Why Attribution Matters in Content Marketing

Why does attribution matter in content marketing? Money, that’s why. More pointedly, attribution matters because the denizens of the C-suite don’t care about clicks, likes, follows or friends. They care about business outcomes and you need to be able to show that your content marketing is contributing to your firm’s profitability. If you’re just another cost center, you’re going to get cut.

The Content Show That Never Ends: Repurposing Like a Media Company

Why does attribution matter in content marketing? Money, that’s why.

More pointedly, attribution matters because the denizens of the C-suite don’t care about clicks, likes, follows or friends. They care about business outcomes, and you need to be able to show that your content marketing is contributing to your firm’s profitability. If you’re just another cost center, you’re going to get cut.

But what exactly is attribution in this context? It’s the ability to know how prospects found you and once they did, what influenced their decision to become a client.

Determining Lead Source

Sounds easy enough, but determining a lead’s source can be tricky. Determining what influenced the lead’s decision can be even tougher. There are steps you can take to help increase the degree of certainty with which you identify lead sources and their paths to purchase.

Let’s start with a look at your website. If you think you’re being helpful by cheerfully having your email address accessible on every page of the site — or even just on the contact page — you should re-evaluate what your website is supposed to do. It has to help your prospective clients, of course, but if it’s not helping your marketing, it shouldn’t be part of the program.

Instead, each page of your site — or perhaps just the contact page — should have a simple mail form through which visitors can contact you. This allows you to track what page prospects were on when they were motivated to reach out to you.

Depending on the sophistication of your site’s coding, it may enable you to see what other pages the prospect spent time on, as well. If not, you may was to discuss the possibility with your web developers, as this is valuable information for your sales team. And it’s valuable to your marketing team, too. It can guide what content to present to the prospect as you move that prospect toward the hand-off to the sales team.

Mail forms also cut down on the spam you receive through your website, which is a nice side benefit. They can also be coded to help automate the marketing process, by routing messages to the appropriate team member depending on the prospect’s needs and interests. Again, check with your web dev team if this isn’t happening already.

Phone numbers can similarly be tracked. Various services allow you to replace your “real” phone number with one that will automatically ring through to the appropriate department and can be tracked as having come from your website. (Or anywhere else the number is published.)

Some services also offer the ability to record calls so you can get a sense of whether your telephone reps are a strong or weak link in your marketing process. Even just tracking call length can provide valuable insights.

Other Content Attribution Tools

There are other attribution tools, as well. The key to use them effectively and to managing the attribution chain well include:

•    Plugging the leaks — know where every lead is coming from
•    Connecting the dots online and off — not everything happens on your website or in your inbox
•    Integrate sales and marketing and your CRM tools in the process
•    Create a consistent data framework

The last bullet may be the most important. Tracking attribution over time helps smooth over the inevitable inaccuracies by allowing you to view trends rather than just individual data points. You’re never going to get to 100 percent accuracy of all lead generation online, offline, and via all branding activity,  so trends may be as useful as the data itself.

Now, there are always going to be imperfections in any attribution attempts you make. You simply have to embrace the imperfection, be aware that you don’t know it all and likely never will, and use the data you’ve gathered to guide your decision making. 80 percent certainty is a lot better than 0 percent. The bottom line is that if you can’t attribute any of your firm’s revenue or profit to your content marketing, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Author: Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?

A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.

His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications. 

Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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