Do you know where your sales leads are coming from?
Do they come from your website? Your email campaigns? Your search engine marketing (SEM), display advertising or social media? Do you have a clear picture of how the allocation of your marketing dollars is affecting your sales pipeline?
Not sure? If you’re like most digital marketers, you monitor your conversions from SEM and you know your cost per conversion. Your analytics software tells you what’s driving your form submissions. You know your webinars bring in hundreds of new contacts. And every time you send out an email campaign the phone rings.
So far so good — except the numbers don’t add up. You have multiple tools and channels taking credit for the same conversions so you have more conversions than leads in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
How are you supposed to know if your cost per conversion is good or bad when it isn’t tied directly to the leads generated?
And where are your leads coming from?
Digging for Sources
Your CRM system says most of them come from your website — and the majority of those even have a campaign source — but that doesn’t give you what you need either.
The source indicates an event, an email campaign or an offer such as a whitepaper that converted a visitor into a name. Or worse: just “web” or “phone”. You need to know the originating source of that visitor so you can get more of them.
Digital marketing is supposed to be perfectly trackable but this tracking is anything but perfect. What’s wrong with this picture? Is there something wrong with your tools, your team, your agency, your web development shop?
Relax. You’re experiencing the same challenge as other marketers. The good news is there are practical solutions.
Understanding Marketing Attribution
These are three aspects of marketing attribution that need to be addressed to successfully measure the impact of marketing on your sales pipeline:
1. Build an integrated “marketing stack”
Fixing the broken telephone between your marketing activities, your conversion points (think forms, webinars, phone calls, chat, etc.) and your CRM system is the first critical step. You have many channels and conversion points to consider so you’ll want to focus on the most important or highest volume channels first.
The solution is an integrated marketing technology stack. It’s tempting to think a single marketing technology suite from one of the top marketing cloud vendors will come with perfect data connections but this is rarely, if ever, the case. You’ll more than likely need to do at least some new technology selection and integration to suit your unique situation.
2. Connect all data in a single attribution database
Your next challenge stems from marketing in many channels with multiple offers to the same people. Naturally, you want a presence wherever your potential customers are.
However, since your future customers typically interact with you more than once you’ll need to account for each interaction and conversion point along the path to lead and sale. This will overcome the double counting problem.
The solution is to track the referring traffic source of every visit and conversion point in a single marketing database. This will mean connecting web analytics data, your conversion data, your campaign cost data, while also extracting contact info, leads, opportunities and sales from your CRM.
Solutions here include purpose-built marketing attribution systems, custom marketing data warehouses, or marketing automation systems with built-in attribution databases.
There are a large and fast-growing number of options here, ranging from less than one thousand dollars per month to tens of thousands of dollars per month or more. You’ll want to make sure the solution you choose both meets your budget and is designed for the business outcomes you are solving for.
3. Design reports for insight and action
Finally, with your data connected across systems, you’ll need reports designed to answer your top questions. Which channels and campaigns are introducing new visitors which turn into leads? Which campaigns and tactics are causing contacts in your database to take action and ask to speak to sales?
Track all conversion points but focus your initial reporting efforts on the first click and last conversion prior to a transaction or passing a lead to sales. These will give you the quickest path to value.
First click reports will expose the true value of channels and campaigns bringing you net new visitors and contacts. You need this to accurately measure paid search, display, social or other campaigns targeted at the top of the funnel.
Converting click reports reveal how remarketing and email campaigns cause returning visitors and contacts to take action. By contrast, first click reports will undervalue these channels because — by definition — email and remarketing campaigns cannot be targeted at contacts or visitors that have not already been exposed to your brand.
Marketing programs materially impact bottom line outcomes. Building accurate attribution systems is the logical extension of your lead generation program. Once you begin quantifying exactly how your marketing activities are affecting your sales pipeline you can begin allocating marketing budgets based on performance to predictably improve results.
A version of this article originally appeared in CMS Wire July 21, 2016.
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