One of the hardest questions to answer as a marketing professional is, “How can we measure the return on our advertising investment”? Before the turn of the 21st century, advertisers used to rely on metrics like readership, exposure and impressions received from their marketing spend. These metrics indicate the breadth of reach from ads, but are nowhere near actually determining the dollar value gained from your investment.
At the end of the day, if the bottom line went up it was an indication of successful marketing but advertisers were mostly left in the dark on the direct impact on profits. To this day, traditional advertising methods don’t allow for any way to tie ad spend to closed sales. These marketing efforts require a lot of preparation and planning (depending on your selected channels) – but sales will still fall through the cracks without attribution. These issues with proving ROI are why so many businesses are allocating more and more funds to digital advertising each year.
The beauty of digital advertising is the ability to track your return with a properly implemented digital infrastructure. Advertising through Google and Bing present many opportunities for search, display and video placements, all which can be tailored to drive users towards predetermined actions and goals. For business-to-business (B2B) companies, digital advertising is becoming an integral expenditure in fueling sales departments with actionable leads. A major hurdle companies run into is quantifying the direct return they receive from their advertising funds, especially for lengthy sales cycles.
The following methods of attribution will help you decide ahead of time how to begin tracking your marketing qualified leads so you can prove the value and continue expanding your marketing presence.
Disclaimer: This method by no means is a solution to attribution modeling between cross-channel marketing programs, but simply a proposed system to consider implementing to begin tracking leads until they convert to sales for companies who do not have customer relationship management (CRM) integration.
In order to fully attribute individual leads to sales you will need to have a system in place to identify the source responsible for generating leads, and have the ability to reference that information after a lead closes.
Using on-site lead forms is one of the simplest ways to attribute leads to various channels, however in order to pin a sale to AdWords it will require some finesse. When a lead form is submitted through a site, it is usually sent directly to an email recipient or stored in a downloadable lead sheet. The problem with attributing a lead to AdWords is presented because Analytics does not track personally identifiable information (PPI) that can tie a single lead form to a single user. With the use of secondary dimensions in Analytics, you can easily see the source/medium responsible for a grouping of lead forms, but this still does not show perfect attribution. To take attribution one step further, you can use the timestamp of when the lead came through and cross reference Analytics to determine what was the actual source. After you have pinpointed the individual lead to a source, you will then need to decide on a way to make a note of this for future reference. You can do this by exporting your lead sheet and adding a new column to write in the source, or you can simply keep a separate log of leads from various sources. If you are a pro you can also cross reference AdWords for specific leads and also note the specific campaign, adgroup and keyword that generated the lead at the same time.
This process is sluggish and requires a lot of hands-on tracking especially if your company has hundreds of leads to vet, but can be really helpful when upper management is considering pulling AdWords funding at the end of the year. If you do not have the bandwidth to go through each lead and annotate the source responsible, the quick way is to start the process after a sale is closed. As long as you have the original timestamp of the generated lead logged, you can also go back through your Analytics data and identify attribution.