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7 min read What is lead attribution

What is Lead Attribution?

Key Takeaways

  • Lead attribution is when you give credit to one or more channels that are most effective at attracting leads. It sounds simple, but many companies aren't 100% sure where's best to draw in prospective customers.
  • Once you've identified the best lead-generating channels for your business, you can improve ROI and resource distribution, among other things.

The suc­cess of any busi­ness depends on the abil­i­ty to attract leads and con­vert them into loy­al cus­tomers. But in an increas­ing­ly com­pet­i­tive dig­i­tal mar­ket, gen­er­at­ing these leads remains a sig­nif­i­cant challenge.

With­out a clear under­stand­ing of what’s dri­ving your lead gen­er­a­tion efforts, you risk wast­ing valu­able resources on the wrong strate­gies. You also stand to lose out on valu­able insights that could guide how you attract, con­vert, and retain customers.

If your con­ver­sion path isn’t up to stan­dard, you’ll strug­gle to attract leads and close valu­able sales. You need clear, action­able insights into the chan­nels and strate­gies that gen­er­ate qual­i­ty leads for your busi­ness. And this is where lead attri­bu­tion comes in.

Let’s explore what lead attri­bu­tion is and how exact­ly you can use it to max­imise your lead gen­er­a­tion efforts.

What Is Lead Attribution?

Lead attri­bu­tion is the process of assign­ing cred­it to mar­ket­ing chan­nels in order to deter­mine which chan­nels are most effec­tive at attract­ing leads. While leads don’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly turn into pay­ing cus­tomers, an increase in qual­i­ty leads, cou­pled with the right lead nur­tur­ing strate­gies, can cer­tain­ly boost sales.

Why Is Lead Attribution Important?

Did you know that lead attri­bu­tion can increase mar­ket­ing effi­cien­cy by up to 30%? That’s not all; lead attri­bu­tion is also impor­tant for your busi­ness for the fol­low­ing reasons:

Allocating resources

Gen­er­at­ing leads plays a major role in dri­ving con­ver­sions, sales, and rev­enue. How­ev­er, lead gen­er­a­tion is resource inten­sive, so it’s impor­tant to track which strate­gies are work­ing and which ones aren’t so you can allo­cate your resources optimally.

Increasing ROI

Lead attri­bu­tion can give you detailed infor­ma­tion about the rev­enue gen­er­at­ed from leads. With this valu­able infor­ma­tion, you can iden­ti­fy and imple­ment the strate­gies that are most like­ly to increase sales and boost your return on invest­ment (ROI).

Improving marketing strategies

Using lead attri­bu­tion, you can iden­ti­fy which types of con­tent per­form best and gain a clear­er pic­ture of which chan­nels gen­er­ate the most leads. When you know what your most effec­tive chan­nels and con­tent strate­gies are, you can dig deep­er into why they work and adjust your mar­ket­ing strate­gies accordingly.

Enhancing user experience

Lead attri­bu­tion helps you iden­ti­fy which aspects of your web­site attract or deter vis­i­tors. With this infor­ma­tion, you can cre­ate a bet­ter cus­tomer expe­ri­ence for your audi­ence. Not only does this increase engage­ment, but it also improves your SEO rank­ings and boosts con­ver­sion rates.

Optimising your conversion path

Through lead attri­bu­tion, you can iden­ti­fy the ‘heroes’ and key drop-off points in your con­ver­sion path. With a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how poten­tial cus­tomers behave, you can tweak your con­ver­sion path to pos­i­tive­ly influ­ence conversions.

Justifying marketing costs

Imple­ment­ing a lead attri­bu­tion strat­e­gy allows you to attribute leads and rev­enue to cer­tain mar­ket­ing activ­i­ties. When you can con­nect mar­ket­ing activ­i­ty to rev­enue, you can feel con­fi­dent about allo­cat­ing resources to your lead-gen­er­a­tion efforts and oth­er aspects of your dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strategy.

Understanding your ideal customers

Using lead attri­bu­tion, you’ll iden­ti­fy which chan­nels attract your ide­al cus­tomers. You can also fig­ure out what types of con­tent they respond best to. These pow­er­ful insights put you in a bet­ter posi­tion to per­son­alise your efforts, boost con­ver­sions, and strength­en your ties with this valu­able segment.

Improving your products and services

Lead attri­bu­tion gives you an in-depth under­stand­ing of how cus­tomers inter­act with your prod­ucts or ser­vices. This reveals what your cus­tomers val­ue, and armed with this infor­ma­tion, improv­ing your prod­ucts and ser­vices becomes a lot easier.

Types Of Lead Attribution

Lead attri­bu­tion mod­els allow you to assign cred­it to the touch­points on a poten­tial cus­tomer’s jour­ney to becom­ing a lead. These mod­els can be sin­gle or multi-touch.

Essen­tial­ly, sin­gle-touch mod­els are sim­ple and focus on iden­ti­fy­ing the one touch­point that leads to a con­ver­sion. Mul­ti-touch mod­els are more sophis­ti­cat­ed and fac­tor in the rel­a­tive influ­ence of mul­ti­ple touchpoints.

Let’s explore these attri­bu­tion mod­els in more detail below.

1. Single-touch models

Sin­gle-touch mod­els attribute 100% of the cred­it to a sin­gle touch­point. As they don’t give you a com­plete pic­ture of the entire buy­ing process, this makes them bet­ter suit­ed to short­er cus­tomer jour­neys. Sin­gle-touch mod­els include:

  • First touch attribution
  • Last touch attribution
First touch attribution

Advan­tage: A first-touch attri­bu­tion mod­el cred­its the first inter­ac­tion a poten­tial cus­tomer has with your busi­ness, mak­ing it a great way to iden­ti­fy how leads find you. With bet­ter insight into what type of efforts gen­er­ate ini­tial aware­ness, you can ramp them up to max­imise lead generation.

Dis­ad­van­tage: Since this mod­el does­n’t take the rest of the cus­tomer jour­ney into account, it may be dif­fi­cult to deter­mine what exact­ly leads to con­ver­sions after ini­tial contact.

Last touch attribution

Advan­tage: In a last-touch attri­bu­tion mod­el, only the last inter­ac­tion before a con­ver­sion is cred­it­ed. So, it’s help­ful for pin­point­ing which chan­nels and last-stage strate­gies result in conversions.

Dis­ad­van­tage: As last-touch attri­bu­tion only pro­vides bot­tom-of-the-fun­nel insights, you still won’t have access to a com­plete pic­ture of the entire buy­er journey.

2. Multi-touch models

Com­pared to sin­gle-touch mod­els, mul­ti-touch mod­els are more com­pre­hen­sive. These mod­els con­sid­er the entire con­ver­sion path, mak­ing them bet­ter suit­ed to longer, more com­plex cus­tomer jour­neys. Mul­ti-touch attri­bu­tion mod­els include:

  • Lin­ear attribution
  • Time decay attribution
  • U‑shaped attri­bu­tion
  • W‑shaped attri­bu­tion
  • Z‑shaped attri­bu­tion
  • Cus­tom attribution
  • Data-dri­ven attribution

Linear attribution

Advan­tage: The lin­ear attri­bu­tion mod­el gives equal cred­it to each touch­point in the cus­tomer jour­ney. This mod­el is rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple to imple­ment because it does­n’t give dif­fer­ent scores to your touchpoints.

Dis­ad­van­tage: The major draw­back is that it fails to account for touch­point dif­fer­ences and does­n’t iden­ti­fy which touch­points have the most impact.


Advan­tage: With the time decay mod­el, more recent touch­points are giv­en more cred­it than old­er ones. This mod­el reveals the activ­i­ties that direct­ly influ­ence a con­ver­sion, mak­ing it a great way to deter­mine the effi­cien­cy of your bot­tom-of-the-fun­nel mar­ket­ing activities.

Dis­ad­van­tage: How­ev­er, it does­n’t give a lot of cred­it to top-of-the-fun­nel mar­ket­ing efforts, which are pret­ty impor­tant too.

U‑shaped attribution

Advan­tage: A U‑shaped mod­el gives 40% cred­it to the first and last touch­points. The remain­ing 20% is split even­ly across the oth­er touch­points. It gives insight into which ini­tia­tives influ­ence aware­ness and which ones lead to a conversion.

Dis­ad­van­tage: Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this mod­el gives lit­tle infor­ma­tion about every­thing else that hap­pens between the aware­ness and con­ver­sion stages.

W‑shaped attribution

Advan­tage: The W‑shaped attri­bu­tion mod­el splits cred­it between three main touch­points: the first, lead cre­ation, and the last. Each of these major touch­points gets 30%, and the remaining

minor touch­points share the last 10% of the cred­it. As it counts most of the touch­points that lead to a con­ver­sion, this mod­el gives you a fair­ly detailed pic­ture of your mar­ket­ing campaigns.

Dis­ad­van­tage: There’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty that more empha­sis may be placed on the chan­nels that gen­er­ate leads and not conversions.

Z‑shaped attribution

Advan­tage: The Z‑shaped attri­bu­tion mod­el splits cred­it between four touch­points: the first, lead cre­ation, oppor­tu­ni­ty cre­ation, and the last. Each of these major touch­points gets 22.5% of the cred­it, and the remain­ing 10% is split equal­ly among the rest. All touch­points in the cus­tomer jour­ney are tak­en into account in this mod­el — not just con­ver­sion events. There­fore, it pro­vides the most com­plete pic­ture of the cus­tomer journey.

Custom attribution

Advan­tage: With cus­tom attri­bu­tion, you devel­op an advanced mod­el tai­lored to your busi­ness’s needs. Because you have the free­dom to deter­mine which touch­points have the most impact and cre­ate your own cred­it sys­tem, this approach can give you a more per­son­alised view of your con­ver­sion path. Cre­at­ing, main­tain­ing, and using a cus­tom mod­el is not only chal­leng­ing, but it is also very resource intensive.

Dis­ad­van­tage: It is also worth not­ing that any cus­tom mod­el will have an inher­ent bias towards what you believe should be giv­en the most cred­it — regard­less of whether it is the best approach for your busi­ness or not.

Data-driven attribution

Advan­tage: This mod­el uses his­tor­i­cal data to assign cred­it. With the help of algo­rithms, it pre­dicts which chan­nels have the great­est impact on con­ver­sions. As it iden­ti­fies which chan­nels are actu­al­ly dri­ving the most con­ver­sions, you can focus your efforts there.

Dis­ad­van­tage: This is a com­plex solu­tion that tar­gets his­tor­i­cal data, and for the mod­el to be effec­tive, it must be linked to an ana­lyt­ics plat­form that can gen­er­ate the right insights.

How To Use Lead Attribution To Level Up Your Efforts

Now, let’s explore how to use lead attri­bu­tion to lev­el up your lead gen­er­a­tion efforts.

1. Determine your goals

Get­ting start­ed with lead attri­bu­tion will require you to deter­mine your goals. First, you’ll need to deter­mine how you define suc­cess. Do you want to know what types of con­tent attract users? Or would you like to pin­point what direct­ly leads to con­ver­sions?

If you’re hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty set­ting tan­gi­ble mar­ket­ing goals, start with the mar­ket­ing per­for­mance indi­ca­tors that are close­ly linked to your busi­ness objec­tives. There­after, you’ll need to fig­ure out what you want to track and where you want to track this data from.

2. Use lead attribution tools

There are plen­ty of lead attri­bu­tion solu­tions, such as Ruler Ana­lyt­ics, Adin­ton, Adjust, Hub­Spot, Dream­da­ta, and even Google Ana­lyt­ics, that can help you get start­ed with lead attri­bu­tion. In a nut­shell, attri­bu­tion tools:

  • Elim­i­nate the need for man­u­al track­ing and enable more accu­rate modelling
  • Col­lect data on cus­tomer touch­points across mobile and desktop
  • Track cus­tomer journeys
  • Build either mul­ti-touch or sin­gle-touch mod­els based on the data available
  • Offer seam­less inte­gra­tion with your CRM, ad plat­forms, SEO tools, and email providers
  • Aggre­gate data from dif­fer­ent plat­forms and gen­er­ate mean­ing­ful visu­al­i­sa­tions or reports

The right attri­bu­tion tool will allow you to test out dif­fer­ent attri­bu­tion mod­els, inte­grate dif­fer­ent plat­forms, and use impor­tant mar­ket­ing met­rics to track your progress.

When choos­ing the right attri­bu­tion solu­tion for your busi­ness, con­sid­er whether it will work well with the oth­er tools and plat­forms that you use. You should also ensure that the tool is capa­ble of keep­ing up with your busi­ness’s chang­ing needs.

3. Choose the right model

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to lead attri­bu­tion. Hence, dif­fer­ent busi­ness­es require dif­fer­ent attri­bu­tion mod­els. To help you make the best deci­sion for your busi­ness, try any of these approaches:

A cus­tomer jour­ney approach

With this approach, select­ing the right mod­el depends on how many touch­points you have before a con­ver­sion and the way these touch­points are dis­trib­uted across your con­ver­sion path. For exam­ple, if your cus­tomers engage only a few times before con­vert­ing, a sim­ple, sin­gle-touch mod­el may be appro­pri­ate. If you have a com­plex, mul­ti-chan­nel strat­e­gy, a mul­ti-touch mod­el might be best.

A mul­ti-mod­el approach

A mul­ti-mod­el approach involves using mul­ti­ple attri­bu­tion mod­els to get a com­pre­hen­sive view of your mar­ket­ing per­for­mance. It is advis­able to test var­i­ous attri­bu­tion mod­els to ful­ly under­stand their advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages. Fur­ther­more, analysing the effec­tive­ness of dif­fer­ent mod­els can help you fig­ure out what works best for your business.

A needs-based approach

This approach aims to lever­age mar­ket­ing strengths while fill­ing in data gaps. There­fore, mod­el selec­tion should be in response to your needs and goals. Through care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of your cur­rent strengths and weak­ness­es, you can select the right mod­el or mod­els to help max­imise your lead attri­bu­tion strategy.

For exam­ple, if you’re gen­er­at­ing leads but hav­ing a hard time con­vert­ing them, a last-touch mod­el may help you iden­ti­fy which strate­gies and chan­nels are let­ting you down.

Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing ques­tions to help you deter­mine the right attri­bu­tion mod­el for your business:

  • What are your biggest lead gen­er­a­tion concerns?
  • What’s going right and what’s going wrong with your fun­nels or con­ver­sion path?
  • What con­tent strate­gies have result­ed in the most leads?
  • Which chan­nels con­tribute to the most leads and sales?

4. Analyse the data and optimise your strategies

As the valu­able insights about your lead gen­er­a­tion efforts start to come in, use this infor­ma­tion to opti­mise how you attract, con­vert, and retain leads. The key is to con­tin­u­ous­ly analyse this data and use it to 1) inform strate­gic deci­sion-mak­ing and 2) facil­i­tate effi­cient resource allocation.

5. Refine your approach

No mod­el is per­fect, and iter­a­tion is a cru­cial part of the process. So, try out dif­fer­ent attri­bu­tion mod­els, inte­grate dif­fer­ent plat­forms, and refine your met­rics. Remem­ber, keep­ing up with con­sumer needs and stay­ing ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion will require you to keep improv­ing your lead attri­bu­tion strategy.

Final Thoughts

Lead attri­bu­tion excels at pro­vid­ing you with action­able insights about your leads, chan­nels, and strate­gies. This gives you the pow­er to make sound, impact­ful mar­ket­ing deci­sions. Ulti­mate­ly, a strate­gic advan­tage of this nature can increase prof­itabil­i­ty and stim­u­late long-term busi­ness growth.

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