My company wants to start doing attribution, so I’ve been asked to put together a plan. Here’s the problem: I have no idea how to do this right.
I’m uncertain about the practicalities my plan should account for, or what results to expect. What kind of commitment is attribution really? How do I create and carry out a plan that works?
Amy, it’s good that you’re thinking critically about this. Years back, when my Marketing team first took on attribution, we were very excited by all the models and ways of understanding how people engage with campaigns. I was under the impression it was a plug-and-play type deal: three months down the line, it’ll spit out numbers that tell you exactly where to spend, hands-free.
What actually happened: three months in, I had nowhere near a confident grasp of how to use different models and data setups, nor was I taking any decisions to optimize spend. My Sales and Marketing teams were frustrated—the results we thought were coming were nowhere in sight—and so was I.
From that experience, I learned something important: attribution isn’t magic. It’s a gradual process that takes long-term refinement, consistent methodology, and clear communication between Marketing and Sales to really work for your business.
That understanding is your plan’s guiding star. Here are some tips to go the distance:
– Use a dedicated vendor: Unless your entire job is attribution, there aren’t enough hours in the day to build this effectively on your own. There’s no native ability in CRMs to pivot campaign memberships against opportunities, which is how you start to calculate ROI.
– Establish common terminology: Marketing and Sales needs shared definitions of what it means to source, touch, influence leads, the same classification of sources vs mediums, and a mutual understanding of how your CRM accounts for revenue and opportunities. This helps to keep your data clean and for Sales to set accurate goals.
– Clear data collection: Use UTMs wherever you can, and be consistent with tagging traffic coming into your website.
– Get your tools in sync: Many attribution platforms use Salesforce campaign objects; to keep accurate data flowing, check that these are synced correctly with the relevant Marketo programs.
– Get your processes in order: Make sure that Sales is using opportunities in Salesforce and regularly reporting pipeline and revenue in there; you’ll need these updates to sync to Marketo.
– Figure out spend: You might think organic traffic is free—but how much are you paying someone to update and optimize the website? Agree with your boss how to factor in less obvious expenses; even estimates are useful to arrive at accurate ROI calculations.
– Budget for time: Your platform might take 6-12 months to launch. And if it’s a 2nd or 3rd gen platform that offers website cookie tracking, implement that collection right away if you think you’ll need it in the future.
– Small goals = achievable: Set goals as part of a gradual roadmap that incorporates more robust models only as you get more comfortable with attribution. Small wins that you actually achieve are better than grand plans gone off the rails.
Attribution is a complex business. You want to go far, not fast.
You’ve got this,