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Posted by Ed Morley - 18 October, 2018

The Pros and Cons of a Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution

For many B2B marketers, assessing the effectiveness of each marketing channel can be a challenging task.

The long B2B sales cycle, complex decision-making process, and multiple customer touchpoints mean it's not always easy to assign a one-to-one correlation between a marketing channel, the conversion rate, and the revenue generated.

Without the ability to measure down-funnel metrics in the form of opportunities and revenues, it's often difficult to prove the value of each marketing tactic you're using.

Thankfully, with the help of marketing technologies, you can now create attribution models to help determine the success of your strategies.

What's Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution?

In a multi-touch attribution model, marketers consider all the touchpoints that precede a conversion event within a customer journey and allocate a weighted credit toward each.

Multi-touch marketing attribution definitionImage source

Unlike single-touch marketing attribution, which ascribes 100% of the revenue to a single touchpoint, multi-touch attribution models take into account the complexity and reality of B2B marketing and provide more input for marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of their methodologies.

The Pros Of Using Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution

A multi-touch attribution model considers all the marketing channels involved in the process that leads to a conversion event. 

It addresses the complexity of the B2B sales cycle, which often involves multiple stakeholders interacting with the brand at various stages in the customer lifecycle.

Since any channel that contributes to a conversion is credited, it helps prevent marketing activities from being devalued just because they aren't directly associated with driving conversions.

A multi-touch attribution model also allows you to see how marketing channels impact each other within a short timeframe, providing insights for planning a real-time marketing strategy.

In addition, there is a  variety of modeling methods you can use to suit the nature of your business and the customer journey.

Linear Attribution

With each marketing activity given the same weight, the linear attribution model is the simplest and easiest to implement among all multi-touch attribution models.

Linear Marketing AttributionImage source

However, it doesn't give additional weight to touchpoints that have a greater effect. For example, most companies find that activities occurring closer to the conversion event have higher impact and should be weighted more heavily.

Time Decay Attribution

This model assumes that an event that happens closer to conversion has more influence and therefore, should be weighted more heavily.

This model often better reflects the long sales cycle involved in B2B marketing and provides more insights on the strategies used in the middle and bottom of the funnel.

time decay attributionImage source

However, a time decay model may steer the attention away from the top-of-the-funnel marketing activities, which are increasingly important in B2B marketing as more buyers are doing their research online before engaging with sales. 

Lead capture activities at this early stage of the customer journey can be critical for future conversion and a time decay model may put too little weight on this critical marketing initiative.

U-Shaped Attribution

The U-shaped model focuses on two key touchpoints and also tracks the middle touchpoints between the two. It helps marketers measure the effectiveness of two selected touchpoints and the transition between the two stages.

U-Shaped MarketingImage source

The disadvantage of this model is that it only tracks two touchpoints out of many used in B2B marketing.

For example, in the diagram above, the model stops tracking after the lead-generate stage. It doesn't offer insights into the prospects' post-lead interactions or which activities ultimately lead to conversion.

W-Shaped Attribution

Similar to U-shaped attribution but taking another touchpoint into account, the W-shaped attribution model is used by many organizations since there are much fewer marketing activities to track once the sales team takes over after opportunity creation.

W-Shaped Attribution

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Most companies need to customize the weight attributed to each activity in order to create a model that reflects the reality. This adds complexity to the model and increases the cost of implementation.

Full-Path Attribution

A more sophisticated version of the w-shaped attribution model, the full-path attribution model includes the customer-close touchpoint. By addressing activities in the post-opportunity stage, this model accounts for sales initiative and help you understand the interaction between sales and marketing.

Attribution via Full Path Marketing

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The complexity of this model makes it more costly to implement. In addition, you may need to adjust the weight attributed to each stage by creating a custom attribution model to match the channel mix of your organization.

Position-Based Attribution

This model assigns 40% to the first and last touchpoint while dividing the remaining 20% among those in-between.

It ensures that all touchpoints are accounted for while giving more weight to the ones responsible for introducing customers to your brand and driving them to conversion.

Position Based Marketing Attribution

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However, caution has to be taken when assigning too much credit to the first and last interactions. This can negate the work required to build customer relationships, which is particularly important in B2B marketing. 

The Cons Of Using Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution

Multi-touch marketing models can be complicated to implement. Many of them require expert knowledge, complicated calculations, technology, and algorithms.

The complexity of these models can give an impression that the numbers are reliable but in reality, these models have their shortfalls:

  • Inherent in each attribution model are assumptions about the contribution of marketing activities. Your analysis may not be accurate if you fail to choose one that reflects the reality of your business or industry.
  • The weight assigned to each marketing activity can be somewhat arbitrary and skew the insights if they don't accurately portray how your customers interact with your marketing channels.
  • The attributed ROI doesn't reflect true ROI, which includes incremental revenue from existing customers who aren't converting through the channels being analyzed in the attribution models.


negatives of marketing attributionImage source

  • The interactions between offline and online channels are often negated in these models. However, with the use omnichannel marketing technologies, the line between online and offline channels is blurring. Yet, this dynamic is rarely captured in an attribution model.
  • These models can't address a variety of external factors that are hard to quantify, such as brand equity, word-of-mouth, pricing, seasonality, and competitor activities. 

Multi-touch attribution models are useful tools to help you understand the performance of your marketing channels. 

The key is to understand their limitations and be aware of the assumptions when you're deriving insights from them.

B2B eCommerce Marketing

Topics: B2B Marketing, Sales & Marketing, B2B Sales, Management, Technology

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