns. But campaign attribution isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work and getting accurate results depends on having letter-perfect data. But the alternative—not doing campaign attribution at all—is not an option. Here’s why.

Understanding how marketing influences pipeline

The crux of the problem is a disconnect between leads coming into the pipeline and leads that convert. Marketing campaigns cost money, and companies want to ensure they’re spending wisely. Using a campaign attribution system, you can show how and where prospects interact with you from first touch (did they click an ad from a campaign? If so, which one? What led them there?) to last touch and the most recent interaction with a person, bot, website, or ad. With multiple campaigns running simultaneously, you’ll be able to tell which ones are performing well and which ones aren’t.

With campaign attribution, knowledge is (buying) power

The knowledge that campaign attribution provides gives you new insight into the buyer’s journey and enables you to allocate spending towards more effective campaigns. You can make bolder decisions about investing your dollars when you have tangible proof that a campaign is working. That way, you’re basing your decisions on real ROI instead of a gut feeling. Everyone has favorite campaigns and pet projects they want to do, but the only thing that matters is which ones have the highest ROI.

For example, we have one or two campaigns where the average cost per lead is over US$1,000. That may sound outrageous on the surface, but we accept it because these tried-and-true campaigns have been successful year after year. The ROI is strong, and we can prove it. It’s hard to argue with campaign attribution if you know your data is clean and accurate.

Metrics that prove marketing campaign success can engender a renewed confidence in the programs you’re spearheading, and not just validate the marketing budget as it exists now. It isn’t unusual for a CRO or CEO to ask you, “How big can that program scale? With twice the budget, can you deliver twice as much value?”

Campaign attribution makes you look fabulous

Returning for a moment to marketing folks’ number one pet peeve, measuring the effectiveness of their efforts has always been entirely subjective. Campaign attribution takes opinions out of the equation. Whether a campaign is cute, funny, edgy, intelligent, or in the right or wrong channel no longer matters as much as effectiveness. Those in a demand gen role need to demonstrate their value to the organization. Likewise, a CMO needs to prove the value of the whole team to the organization. With definitive proof, marketing can finally get a seat at the table to participate in much better conversations than “what have you done for me lately?”

Recipe for campaign attribution 

A recipe for campaign attribution is simple in theory, but difficult in practice without the right systems in place, for example:

In our business, we look for active contacts, whether a salesperson associated the contact with an opportunity or not. If you think about it, most B2B sales involve four or more decision-makers. If you’re only using one contact, your attribution is already 75% wrong. We look at activity within a full year. In looking back at recent opportunities that have closed, we often see the initial interest going back this far. Some of our customers choose 180 days instead.

We do lead-to-account matching. When a lead comes in the door, we automatically convert leads to contacts and associate them with the right account. We use our own product to derive key fields. Our algorithms help us derive information that might not have been on the incoming form, like job level and job function. Many of our customers will only associate active contacts with opportunities if they fit one of their buyer personas.

Weighting campaign touchpoints 

What’s more important in the buyer’s journey: a white paper or a webinar? A demo or a phone call? How do you know? Companies argue this point constantly, but we have an answer that works for us. They’re all the same. We realize there’s no universal way to tell which marketing campaign holds greater weight in a buying decision. You can measure a campaign’s effectiveness in attracting new leads, but not whether one or another tipped the scale in your favor. So we weigh them all equally.

Pro tip: Make sure your data’s clean

The real secret to attribution success? Clean, standardized data. Before you can take advantage of the power of campaign attribution, make sure your data’s cleansed, standardized, and de-duplicated. Dupes cause huge issues with attribution because you can’t be sure that your decisions aren’t affected by inaccurate data.

That’s a taste of how we manage campaign attribution. Every company’s different, so take from this what works best for your organization.

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Janis Weiss
Janis is the Head of Corporate Marketing at Openprise, a provider of RevOps automation solutions for marketing and sales, where she lives at the intersection of Technical and Creative