With so many touch points throughout the customer journey, identifying which channels and campaigns have had an impact on things like revenue, customer lifetime value, or advocacy can be difficult.
Attribution models can solve one of the biggest challenges marketers face — proving the ROI of marketing campaigns (a huge 40% of marketers say this is one of their top challenges). When you have the right attribution models in place, you can identify which channels and campaigns are making an impact and prove your worth.
In this blog, we’ll explain what attribution models are, the most common types of attribution models, how to choose the right model for the job, and how Ortto can help you attribute revenue more easily and accurately.
Marketing attribution models definition
Attribution models assign credit to touch points across the entire customer journey so marketers can better understand which channels, campaigns, and messages are driving the most impact.
Why is attribution modeling so important?
Once upon a time, last-touch attribution (where the last touchpoint is given all of the credit for the sale) was the most accessible and common attribution model used. While last-touch attribution is still an important piece of the puzzle, it does not tell the whole story.
Attribution modeling allows marketers to see every channel and campaign that a customer encountered along their journey to conversion, and gives appropriate weight to each.
With this deeper understanding of the customer journey and the marketing activities that lead to conversions, marketers can draw insights on things like:
Strongest channels at different stages of the funnel
Top-performing messaging and campaign types
Weakest links in the customer journey
ROI on specific campaigns or channels as a whole
These insights can help you make better, more data-driven decisions about where to spend your marketing budget in the future.
5 common marketing attribution models
There are five common attribution models marketers use to connect the dots and identify top-performing channels and campaigns. In most cases, marketers will want to use several (or all) of these models to outline a clear path from awareness to conversion, and properly give each channel the credit it deserves.
In this section, we’ll outline each of the models, along with examples of when best to use them, and the kinds of insights you can draw from them.
1. Last-touch attribution
As mentioned above, last-touch attribution gives all of the credit to the very last touchpoint a lead has with your business before they convert, regardless of the steps that came before.
This is by far the simplest attribution model to implement and accurately track, as it directly links the final touchpoint to a conversion. When this model is used alone, however, marketers run the risk of downplaying the importance of other stages in the customer journey, especially if your product has a longer buying cycle.
With last-touch attribution, you will gain an understanding of the types of messages and channels that nudge leads over the finish line. These insights can then be used to build more effective retargeting campaigns and for the final stages of your nurture campaigns.
If you’re an Ortto customer, last-touch attribution will be the default model for system activities with touch tracking. These activities include things like clicked email by default, and can be set up on any new or existing custom activity.
2. First-touch attribution
First-touch attribution will look back at the very first campaign the lead received within the attribution window, giving 100% credit for the conversion.
For example, if a customer finds your business through a search ad, completes a subscription form on your site and receives an email, and is then retargeted with an ad on Facebook before they convert, the search ad will receive 100% credit for the conversion.
Like last-touch attribution, first-touch is appealing because it is incredibly simple and easy to implement, but it gives marketers a narrow understanding of the customer journey and may downplay the impact of other channels.
If you are very focused on building awareness for your product or brand and bringing people into the funnel, first-touch attribution will be your go-to.
3. Linear attribution
When using a linear attribution model, every campaign the lead sees and action they take across the customer journey will be given equal credit for the conversion.
For example, if the lead completes a lead gen form on Facebook, receives an email from your company, sees a capture widget, and then converts after clicking through on another email, all four actions will be credited 25%.
To get credit, each action would need to occur within the attribution window. An attribution window determines the amount of time after the action takes place that it still “counts” towards the conversion. In Ortto, the default attribution window is set to six days, with a maximum window of 14 days. If you send messages frequently, we recommend reducing the attribution window down to one or two days.
While linear attribution is not as straightforward a model as last or first touch, it is the most straightforward way of giving marketers a balanced look at channels and campaigns across the customer journey. If you are a marketer that needs to prove the value of top and middle funnel activities, but you need a simple and easy-to-explain model, this is for you.
4. Time-decay attribution
Time-decay attribution weights the credit attributed to each campaign or channel based on the point of conversion. It’s a model that allows for multi-touch attribution while ensuring that the activities that nudge the lead over the line are given greater credit for the conversion.
If we take the example above where our lead took four actions before converting, the weighting may look something like this:
Lead gen form on Facebook is completed: 5%
First email campaign: 10%
Capture widget: 35%
Second email campaign: 50%
Time-decay attribution is particularly helpful if you have a longer sales cycle or you are looking to better understand the middle of the funnel activities that ultimately lead to a conversion. Like linear attribution, all activities must take place within the designated attribution window to count towards the conversion.
5. Position-based attribution
While it may be the most complicated attribution model, position-based attribution (sometimes referred to as U-shaped attribution) will offer marketers the most holistic view of which channels and campaigns are contributing to a conversion.
Like time-decay attribution, position-based attribution weights campaign credit based on the point of conversion. It differs in that the first and last touch campaigns are given significantly more credit, receiving 40% each. The remaining 20% is distributed evenly between the campaigns in the middle of the funnel.
Let’s take a look at how this would change the weighting of campaigns in the example above.
Lead gen form on Facebook is completed: 40%
First email campaign: 10%
Capture widget: 10%
Second email campaign: 40%
If you have multiple touchpoints that occur throughout your customer journey and a longer sales cycle, position-based attribution is a great option. It’s a balanced approach that ensures first and last touches are weighted accordingly (these are, after all, two of the most important pieces of the puzzle), but other campaigns or channels are not ignored.
Other marketing attribution models
You may encounter some other, less common attribution models in the wild west of the marketing world. Here are just a few:
W-shaped attribution: First and last touches will receive equal credit, along with the qualified lead touch. Each of these three touches will receive 30% of the credit, with the remaining 10% being split between the touches between. This model requires you to understand exactly what qualifies your lead, making it more difficult to implement and track.
Z-shaped attribution: In this model, every touchpoint across the customer journey is given some credit, depending on where it falls. You will need to have a deep understanding of your customer journey to implement this one, as four touchpoints are given equal weighting of 22.5% each (usually first and last touch, lead creation and lead qualification), with the remaining 10% split across the other touchpoints.
Custom attribution model: Companies with a very specific funnel that requires a specific weighting to be applied to different touchpoints across the journey can create a custom attribution model using a platform like Google Analytics. While this model offers a high degree of customization and flexibility, it can be very difficult to implement and may add unnecessary layers of complexity to your reporting and insights.
How do I choose the right attribution model?
Marketers set up attribution to draw insights about their top-performing tactics. When an attribution model is particularly complicated or data-heavy (for example, a custom attribution model), it can prevent you from uncovering the insights that lead to growth.
That said, too simplistic and you run the risk of ignoring impactful top or mid-funnel tactics. This could mean you reduce or stop spending on a channel that is actually contributing to your overall conversions and revenue.
You will want to choose an overarching attribution model that is applied as a default to all marketing activities. Depending on the tech stack you use and your data setup, you could also set different attribution models at a campaign level where it makes sense.
In either case, to choose your attribution model, you will want to ask yourself a few questions:
What is my goal?
How long is my sales cycle or campaign?
How complicated is my customer journey?
Consider the insights you want to uncover, and which model will help you reach this conclusion in the most straightforward way possible.
For example, you may choose to track last-touch attribution, with a 6-day attribution window as a default. Then you can set campaign-level attribution models, based on the goal for the campaign. For example, if you are setting up a webinar email campaign, webinar registrations will be the activity attributed to the campaign. In the next section, we’ll show you how easy this is to set up in your own Ortto account.
How to set your attribution model in Ortto
Being an Ortto customer comes with many perks. One of which is an incredibly simple, built-in way of accurately measuring attribution across email, using any of the five common models outlined above.
To set your attribution model up, log in to your account and:
Go to Setup
Choose your attribution window. This will default at six days. The maximum window is 14 days.
Choose your attribution model. You can choose between any of the five commonly-used models outlined above.
Choose your activity to attribute. This could be sales, subscription changes, or anything other activity you have set up in your account.
Select your value label. For example, Revenue, MRR, or ARR.
Now, every email, SMS, and capture widget you set up will use this attribution model as a default.
When you want to set an attribution model at a campaign level, follow the steps below.
Go to ‘Setup’ in your campaign
Scroll down, and click ‘Show advanced options’
Under ‘Attribution’ check ‘Enabled’
Select the activity to count, along
You can make your activity attribution more specific by adding additional attributes. To do this select ‘Where’ and add the specification. For example, if you have integrated Calendly and you want to track how many people create an ‘book a demo’ event, you can click ‘Where’ and select the attribute ‘Event type name is Book a demo’. You can add more attributes by selecting ‘Where’ again and using the AND/OR toggle to modify your filter.
Click ‘Next’ and continue setting up your campaign as normal
If you choose to use the same activity (Create an event, Book a demo) on multiple campaigns, the attribution model will only apply to the campaigns that use that activity.
In the early days, you may want to play around with different default attribution models to see what works for your business and work at a campaign-level to track your progress towards specific goals. Eventually, you will want to land on a consistent default model to ensure you have some consistency in reporting and can draw more meaningful insights about your top-performing channels and campaigns.
Without attribution, marketers are unable to draw insights into the channels, messages, and campaigns that are driving conversions and revenue. Not only does this make proving ROI impossible, but it also becomes difficult to make data-driven decisions about where to spend your valuable time and money.
With Ortto, setting a default and campaign-level attribution model for all email, SMS and capture widget campaigns is incredibly simple. Get started by logging in or signing up today.