By Caroline Graham

It may seem like just another marketing buzzword, but attribution is key for both marketers and sales leaders alike. When you think about all the effort your team is putting into creating integrated marketing campaigns, are you able to clearly identify which channels are driving the most revenue? From email to tradeshows, paid media to public relations, attribution is how you know which channels are performing and which channels are delivering below-average success. Creating an impressive marketing attribution report is critical to understanding which campaigns are producing the highest ROI for your organization.

According to Marketo, marketing attribution is the process of determining which interactions influence a customer to purchase from your brand. Attribution is something that virtually all marketers know they need to be tracking, but it’s not always as easy as pulling a report. You need to understand how your Marketo channels are set up and, more importantly, make sure that you are giving program members adequate success so when you pull reports, you can be confident that they are accurate.

There are two basic types of attribution: first-touch attribution (FT) and multi-touch attribution (MT). FT attribution refers to the program that brought the person into your database. They could have come from a trade show list, demo form fill-out, or through clicking on one of your paid ads. MT attribution refers to all of the interactions someone has had with your brand, from their first contact until they convert into a customer. Each interaction is then split across the final sale in order to give credit to each program.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Whether you measure success in FT or MT attribution, setting yourself up for success in Marketo is a necessity. The first step is to make sure that each channel you have has at least one success step, aka a point in the channel that denotes the desired action was taken by the end user. In the example below, the success step is “attended,” meaning that a user will only be counted as a program success if they actually attended the event. 


After you ensure that each of your channels has the appropriate success step, you need to make sure that any and all users are added to the corresponding program so that they can be counted as a success. This can be accomplished by creating a smart campaign that captures people that engage with a program via a trigger or scheduled batch campaign, followed by a “change program status” flow step. It is another reason to make sure that you are consistently assigning an acquisition program to new leads. Without an acquisition program, it can be difficult to be confident that your FT attribution numbers are accurate.

It is also important to note that in order for Marketo to be able to attribute program success, there has to be an opportunity attached to the contact. If there is not an associated opportunity, Marketo won’t be able to accurately assign either FT or MT attribution. This means that your sales team needs to be diligent in creating opportunities in your CRM so that information is available to the marketing team in Marketo.

Before you start playing around with Marketo's attribution models, it’s  important to understand how ready you are. Take our Marketo Attribution  Reporting Readiness Assessment to find out where you land—it takes just a few  minutes.

Attribution Model Choices

Marketo offers three different choices when it comes to attribution modes: implicit, explicit and hybrid, as defined below.

  • Explicit: Only counts the contact roles associated with opportunities (this is SFDC’s one and only way to make the people connection for its pipeline influence report)
  • Hybrid: Looks for a contact role on the opportunity; if it doesn’t find at least one, it looks at the opportunity company, finds the account contacts with and without roles, and considers all of them for influence
  • Implicit: Looks at the opportunity company, finds the account contacts with and without roles, and considers all of them for influence (think of this as account-based influence)

It is advised to collaborate with your sales team in order to determine which attribution choice is best for your organization. Discussing this with the sales team ensures that everyone understands exactly how the FT and MT attribution numbers are calculated when you are presenting the data to the larger team.

Attribution Reporting in Marketo

If your Marketo subscription includes the Revenue Cycle Explorer/Revenue Cycle Analytics add-on,  you are able to create pivot tables that can concisely show MT and FT attribution numbers. By using the opportunity analyzer report (shown below), you can segment by program channel and/or name, in addition to FT and MT opportunities created, won and lost, and the amount of the opportunity. This gives you and your team a clear picture of which programs bring in the most ROI, as well as those that are underperforming, so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.


The Last Word

In order to justify your budget, as well as make informed decisions about which campaigns your marketing team is going to run in the future, it’s essential that you have a clear view into attribution reporting. Whether it’s first-touch or multi-touch, using an explicit or implicit model, take the time to ensure that you are accurately attributing success in Marketo. You’ll be able to analyze your efforts and confidently share reports that show exactly how your team is helping to generate impressive ROI.

For more information on how SmartBug can help with your attribution strategy in Marketo, be sure to check out our UTM creation and tracking template.


Find out your attribution maturity in 8 minutes by taking our:

Marketo Attribution Reporting Readiness Assessment

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Caroline Graham

About the author

Caroline Graham was formerly a Marketing Automation Manager based in Indianapolis. She is a Marketo Certified Expert focused on understanding how the digital age impacts consumer behaviors. Read more articles by Caroline Graham.

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