How To Tell Which Marketing Channel is Making Sales For You

Digital marketing may have changed the game, but it has actually changed less than you think about the marketing game.

Sure, it lowered the barrier of entry, making mass-marketing and audience targeting affordable and easy to automate, even for small businesses.

But the fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed since the Mad Men days. Yes, there’s more cool tech, but the first principles still apply.

One of those principles is that you want to know which of your marketing strategies are producing sales. That way, you know which strategies to double down on and which to discard, leaning up your ad spend for the maximum ROI.

Digital marketing made it much easier to determine where your sales come from. Whereas in the days of print ads and billboards you had to rely on customer reporting, whereas in the online world everything is documented. Google Analytics can tell you where every visitor came from — organic search, paid search, social medial, emails, etc.

But Google Analytics doesn’t tell the whole story “at-a-glance.” Every marketing expert knows the importance of re-marketing. It usually takes multiple impressions (or “touches”) to close a sale with one customer, and with re-marketing a single prospect could end up interacting with your brand through multiple channels.

For example, the prospect might discover your website through a paid Google Ad, become a lead after clicking on an Instagram ad that was show to them via pixel retargeting, and then finally buy after clicking on a link from an email. 

So where did the sale “come from?” The Google Ad, the Instagram ad, or the email?

The answer comes from a metric called marketing attribution. 

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the practice of determining which marketing channels lead to sales. This isn’t obvious from Google Analytics, but Google Analytics can give you the data to assign attribution weight to each traffic source.

Attribution Models to Choose From

Remember the example where the customer had three touches from three different channels before buying? The question was — how do you pick the channel responsible for the sale?

Brands have several different “attribution models” to choose from. Think of an attribution model as a way to assign a certain number of “points” on a scoreboard to the different marketing channels you use. The more points, the more effective the channel at producing sales.

Here’s the menu of options:

First Touch

The first touch is the first time the customer interacted with the brand. In the above example, the first touch was the Google Ad. Under the “first touch” model, the Google Ad would get all the credit for the eventual sale.

Let’s say that in your attribution model, each sale is worth 30 points. If you decide on the “first touch” attribution model, the Google Ad would get all 30 points. 

Last Touch

The last touch is the last marketing channel the customer interacted with before closing the deal. In the above example, the email was the last touch. If your brand chooses the “last touch” attribution model, the email would get all 30 attribution points.

Linear

In the linear attribution model, each touch gets equal credit for producing the sale. In the above example, the Google Ad, the Instagram Ad, and the email would each get 10 points out of the 30 total.

Time Decay

With the time decay attribution model, the last touch gets the most weight, since it was closest to the sale, and the previous touches get diminishing weight. 

In the above example, the email might get assigned 15 points, having been the last touch before the sale. The Instagram ad might get assigned 10 points, and the Google Ad the remaining 5. 

This makes sure that each effective channel gets some attribution, but it tells you which channel to focus on as the highest-converting sales source.

So Which Attribution Model Should You Choose?

Which attribution model is right for you depends on your immediate brand goals. 

If you’re focusing on brand awareness, the “first touch” model might be best since it tells you which channel is most prolific in attracting new prospects who ultimately convert to customers.

If you want to focus on sales conversions, the “last touch” or the “time decay” models are probably your best bet.

If you want to take a holistic view of the customer journey, the “linear” model could give you an idea of which channels your customers interact with the most. 

Since brand goals change over time, your preferred attribution model may change as well. 


We focus on using the right marketing attribution to produce the highest possible return on clients’ ad spend. If you want to save yourself time and money expended on “trial-and-error,” reach out to us to discuss how working with us is the fastest, most cost-effective way to scale your business.

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