Skip to main content

The age-old goal of marketing attribution is to find which campaigns and channels are driving the best outcomes. Attribution might seem simple, but the reality is that it is rarely linear or clear. Today’s buyers are influenced by many marketing and offline channels, making it hard to understand what goes on from their first interaction to a closed-won deal. 

And now that more B2B organizations are launching ABM strategies, measuring attribution becomes even more complex. As a marketer, you’ll likely work in multiple channels or run multiple campaigns. The more you run, the more interactions potential customers will have with your business. Here’s what marketing attribution isn’t telling you and how you can realign it to your ABM strategies. 


Types of Marketing Attribution

Marketers use many different attribution models, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the most common attribution models


Single-Source Models

As the name suggests, these attribution models give credit to one touchpoint in the buyer journey. The two most common single-source attribution models are first-touch attribution and last-touch attribution. 

First-Touch Attribution

First-touch attribution gives all the credit to the first piece of marketing material the customer engaged with. This isn’t a bad way to go if you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-implement attribution model. It’s also more effective if you have a short sales cycle. As the length of your sales cycle increases, however, first-touch attribution becomes less effective to the point of becoming misleading and inaccurate. This model is best suited for understanding the top of your funnel. 

first-touch marketing attribution model

Image Source: Adobe

Last-Touch Attribution

Conversely, last-touch attribution gives all the credit to the last touchpoint your customer interacts with. Like first-touch attribution, this is easy to implement and track. Unlike first-touch, it can be used for any length of sales cycle. This model will show you what drives customers to action. The biggest downside to the model is it doesn’t consider the impact of the preceding touch points. This can skew the amount of importance you place on the last touchpoint and how you judge the ROI of your marketing strategy. 

Last-touch attribution model

Image Source: Adobe

Multi-Source Models

Multi-source attribution models assign different amounts of value across touchpoints. The amount of value for each touchpoint varies depending on the model. These models are considered more accurate but not as easy to implement. Some common multi-source models include linear models, time decay models, U-shaped models, and W-shaped models. 

Linear Models

This considers every interaction, dividing the credit evenly. This gives you a good high-level understanding of how effective your marketing strategy is. It’s also a straightforward and easy way to communicate ROI. It doesn’t, however, give you a good idea of which touchpoints and channels have the best performance. 

Linear model attribution model

Image Source: Adobe

Time Decay Models

Similar to last-touch, time decay models place the most importance on the last touchpoint. Unlike last-touch, the previous interactions are given some weight. How much depends on when the interaction took place. Interactions early in the journey get less weight, and interactions later in the journey get more weight. This helps you understand the bottom of your funnel while at the same time not neglecting interactions prior to conversion.

Time decay attribution model

Image Source: Adobe

U-Shaped Models

This gives 40% of the credit to the first and last interactions. The remaining credit is split evenly across the middle touch points. This is a balanced approach and can be useful if there are multiple touchpoints before a conversion. But, if there are a lot of touchpoints, it can spread credit too thin to the point of being useless. 

U-shaped attribution model

Image Source: Adobe

W-Shaped Models

This gives 30% of the credit to three points in the buyer journey, the first interaction, the lead conversion, and the opportunity creation. The rest of the credit is divided evenly between the other touchpoints. The W-shaped model helps you understand the whole customer journey and what is effective at what stage. 

W-shaped attribution model

Image Source: Adobe

This all seems pretty straightforward so far. All you need to do is find the right attribution model that fits your sales cycle and buyer journey. Right? Well, not so much–especially when you implement an ABM strategy.


ABM Attribution

If you are in the SaaS B2B space, you may have noticed that it’s not just a CTO involved in the decision-making process. Instead there could be multiple stakeholders from a company involved. Your campaigns are likely consumed by these additional stakeholders either online or offline, which leads to a more complex sales cycle, making it tricky to track attribution. 

In addition to a convoluted map for decision-making, multi-touch attribution can prove to be a tedious thing. The path that customers take from their initial interaction to the final stage of closing a deal can involve various touchpoints, both online and offline. How do you weigh the impact a trade show or product catalog has on a customer’s buying decision? Even worse, how can you measure the impact these have on multiple buyers throughout the decision-making process?

Although your focus may be on targeting specific customers, there are numerous paths through which potential clients can engage with you or your content, whether directly or indirectly. Determining which blog or website visit eventually resulted in a successful transaction and generated revenue poses a significant challenge. Enter the dark funnel.

The dark funnel is an extension of multi-touch attribution. It goes beyond accounting for the reach of regular digital touchpoints of customer interaction. The idea emphasizes the role of informal and invisible channels that marketing teams cannot uncover while trying to understand the customer journey.


Ways to Drive ABM Attribution

Gathering intent data can be very valuable for any marketer trying to measure attribution, not just sales teams. It helps you target the right accounts and stakeholders and adds to your attribution measurements. Think of intent data as the starting point of your attribution model.

After intent, comes consolidating all your data from your internal systems (CRMs, websites, marketing automation tools, ad platforms, etc.) and organizing it in a way that outlines the main steps of the buying cycle. Typically, the stages are awareness, engaged, open opportunity, closed won, post-purchase.

You also need to align marketing and sales efforts. Sales teams interact with the customer journey first hand, and these teams can have different motivators and ways of measuring success. Ensuring that both sales and marketing teams are looking at the same numbers and at the same target accounts right from the beginning of a campaign drastically improves the process of measuring performance and helps marketers determine the cost to revenue return of their efforts.


RenderTribe Account-Based Strategy

At RenderTribe, we’ve supported B2B growth-stage companies in designing and implementing account-based strategies since 2012. Our approach is rooted in helping our B2B clients achieve sustainable growth by driving account engagement with a strategy built on market fit and relevant signal data.

Our team includes ABX and channel experts to help design a sales and marketing strategy aligned with your unique goals and needs. Ready to get started with ABM but need an experienced team to help put your strategy in place? Let’s talk!

Contact Us