Marketing Attribution: 3 Approaches to Proving Content ROI
Marketing ROI

Marketing Attribution: 3 Approaches to Proving Content ROI

Your boss, the CMO, comes to you panicked because marketing fell short of its goal of driving 25 percent of new business for the quarter. (After all, he is nervous; the average tenure for a CMO is 45 months—up from 23 months back in 2006.) He is looking for other ways to show marketing attribution and contribution last quarter.

Similar to your content marketing programs, in order to prove ROI on your content, you can’t work in silos: It’s a collaborative effort between many departments. It can be difficult to track ROI on content if you haven’t first established the goals of your strategy. Whether you’re starting a new content program today or you’ve had one in market for months, make sure you think in terms of goals first, before you begin to measure success.

This blog post will demonstrate a few frameworks you can use to show ROI at your company. Whether you want to focus on campaign-level measurement, show overall influence from your content strategy, or track the ROI of individual content assets, one of the three approaches below can help:

1. Campaign ROI Approach

If you’re using a marketing automation platform, there are several ways you can acquire information and attribute action to various marketing assets. At the lead (or individual) level, consider these KPIs, each of which are also ways we measure lead engagement at Skyword:

  • Lead Source: How was the email address or contact information obtained? Was it via list purchase, your company’s website, a webinar, paid social campaign, an event, or some other way? Keep in mind that the lead source might need to be changed as new information is discovered about how the lead heard about your company. On the first sales call, the sales person should ask the lead, “How did you hear about us?” The source might need to be edited if they say, “I heard about you guys via Jon Smith,” or “I saw your booth at a conference and made a mental note to reach out to you guys later.” Even though they requested contact on your site, the lead source would change. Consider adding a field to your forms to ask, “How did you hear about us?”
  • MQI Source: At Skyword, we take our sourcing a step further and identify a MQI (marketing qualified interaction or inquiry) source, which captures the specific action from marketing that caused the lead to become an MQI. For us, an MQI is identified as someone who has raised his or her hand (i.e. met at a conference, downloaded a gated asset on our site, or replied to an email).
  • First Touchpoint What was the first campaign, blog post, Web page, or piece of content the lead interacted with? This can be when the lead was anonymous and became cookied (i.e. visits the website without completing a form or providing information) or when the lead is known (such as when an MQI source visits your booth at a conference having had no previous interaction with your company).
  • Last Touchpoint: What was the last piece of content the lead interacted with before becoming known? The MQI source could be different here.
  • All Other Touchpoints: Referred to as “interesting moments” by Marketo, these are specific actions the lead can take that are chosen and identified by members of your team.

2. Showing Influence through Interesting Moments

When and how did marketing influence leads throughout the buying cycle? You can get very granular here, identifying interesting moments whenever a lead takes a significant action, such as viewing a particular page or blog post, registering for a webinar, opening an email from marketing, or visiting a booth at an event. You designate your own interesting moments within your marketing automation platform. Here are some ideas for how to categorize your interesting moments:

  • Email: opens, clicks on links, email replies, unsubscribe requests
  • Web: form completions (as for webinars or eBooks), views, clicks, social shares
  • Events: engaged, attended, received demo, attended session
  • Company Blog: views article, clicks link in article, etc.

These interesting moments will serve as total marketing attribution to an opportunity being created or a deal closed. By using this reporting method we were able to show marketing had a significant impact on every won opportunity in Q1 2015. Below is an example report:

Opportunity Analyzer Report - marketing attribution - Skyword

This is how various marketing attribution looks in the life cycle of a Salesforce opportunity, with the orange dots representing marketing touchpoints and the green shaded area identifying when the opportunity was created and closed. Leads at the company (regardless if they have been converted to the Salesforce account) are shown on the right sidebar.

This is one of my favorite reports in Marketo because it shows all marketing touchpoints at the company level. If you use Salesforce, your primary contact (indicated by a yellow star) and other contact roles will be shown at the top half of the sidebar. Identifying the contact’s role in the opportunity will also give different weights for the deal being created or closing.

For example, Skyword’s marketing team was able to show that even though we originated 31 percent of won deals last quarter, we had a significant impact on 100 percent of deals—since we could show success in a marketing campaign for each lead who had a role in the opportunity. That’s a powerful metric to bring back to the executive team.

Marketo also provides a great guide for attributing ROI to campaigns—see #3 in particular.

3. Content ROI Approach

How can you attribute ROI from a particular article? If you’re the managing editor of your company’s blog and you want to see if any of the links in articles you post resulted in the lead filling out a form, append referrer parameters to the URL string and have your forms look for them. You can add a referrer parameter to each URL of your page automatically or access it via JavaScript. From there, you can measure success from that article on the last touchpoint metric, discussed previously.

Here are some metrics to consider:

  • Conversions: How many leads converted from a form on the piece of content or directly after clicking a link on the content? Consider a corporate contest to see which employee can drive the most new known leads from his or her content (or links within his or her content). This can be achieved by incorporating referrer parameters, or by placing URL parameters on links within content that points to forms or other pages on your site (i.e.
  • Cost to create and promote the article
  • Social shares, likes, followers
  • Average time spent on the article
  • It’s wise to repurpose the content elsewhere if possible; could you reuse the blog post in an eBook, a webinar, or other long-form asset?
  • And of course, visits to the article, both anonymous and known leads. For known leads: What are their titles or levels at their companies? What stage of the buying cycle are they in? Are they currently connected to any opportunities? How many leads became cookied by your marketing automation platform due to this article? Use interesting moments to tag when the lead views the article to show influence on the opportunity.

Here’s a real-life example. One month after this blog post was published, we were able to show the following metrics:

  • 164 known leads visited content, including: 3 existing clients, 131 MQIs, 4 MQLs, and 5 SQLs (current lead statuses)
  • 48 leads subscribed to weekly emails from the Content Standard after viewing the article
  • This article is tied to over $1 million dollars of the pipeline
  • 3,670 anonymous leads visited this content
  • 96 percent of anonymous leads were cookied for the first time (they had not visited our website before viewing this article)
  • 23 of the anonymous leads came from Google and 6 came from Microsoft
  • Location: 212 leads came from Boston, 172 from New York City, and 97 from Los Angeles

Once you have the right framework in place, you have many options. You can attribute points to a piece of content or campaign based on leads that converted, anonymous leads that were obtained from that piece of content, social shares on that piece of content, and more. I’ve seen some marketers attribute percentages per closed deal based on marketing touchpoints.

This is a big effort, but with the right game plan you’ll be showing ROI in no time.

Potential Roadblocks, and How to Overcome Them:

  • Lack of CRM or MAP adoption and compliance for end users. Help drive efficiency with weekly trainings or “tip of the day” emails.
  • Lack of executive sponsorship. Get buy-in from leaders in the company. Perform consistent, timely, and regular data review of important metrics, such as adding Contact Roles to Opportunities, inputting leads, updating program statuses, and others. A quote I seem to hear more and more lately: “People will respect what you expect if you inspect.” Sending a weekly “cleanup” report every Thursday morning from the department head will inspire their reports to make edits to their pipeline since they know it’s being inspected on a consistent basis.
  • Duplicate leads. Duplicates can seriously throw off your numbers. There are many tools to help de-dupe your database (i.e. Demand Tools by CRMFusion) and to monitor in real time when a potential duplicate lead is created.

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