Why Single-Touch Doesn’t Make Sense in a Multi-Touch World

Marketing Automation


Although the world in which marketers are operating is changing quickly, the reports they are using to make decisions are not.

One of a marketing report’s most important functions is the link between revenue and the campaigns responsible for generating that revenue. Measuring the results of marketing investments enables marketers to make data-informed decisions about how to spend future dollars, and to base their spending decisions on what has and hasn’t led to new business.

Without a platform of their own, marketers have historically leaned on the CRM system to make this connection. However, using reports generated by your CRM presents a number of problems.

The Single Lead Source Trap

The biggest problem with CRM-generated reports is that they typically offer a single field to capture the lead “source”.

Using a single lead source used to make sense, back when buying was a simpler and more streamlined process. Prior to the age of digital marketing, a company would advertise, a lead would respond, and a sales rep would follow up. Capturing the sole source campaign, or the “first touch” made sense, because immediately after that touch, the lead would be assigned to a sales rep for follow-up.

Those days are well behind us.

Today, there are typically many touches before a lead is ready and willing to speak to a sales rep, or to buy. I’ve heard numbers as low as five touches, and as high as 23. In other words, individuals are definitely having more than one touch, or engagement, with a company before they buy. Touches could include emails, webinars, phone calls, tradeshows, ebook downloads and more.

As the number of touch points increases, the practice of crediting one source campaign with 100% of the revenue for a given deal becomes less accurate. In fact, it becomes downright misleading.

Let’s look at a specific example. Let’s say that at Marketo, a new lead is generated based on a response to a specific pay-per-click campaign. A few months later, that person has downloaded three of our Definitive Guides, attended two webinars, and visited our booth at a large national tradeshow we sponsored. Soon after the tradeshow, the lead speaks with one of our sales reps, an opportunity is created, and three weeks later they become a new customer.

Using reports that used first-touch, or single source revenue attribution, 100% of the revenue for that new customer would be credited back to the pay-per-click campaign. Is this realistic in a world where prospects are typically touched between five and 23 times before they buy? No!

Unfortunately, low-end marketing automation platforms don’t do any better.  Relying on the same framework as the CRM, they too report revenue based on first-touch. So what’s the answer?

The Multi-Touch Solution

The answer is multi-touch revenue attribution. With multi-touch attribution, marketers can understand the influence of every campaign that touched a deal. In the buying journey in my previous example, the revenue would be credited across all of the campaigns, instead of only the original pay-per-click.  After all, although the pay-per-click campaign was responsible for generating the new “name”, it certainly wasn’t solely responsible for the win.

In fact, my example was taken from an actual buying journey of a recently acquired customer. And according to this customer, it was one of our content pieces, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation, that convinced the company that they needed Marketo.

Relying on first-touch revenue attribution, the influence of the Definitive Guide would have been ignored entirely! In other words, the campaign performance reports would have been totally misleading to our marketing team, and certainly would not have contributed to good decision-making in the future.

So what’s the moral of the story here? Marketers need to move beyond the campaign performance reporting constraints of the CRM, and beyond low-end marketing automation solutions.  

In a world where multiple marketing touches is the norm, relying on first-touch reporting will lead to bad decisions, and will limit the success of marketers looking to thrive in this new highly-digital, multi-touch world.