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A Beginner’s Guide To Marketing Attribution – Part Three

Welcome! If you’ve not already read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series, we suggest getting up to speed there first to learn a bit more about what marketing attribution is, its basic foundations and principles. You can also download the whole series as a pdf to read at your leisure. If you have read those, let’s get right to it – A Beginner’s Guide To Marketing Attribution Part 3.

Upleveling Your Marketing With Attribution

Attribution is knowledge. It’s information to help marketers and business leaders make decisions based on the actual relationship between investment and return. This series of posts uses the goal of leads and cost per lead vis a vis marketing attribution. They could just as easily be total revenue, ROAS, ROI or any other preferred metric.

When actual numbers are tracked on an ongoing basis, they provide a running snapshot of your marketing program which can be used for future planning. Actual results can also be extrapolated to project (expected) results for any scenario – adding new marketing channels, scaling budget, rightsizing the mix.

For example, your yearly budget allocation meeting is scheduled for next week and you’ve done a great job (illustrated in example tables in earlier posts). Considering overall efficiency is strong you want to increase budget next year. Hard data generated from past performance will strengthen your logical, data-based argument for the increase. Let’s examine how this might play out.

Recall, this table from Part 1

Marketing attribution example dashboard

Which can be edited and reformatted to highlight by channel contributions:

Essentially, contribution amounts illustrate the relative performance of each channel to spend – SEO is almost 12% of the budget and responsible for 40% of leads; non-branded paid search is 36% of the budget yet drives only 24% of leads. Marketing attribution helps make informed future-forward decisions like ‘is the amount being spent aligned with what it generates and broader business goals’?

In preparation for the budget meeting, you’ll prepare two proposals: one version with your ideal, increased budget and a second with a stable budget for comparison.


  • Assume data is using a simple 30-day last touch model (B2B sales cycles are long)
  • Understand the purpose of each marketing vehicle and keep “non” or “under-performing” channels in consideration even when contribution analysis might suggest pausing
  • Due to scaling challenges and fixed costs, increasing budgets need to be spread across other channels
  • Specific considerations for scaling budget
    • Certain vehicles like SEM and remarketing are limited – by demand or audience – and cannot scale uninhibitedly
      • Branded search, for example, often maxes out on inventory because there’s only so many people searching for your product/company by name
      • Additional non-brand search terms, on the other hand, can usually always be found though with decreased efficiency
      • Secondary channels like remarketing are limited by the audience available. Scaling up requires additional marketing to build those audiences through other means first
      • Certain fixed cost tactics like PR or SEO can be scaled via additional support or services. Others, like events, are set and have limited flexibility
    • Testing new channels – social + social remarketing, radio (terrestrial & digital), TV, OOH, content syndication, referral, direct mail – is a great way to reward earlier successes and to support scaling
      • Use estimates when historical data is not available
      • Leverage past experience with those channels along with actual results from other tactics when estimating

The Budget Ask

Proposal 1

Let’s first examine what this might look like in a relatively stable budget scenario. Start with actual results to get a lay of the land. Then, build another table and start inputting projected numbers starting with known costs like agency fees.

Marketing attribution budget proposal example one - constant budget

Next, start aligning projected budget contribution to actual lead contribution where possible and where it makes sense. For example, “actual” spend for SEM brand is 1.17% of budget and 8.75% of leads with a $9 CPL. It would be great to increase budget but that’s probably not possible because only so many people are searching for your brand as of right now. Therefore, the actual dollar amount should be relatively consistent. On the flip side, SEO (11.81% of budget and 40% of leads) might deserve more spend because it’s performing well. So, you go back to the agency and ask if they have additional tools/services and if more budget would yield more efficiency.

Work through budget percentages, actual dollars, and CPL estimates until all percentages equal one hundred and the budget sums to your goal. Finally, does it pass the smell test?

Proposal 2

Marketing attribution and reporting are the foundation of any plan when advocating for additional budget. When looking to scale, follow a similar procedure as above with additional considerations like testing new channels when current ones aren’t enough. Building off the earlier proposal, what might it look like if budget went from $30k to $50k:

Marketing attribution budget proposal example two - scaled budget

Note, as budget increases, its contribution relative to fixed costs decreases. Coupled with inventory limitations in channels like branded search and remarketing, two options are available for increasing budget:

  1. Introduce new channels
    • Estimate CPL based on experience and historical data from other channels
    • Massage contribution percentages to ensure the total sums to one hundred percent
  2. Scale existing channels with unlimited inventory like display and accept decreasing efficiency (i.e. higher acquisition cost)

Depending on the situation, either or both might make sense. In this example, we’ve done a bit of both:

  1. Introduce new channels: Notice two new rows: social and social remarketing. Both under the assumption they exhibit greater efficiency than other awareness-type activities like display banners. Both CPL estimates and budget contribution percentages should take these into account  as well.
  2. Scale existing channels: Display banners and video generate awareness and fill the top of the funnel. The resulting traffic becomes ripe for remarketing – which, you’ll notice, also has increased budget.

Voila! You’ve now identified and created a marketing attribution model, applied it to results and generated insight AND used it to advocate for additional budget. Congratulations!

Summing It All Up & Putting It Together

The building blocks of marketing attribution are:

  • Systems integration and data validation
  • The funnel
  • Crediting leads to the marketing channel that caused it
  • Understanding how marketing channels interact and work together
  • Understanding the purpose of each marketing channel – awareness vs action
  • Finding the right model for your business: Touch & Window with bonus points for view-through and cross-device
  • Deploying a model that takes all this into account
  • Reporting at regular intervals
  • Using the model and data to estimate future results and advocate for a position

Once the framework is in place and you’re confident conversions are correctly attributed it’s time to use the data for its intended purpose – making better decisions to optimizing the marketing mix and lowering cost of acquisition.

Then, as you build new dashboards and gather more data your accuracy in anticipating cost, modeling and projecting future performance will improve. As experience builds you might even consider getting in even deeper and start developing your own models!

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