How to prove your marketing effectiveness through attribution

By |

Episode 7 | Built to Market Podcast

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon

The day my career changed was the day I walked into a management meeting armed with the scarlet A - A as in attribution. 

Rather than feeling like a financial burden and just another "red" expense to the CFO, I suddenly gained the ability to precisely identify which marketing and sales strategies were making a significant impact on our bottom line. I could hardly believe it. At that moment, it was as if the entire dynamic in the room had shifted. From that day forward, I have never underestimated the power of data, and I have never again found myself second-guessing if my efforts were driving to the bottom line.

But what happens when you don't have attribution from your marketing and sales efforts? You are managing your website, your social media, your customer and lead contact lists, your email, your ads… all on separate platforms. And it takes days to answer the simplest of questions from the C-suite. 

In this blog post, we will explore the process of creating an attribution system for marketing and sales efforts. We will share an exact system for tracking marketing efforts and generating reports, including three essential reports to present at your next management meeting.

Marketing master of all

A day in the life of a marketing manager is like being a spinning plate master. You are supposed to be driving revenue but also designing the company holiday party email. You wear so many hats! Graphic design, web designer, web developer, email expert, social media master, proposal writer, video editor, data analysis, event planner… you get the picture.

The average built environment company has one, sometimes two, marketing staff. That is a far cry from the 10+ roles I just listed that build an entire marketing team. But let's face it: if you are the marketing coordinator or manager, you know that is the norm. If you are lucky, you leverage an agency to help you implement the vision. 

As a member of the inside marketing team, you are held accountable for leads and sales, but tracking your efforts is necessary to get credit for it. 

Trust me; I know personally what this feels like because I was you a little over ten years ago. 

But even without a massive team, with the right software and KPIs, you can set up a dynamic marketing and sales attribution system that shows you how your efforts contribute to revenue. 

Let's discuss the technology you need to make attribution tracking easy. It is important that you have a single source system. 

Single source system

What's a single source system? Glad you asked. This term you might hear from developers, and I like to use it to emphasize that all your data needs to live in one system or separate integrated systems. 

The data that needs to be in your single source starts with your CRM. CRM stands for customer relationship management software. A CRM is a dynamic database where you store all your contact records - leads, customers, vendors, etc. These contact records are the single source where all contact activity should be stored. 

If your data is all over the place, you can check out episode 3 of the Built to Market Podcast on building your email list. Your email list is also your contact list in a CRM. When you look at a contact record, you should see a picture of that person. That means all correspondence, emails, calls, meetings, notes - all should be logged on that record.

You should also have essential data segmented on the record. Is this person a lead or a customer? Is this person an influencer, or do they have the decision-making power to sign a contract or spend money? The contact record should record the person's activities - how often do they visit your website, what pages, and when? What forms have they filled out? What emails have they opened? What lead magnets have they interacted with? What has this person purchased from your company? Did they pay on time? Have they filled out any surveys or contacted your company's support to resolve an issue?

When we look at each other as whole humans, we see a deeper, more meaningful picture of the person we are interacting with. We do business with humans, not demographics, so our data should reflect those relationships. And that information can be leveraged by everyone on your team - not just sales, accounting, or marketing. 

So, how do you get all this information in one place within a CRM? Either you choose an all-in-one solution - or you integrate your different systems - email, social, website, etc. - into a CRM.

Integration is key

Opting for an all-in-one approach is best. HubSpot is the platform of choice for us. It's worth noting that this recommendation is not influenced by any endorsement arrangement. Over the past 15 years, we haven't come across a more effective solution for seamlessly aggregating all these crucial data points, catering to both small and large enterprises. The user-friendly interface ensures that you don't need to possess advanced technical skills or engage a developer to access essential features tailored to your business. At Illumine8, we not only advocate this approach but also implement it for our clients.

If you can't go all-in on one platform - which can be the case when you have a complex system such as an ERP, have invested a lot into building a robust e-commerce platform, or perhaps use industry-specific software such as Procore. Then, you need to integrate as many systems as you can into your CRM of choice. Every day, more and more integrations are being built for cloud-based software systems that work natively - that means no developer is required, or minimal configuration is required, to make the two systems talk to each other. 

I want to clarify the point: you can't achieve clear data-driven attribution at scale without this technology. If your job is to drive sales and leads, then it also is to provide clear, data-driven recommendations on what works to create those sales and leads. Calculating a return on investment without these tools is like being asked to swim with your legs and arms tied. 

Reporting the customer's journey

Now that we have the appropriate tools and all the data consolidated in one place, it's time to go into creating the three reports showing the attribution of your marketing and sales efforts.

Our reports will follow three stages of the customer journey: Brand Reach, Lead Generation, and Customer reporting. 

Our first report focuses on branding. Branding captures all the activities of your company that grow your company's audience or community. The metrics in this report are focused on reach, interaction, and brand community. 

Branding Report

Branding is about giving. It's posted on social media. It's creating content. It's ensuring your visual marketing is consistent - your shirts, your trucks, your yard signs, your business cards. What is challenging about branding is that sometimes it takes effort to measure. So, let me break down some of the data metrics you can tap to estimate the size of your audience that makes your Brand Reach report.

  • Social Media - You should include metrics such as the number of followers on the different social media platforms you are active on. It would be best to have interaction metrics such as likes, shares, or comments. 
  • Print Media - add QR codes to all your printed media to track audience activity and use tracking phone numbers to count the number of calls from anything published - that includes your yard signs or fleet trucks
  • Content - Your website traffic metrics are essential when measuring the size of your brand reach. You will want to include the number of unique visitors that visit your website monthly, as well as the average number of pages visitors review on your website. I usually segment my website traffic metrics to focus on traffic to website pages, offer pages, and blog pages. You'll also want to include metrics around bounce rate for pages intended to keep visitors on the page. Exclude pages from the report that are transactional in nature - they artificially inflate your bounce rate. Lastly, include a report that breaks down your visitors by traffic source - such as organic vs paid ad traffic.

From these specific data reports, you can use this simple formula to calculate your overall brand reach over a particular period, such as a month or a quarter: 

Add the following:

  • Total number of social media followers on all platforms you actively post to
  • Total number of unique, organic website visitors 
  • Total number of paid organic website visitors 
  • Total number of phone calls from print media, directory listings, etc.

If you are running advertising on a billboard or in print, you can add the drive-by traffic metrics for a billboard or the circulation number for the print ad to this calculation. 

Lead generation report

Our second report focuses on converting your audience, which we just calculated in the "brand reach" report, into leads. This Lead Generation report focuses on the information you generate from your traffic. Remember, brand reach is calculated from an anonymous audience. You know they are there, but you don't know who they are by name. A lead is someone from that audience who gives you their contact information. They are not unknown or anonymous any longer. They have introduced themselves to you by giving you their phone number or email address and name.

The data metrics to include in your Lead Report are

  • Website leads - these are individuals who have filled out a form or interacted with a chatbot. When you've included this report, you'll want to break down the lead sources; by that, I mean the pages that the lead filled out the form on. This will start to tell you what lead magnets, offers, and website pages are working and which ones are not. 
  • Social Media leads - in the last episode, we talked about chat funnels and how to use them in social media to gather contact information from a lead within the social media platform. If you are using this method, could you include a report that shows the number of leads converted using chat funnels and have the source? Just like website leads, this will start to tell you what offers are working and which ones are not.
  • Phone call leads - If you use phone tracking software like CallRail, you will know where your calls are coming from. Those calls should be logged in your CRM system now, and you should be able to segment those leads by source. This will tell you where customers are calling from and what they are looking for when they call. Is it a lead, or do you get many calls for directions and hours?
  • Print leads - Print leads are a little trickier. If you include a QR code in all your print materials, you have a data collection point you can count. However, with something specific like an offer code, tracked phone number, or QR code, print is more accessible to track. Ask sales and service to please note on the contact record the lead source by asking the customer when they interact with them. It's not a foolproof method, but it will help you collect more data for attribution efforts.

With these reports, you will now be able to identify two things - first, your top lead-producing efforts and second, your brand reach-to-lead ratio - which is what percentage of your brand reach audience becomes a lead. 

Customer report

Our last report is the most familiar - the customer report. In this report, we focus on how many leads became customers. I also include in the customer report churn rates and engagement rates. 

Data points for this report need to include:

  • Website leads to customers. How many of your website leads, as defined in the lead generation report, became customers? You can also segment this report by source. Sometimes, the top lead-producing website page or lead magnet isn't the one that produces the most customers. This is a critical insight to know.
  • Social media leads to customers. Similar to the website leads to customers, this is the number of social media leads who become customers. I like to segment this by channel and also offer.
  • Phone calls lead to customers. Again, I would like to point out which phone calls lead to sales by source.
  • Print leads to customers, same story, segment by source as well. 

In this report, I would like to take things a step further and report a full attribution report that shows all the marketing efforts and their contribution to the sales. If you are using HubSpot as your CRM, then you can use the campaign lead report or look at the attribution recorded on the contact record itself. If you are not using HubSpot, you must pull this information for each lead and calculate the number of "touches" that contributed to the sale. A typical journey shows 8 interactions that should be attributed to the sale.

It's essential to let you know that a weighted attribution model is not being used for this exercise. Our primary goal is to establish activity-based attribution, and you can fine-tune the weightings of these activities in your attribution model later. For now, let's focus on giving credit where it's due!

To round out this report, you should also include post-sale customer stats such as

  • Number of days from lead to close
  • Length of time between the sale and post-sale first interaction 
  • Customer churn - how long someone remains a customer with your company
  • Length of time between 1st sale and 2nd sale with the same customer

Armed with these three reports that define your brand reach - your earned audience, your lead generation rate from that audience, and your customer report, including close rate - you will walk into your subsequent management meeting arms with proof of exactly what your marketing and sales efforts have done for the bottom line. It's a day I've never forgotten, and when it happens for you by following these three reports - let me know! Let's celebrate that scarlet A - Attribution - together!


About The Author

Connect with Illumine8