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Campaign Attribution Best Practices for Your Inbound Marketing Efforts

June 26, 2017

By Katy Katz

It’s time to geek out about HubSpot and measuring digital marketing efforts. 

Let’s talk campaign attribution.

In old-school advertising, a campaign was really straightforward. It was typically a word used to describe the marketing activities surrounding a new product launch or a push for a key business objective. I don’t know about you, but I have visions of Don Draper sitting at his Manhattan-view desk with his feet up, smoking a cigar, drinking a Scotch, and spouting off invariably ingenious insights about a blonde in a bikini.

Campaigns mean something different now.

With the invention of, well, the internet, marketers have access to a whole new world of data. You can track your visitor in regard to customer performance down to the minutest of details, from your first tweet to your latest new customer entering his or her credit card information.

All of this privileged intelligence gold is very exciting for us data nerds. But it can quickly become overwhelming. What is the most important factor? And how should one set up tracking to measure the success of our efforts in the end?

That “efforts” question—insert “campaign” here. Your campaign should be directly attributed to a KPI, which should be tied to a measurable outcome. And HubSpot rocks at that! Let’s dig into why.

1st United Credit Union had been trying to solve a very specific reporting  challenge for three years. Here’s how SmartBug Media closed their reporting  loop.

Setting up Campaigns in HubSpot

Let me back up a bit for those who may not have yet ventured into the nerdy depths that HubSpot allows. HubSpot has a cool feature called “campaigns.” With this feature, you can tie any digital marketing effort to a particular campaign that is tracked in a single space in HubSpot.

Here’s what it looks like:

 Campaign Attribution in Hubspot

Essentially, through a mix of UTM tags and software-level campaign tracking, HubSpot makes it not only possible but really straightforward to answer that question of “success of our efforts.”

As you can see, you just tie everything you’re working on—keywords, blog posts, landing pages, emails, calls to action (CTAs)—to your campaign. And you can measure those successes of your efforts in one place! Here’s a great HubSpot article if you have more questions about the technicalities on how to do that.

But How Do You Pick a Campaign?

Well, the obvious first answer is to go with those past campaigns our forefathers laid before us. Track an entire new product launch or run a campaign around a unique feature of your hottest item. But I have a secret for you: You can be so much more than that! With the data that we have available as digital mavens, you can think about a specific objective and track your entire campaign to that end result.

The best way to set up your campaign will likely vary depending upon your business. But the very best thing you can do is to identify a single key performance indicator (KPI) and go from there. Think to yourself: What is the most important outcome of this campaign? What will I get the biggest “attaboy” or “attagirl” for? Make sure that goal is SMART. Then set your campaign around that. Working from “the question” is the best way to get a clear measurable answer in a variable sea of data. (Side note: That’s why our 9th grade science teachers went on and on about the scientific equation—it works.) 

Here are some examples:

  • If your KPI is ebook downloads, set your campaigns by ebook. Tie all social posts, blogs, emails, keywords, and other data that point for that ebook to your campaign.
  • If your KPI is to grow SQLs, set your campaign as SQLs but then tie in your bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, content, CTAs, workflows, and other activities back in.
  • If your KPI is to be the number-one authority on taco toppings, set your campaign and start writing and tracking blogs, social posts, keywords, landing pages, and any other type of content that is important to you within that taco-rific sphere.

The answer is, there is no right answer. 

The true secret is to start with the question. What is the most important outcome? That will help you decide the campaign to track and start setting up your individual content items that need to be monitored to measure success.

Measuring Results

If you set your goal ahead of time, it should be easy to measure whether or not your campaign was a success. The important thing here is to avoid getting lost in the details. There are a lot of what we call “vanity metrics” in digital marketing: data surrounding information that sounds good at first but doesn’t really measure up to the bottom line. Some examples of vanity metrics are impressions, likes, views, and even traffic. 

Let’s assume you’ve read this article, so you’ve already set SMART goals. It should be easy to measure results. With HubSpot in particular, performance is broken out by the KPIs at the top and then at a more micro level by individual contributors as you scroll down.

Campaign Attribution in Hubspot I2

How to Track Campaigns to ROI

Let’s be honest with each other. No matter what industry you work in—however many organic, chemical-free product lines you have or the charitable organization that a portion of your profits go to—at the end of the day, we all need to make revenue to keep our business going. 

Tracking ROI is an essential part of a marketer’s job.

And what’s the best way to track ROI? Closed-loop reporting. Make sure that any customer relations management (CRM) platform (or sales platform) that you’re using is integrated into your marketing software (HubSpot is the example we’re using today). That way, you can push that acquisition data through to your sales team and vice versa—ensuring that you have a complete story about how people arrived on your site, answered their questions, and made decisions to buy. Without integration, the buck stops at lead.

When it comes to HubSpot, pretty much any CRM can integrate through the API. Many of the well-knowns will be faster. Salesforce, Zoho, and Sugar will be quick and easy, of course, but HubSpot has the capability to connect with any CRM. We can, of course, help you, or you can contact HubSpot’s customer support if you have questions. 

Making It Count

At the end of the day, the most important takeaway when setting up campaign attribution is to think about your goal. What are the most important objectives that will help grow your business? Start with the end in mind. An outcome-focused mindset will help you set up campaigns in your marketing platform that drive actionable insights that you and your team can grow upon.

But identifying that end goal is not always as easy as “more sales.” There is a lot that has to happen in between to help your company achieve success. And through the brilliance of the internet, you can track those details and continue to improve your performance.

Still have questions about what exactly needs to be measured? Download our free guide, 10 Steps to Building an Inbound Campaign That Works. We’ll make sure you set your plans and execute them, too!


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Topics: Analytics, Marketing Strategy, Digital Strategy