From Novice to Knowledgeable in Seven Minutes


From Novice to Knowledgeable in Seven Minutes

What Is Marketing Attribution?

What if your CEO asked you: “Do our marketing campaigns generate revenue?” Would you know the answer? This is the question marketing attribution solves.

Marketing attribution measures the impact marketing campaigns, channels, or events have on revenue by assigning credit to all the successful marketing touches from lead acquisition to close. Understanding how your marketing activities move a buyer down the funnel is critical for today’s multi-faceted, multi-channel B2B buyer.

Think about all that goes into closing a deal! If you are just looking at what sources revenue, your marketing team is missing out on a big piece of the pie. And, if you are only focusing on vanity metrics like email opens, clicks, and social shares, you are missing a huge component of what makes a campaign successful—driving pipeline and revenue.

What marketers today really need to know is: what portion of our revenue and pipeline can I attribute to marketing campaigns?

Without answering this question, we don’t really know the true performance of our marketing programs.

Marketing Attribution: Executive Dashboard

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution measures the impact that marketing campaigns, channels, or events have on revenue by assigning credit to all the successful marketing touches from lead acquisition to close. Understanding how your marketing activities move a buyer down the funnel is critical for today’s multi-faceted, multi-channel B2B buyer.

Think about all that goes into closing a deal! If you are just looking at what sources revenue, your marketing team is missing out on a big piece of the pie. And, if you are only focusing on vanity metrics like email opens, clicks, and social shares, you are missing a huge component of what makes a campaign successful—driving pipeline and revenue.

What marketers today really need to know is: what portion of our revenue and pipeline can I attribute to marketing campaigns?

Without answering this question, we don’t really know the true performance of our marketing programs.

Marketing Attribution: Executive Dashboard

Marketing Attribution Models

One thing you might be wondering is: how much credit do we assign to each marketing campaign? This is where marketing attribution models come in.

Marketing attribution models are varying sets of rules for crediting revenue or pipeline dollars back to marketing campaigns. Depending on the model you use, credit will be attributed to different touch points along the buyer’s journey.

Before we introduce the different models, it is important to understand the different stages, or touches, that make up the buyer’s journey.


Anonymous Touch

The anonymous touch is the channel where the lead first finds you.

Think: Original lead source
Examples: PPC advertisements, SERPs

First Touch

The first touch is where the lead first becomes known to you.

Think: Lead generation
Examples: Contact Us or content download form submission

Middle Touch(es)

The middle touch(es) are the identified touches between the first and last touch point where a lead interacts with your content or an offer over time.

Think: Lead nurturing
Examples: Blog posts, social posts, webinars

Last Touch

The last touch is the last interaction a lead has with your brand before becoming an opportunity.

Think: Lead conversion
Examples: Field event, direct mail

The first step to choosing an attribution model that makes sense for your business is to decide which touches are most important to you and your sales cycle, as that information should influence which model you select.

There are several models you can choose from—each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Marketing Attribution Models to Avoid (We Can Do Better)


No Model

Without an attribution model, there are no rules to attribute revenue to marketing campaigns. A life without rules invites chaos. Data reporting can be inconsistent and without structure. An attribution model, regardless of type, should always be used.


Single-Touch Attribution

Single-touch attribution attributes 100% credit to one marketing touch point. This model is a popular starting point for companies just beginning to consider revenue or marketing attribution. In fact, AdRoll reports that this model is used by roughly two-thirds of marketers.

The two main single-touch models are first-touch and last-touch:

  • First-touch attribution assigns 100% credit to the first-touch interaction when a buyer becomes known to your brand. For example, let’s look at a sample buyer journey. The first interaction a buyer has with your brand is filling out a website form to download an ebook. After that first interaction, she watches a video, attends a webinar, and stops by your booth at a tradeshow. If you are only tracking first-touch attribution, the only marketing engagement that gets credit for the closed deal is the original ebook download. But what about the other touches? In the world of using only first-touch attribution, all of the other high-value marketing activities get ignored.
  • In last-touch attribution, 100% credit is assigned to the last-touch interaction (lead conversion). This is the last interaction the buyer has with your brand before becoming an opportunity. Let’s use the example above. If you are only tracking last-touch attribution, the only marketing activity that gets credit is the tradeshow. All other touches are ignored.

These attribution models both have the same problem: they only focus on one portion of the customer journey. Only touch points in the beginning or end of the journey are considered and given credit. The other stages of the journey are completely ignored, even if they influenced the customer. For these reasons, in addition to tracking first-touch attribution, a more complete attribution model is recommended.

Marketing Attribution Models to Consider


Multi-Touch Attribution

Marketing is a part of every stage in the buyer’s journey. In today’s complex B2B buying lifecycle, not only does it take multiple engagements to move a lead from acquisition to close, but most B2B sales transactions involve multiple decision makers and influencers within an account. This is where multi-touch attribution can be really helpful, as it accounts for each and every touch point in the sales cycle.

There are two main types of multi-touch attribution: evenly-weighted and position-based.

Evenly-Weighted Attribution

Evenly-weighted attribution, also referred to as linear attribution, does just what it sounds like. It applies the same weight to each touch point. First, middle, and last touch interactions all receive equal credit for the deal creating a balanced, even attribution model. The simplicity of linear, or evenly-weighted, attribution makes it the most common starting point for most marketers looking to implement a multi-touch attribution model. However, this equal approach runs the risk of overvaluing low-impact touch points or undervaluing high-impact touch points.

Position-Based Attribution

Position-based attribution emphasizes specific touches in the cycle, typically the first and last touches. This model is also known as a U-shaped attribution model or the 40-20-40 model. This model usually gives 40% credit to the first and last touches, and distributes the remaining 20% across the middle touches. Based on this model, each touch point receives credit, but priority is placed on first and last touches, like lead generation and conversion. The downside to this model is that you might be assigning low credit to critical points in the buyer journey that happen in the middle of the funnel.


Custom-Weighted Attribution

Custom-weighted attribution models allow you to analyze your own buyer’s journey to determine which marketing interactions deserve the most credit. For example, you may want to place a large emphasis (50%) on a webinar which occurs in the middle of your sales cycle, a medium emphasis on the last-touch (30%), and a small emphasis on the first-touch (20%). Using this method, you can create your own custom-weighted attribution model that is tailored to fit your unique buyer’s journey. If you have a strong understanding of your buyer’s journey, custom-weighted attribution is a great way to assign credit based on your unique business use-case. However, since you are assigning what value each activity gets, there is a higher possibility that you might be missing out on a critical touch point.


Artificial Intelligence-Powered Marketing Attribution

As evidenced in the potential for a custom-weighted attribution model to be biased, human judgment can falter—it’s not perfect. AI-powered attribution attempts to fix this very problem using scientific and proprietary algorithms to allocate credit based on statistics and not human opinion. As we have said, every business is unique. AI-powered attribution uses data science to look at what causes a lead to convert throughout your funnel in order to come up with a customized model that can determine what credit to assign. AI-powered marketing attribution is easily the most complex and advanced model out there. We are currently investing heavily into research and development to bring AI-powered attribution to our clients.

Marketing Attribution Essentials:
A Checklist to Ensure Accurate and Actionable Data

✔ Get Your Funnel Stages Straight
Before selecting or implementing your marketing attribution model, you need to first establish your funnel stages—how a lead moves through your funnel to become a customer. Define each stage and make it clear to your whole team the definition of each stage. Typical stages might be lead, marketing qualified lead (MQL), sales accepted lead (SAL), sales qualified lead (SQL), opportunity, and closed customer.

Your funnel stages are the backbone of any good marketing attribution strategy, because without them, you can’t track how leads move from one stage to the next.

Once you select your funnel stages, it is imperative that you align your sales and marketing teams. Sales and marketing have always been intertwined, but for your attribution model to be successful, they need to be on the same page. Establish universal processes and definitions for your teams to use with your CRM and marketing automation software. If your teams don’t understand each other or your stages, your revenue will likely be attributed incorrectly.

✔ Set Your Goals for Each Channel
Goals should always be set for your marketing channels. Otherwise, how will you measure their performance? You might have goals for some channels that align to the early stages in your sales funnel, and you might have goals for other channels that focus on the later stages. Think lead generation versus lead acceleration.

Take the time to list each of your channels and create goals for each one. Look back at your past channel performance and use the data to influence your attribution benchmarks and objectives.

✔ Make Sure CRM and Marketing Automation Are Set up Properly
Sync your campaigns from your marketing automation platform to your CRM. No one likes a silo.

Your sales and marketing teams shouldn’t need to log into both a CRM or marketing automation platform to record a lead’s path. It should be happening automatically and accurately. To do this, make sure both systems are properly set up and integrated. If you’re looking for specific data to be recorded or imported, don’t be afraid to reach out to your service provider and ask.

To be successful, you should also know the limits of your CRM. For example, Salesforce has a problem when it comes to marketing reporting. Simply put: Salesforce was built for sales, not marketing. However, setting up campaigns properly in your CRM will pave the way for marketing attribution success when you onboard a separate solution.

✔ Understand and Enter Cost Data
You cannot calculate ROI without cost.

Make it a habit of recording program spend in your CRM campaigns. If the campaign is ongoing, come back on a monthly or quarterly basis to update the cost of the program.

✔ Compare Results of Different Attribution Models
A/B testing has existed in marketing for years. And with good reason.

You should use the same methodology in testing attribution models. There is no one-size-fits-all attribution model. Different models will work for different businesses. You may even want to use several at a time. For example, you could use first-touch attribution modeling to see what channels and campaigns are the best for sourcing revenue and pipeline, and then you might use an evenly-weighted attribution model to determine what channels and campaigns are best for influencing revenue and pipeline. Don’t be afraid to test models and decide which one is best at providing a clear picture.

After testing, it will also become easier to understand the implications of choosing one model over another.

✔ Use Cohort Analysis
Cohort analysis breaks up your audience into different groups based on a shared characteristic. For example, they converted in the same month or quarter, or originated from the same channel.

Use cohort analysis to see how attribution changes when looking at different segments of your audience.

✔ Create Essential Reports
One report won’t cut it. You need dashboards that speak specifically to the marketing objectives and goals that you previously set up.

Create reports that speak to overall marketing impact on pipeline and revenue, channel performance and ROI, specific campaign performance and ROI, account-based marketing metrics, and more. For more ideas of what reports to create, download our 5 Essential B2B Reports eBook.

✔ Get Your Team on Board with Metrics Training
Enabling your team to see how their work directly contributes to your company is invaluable as an employee.

Walk your sales and marketing teams through your attribution metrics so they can better understand the value they bring to the table. Teach them your attribution model and explain your rationale. Plus, enable them to easily pull the reports themselves with a marketing attribution platform.

✔ Develop a Communication Cadence with Report Sharing
Set a precedence for sharing reports with your team early. Your team is going to be curious about how their marketing programs impact the company’s bottom line. Communicate your set process for reports so no one is left waiting.

In addition to sharing reports across your core marketing team, it is critical that you think through how you will communicate your results across the organization. Develop a consistent cadence of communication with your sales leadership and executive team.


The Best Marketing Attribution
Quotes, Stats, and Success Stories

3 Insightful Marketing Attribution Quotes

“We can now provide better revenue predictions, which make the business much more confident about making marketing investment decisions to achieve revenue goals.”

John Watton,
EMEA Marketing Director, Adobe

Marketing attribution isn’t just a way to measure marketing impact—it empowers marketers to make more strategic marketing investments. Knowing which stages of your buyer journey are successful, or need attention, is crucial in putting together a marketing plan or budget. Attribution provides the knowledge marketers need to make smart decisions.

“The world is rapidly moving from marketing as a cost to marketing as a revenue driver.”

Edward Nevraumont,
Chief Marketing Officer, Author and Advisor, Good Enough LLC

As Edward points out, we need to start looking at marketing as a revenue builder, not an expenditure. Data-driven marketing attribution allows us to look at how marketing drives revenue at a micro and macro level.

“If early touch points were so magnificent, why didn’t they convert?”

Avinash Kaushik,
Google Digital Marketing Evangelist

If you ever doubted the importance of a marketing attribution model that weights different stages, the quote above should solve any doubt you may have. Each stage has a different purpose within the buyer’s journey. First interactions can’t also be last interactions. You can’t have the bottom of the funnel without the top—or the middle for that matter. These interactions need to be measured and credited individually based on your unique sales cycle.

Favorite Marketing Attribution Stats to Consider


Determining what influences your pipeline is a key part of business. 32% of marketers report that they’re directly measuring pipeline influence according to a 2017 Demand Gen Report. As a part of the sales cycle, it’s important to attribute pipeline dollars to the correct marketing channels and campaigns.


Measuring marketing impact is of the utmost importance. In fact, 88% of marketers cite the ability to measure and analyze marketing impact as a top priority as found in a 2017 Demand Gen Report.


Marketers remain confused on how their efforts contribute to revenue, let alone relate to it. Aberdeen reported that 51% of marketers are unsure of how their efforts objectively connect to revenue in 2016. That’s over half of us. Marketing attribution is the best way to translate your marketing campaigns into revenue.

3 Marketing Attribution Success Stories to Inspire You

Ellie Mae Obtains Marketing Freedom with Marketing Attribution

Ellie Mae is a mortgage compliance, quality, and efficiency software company. Taking information from their CRM, Salesforce, and importing that data into Excel to perform revenue attribution proved to be a time-consuming task. Prior to implementing a marketing analytics platform, there was no attribution model and the analysis was performed in batches in an ad hoc, as-needed basis. With BrightFunnel, they are now able to clearly see the outcome of their marketing campaigns. Each marketer can see their contributions to the company and the company can see those contributions as well. Defining attribution has also allowed Ellie Mae to become a “fast succeed, fast fail operation” with the freedom to experiment.

Marketing Attribution Leads to a 128% Increase in Marketing-Influenced Bookings for Nimble Storage

Nimble Storage, an Adaptive Flash platform, had big goals for growing revenue, but limited visibility into marketing’s impact on the sales pipeline. To keep up with their aggressive growth plans, they knew they needed to analyze marketing performance and optimize their marketing spend. Working with BrightFunnel’s marketing attribution platform, Nimble understood their marketing performance with a single view. They also measured impact using several attribution models, providing greater insight and historical trends. With established trends and benchmarks, Nimble felt more confident in upping their marketing spend by 30%, resulting in a 128% increase in marketing’s impact on bookings.

Everstring Empowers Their Marketing Team to Own Campaigns and Results with Marketing Attribution

As a predictive sales and marketing software company, Everstring deals in a lot of data. Naturally, they understand how difficult and time consuming it is to compile sales and marketing data into a cohesive report. It is a significant, laborious effort. BrightFunnel’s marketing attribution platform enabled all that pain to go away. With BrightFunnel’s dashboards and reporting, time was saved in having to pull several reports and crunch numbers just to get an executive summary. Marketers on the EverString team were also empowered to go into the system themselves and own their programs and results.

The Bottom Line

Marketing attribution is imperative to running a successful sales and marketing team. Attribution enables you to know your team’s true value and influence on the company pipeline. If done correctly, it can even help unify your sales, marketing, and executive teams. For an in-depth look at multi-touch attribution and step-by-step instructions for employing it within your own company, download our Definitive Guide to Multi-Touch Attribution.