A Guide to Marketing Attribution vs. Marketing Automation

By Miriam Kung | 2 Jul 2019
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Marketing attribution and marketing automation are both key technologies you've probably heard of and may already be looking into as part of your MarTech stack. But how are they different? And do you really need both?

From talking to customers this year across B2B industries, we've seen a clear need emerge to demystify common but wrong assumptions. For example, that they're similar, or that if they were to duke it out, marketing automation would win as it covers what you need for marketing attribution.

When it comes down to which technology is right for you, it really depends on your marketing goals, setup, and strategies.

We'll provide more details below and show why marketing attribution and marketing automation aren't a scenario of Batman (aka attribution, revealing the truth in your data) vs. Superman (aka automation, making your campaigns superhuman) πŸ₯Š, but much of more of a Batman AND Superman complementary match πŸ¦‡β€πŸ¦ΈπŸ»β€β™‚οΈ.

Let's dive into 5 parts - including what marketing attribution and marketing automation are, plus:

  • πŸ’‘ Why you need them
  • πŸ‘―β€β™€οΈ What they have in common
  • ☯️ How they're different
  • πŸš€ Ways to get started

1. What is marketing attribution and marketing automation?

Multiple marketing channels

First, let's start with a few common definitions for both.

Definition of marketing attribution πŸ¦‡

  • Marketing attribution provides a level of understanding of what combination of events in what particular order influence individuals to engage in a desired behavior, typically referred to as a conversion. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • Marketing attribution is the way in which marketers assess the value or ROI of the channels that connect them to potential customers. In other words, it’s the means by which the customer came to know and buy your product or service. (Source: Salesforce)

Definition of marketing automation πŸ¦ΈπŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Marketing automation is technology that manages marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns, across multiple channels, automatically. Marketing automation helps with lead generation, nurturing, and scoring, as well as with measuring overall ROI on campaigns. Marketing automation lets you implement a digital marketing strategy without having to manually press β€œsend” on each and every email, message, campaign, or post you create. (Source: Salesforce)

πŸ₯œ In a nutshell:

  • πŸ“Š Marketing attribution focuses on aggregated analysis & ROI reporting
  • πŸ€– Marketing automation focuses on marketing efficiency across processes & campaigns

2. Why & when do you need them?

Here's a snapshot of the benefits each technology brings, and when it makes sense to use them and take your marketing to its full potential.

Benefits of marketing attribution πŸ¦‡

Marketing attribution reporting

  • See your true ROI by gathering customer acquisition costs, spend, and revenue in one place.
  • Track customer paths by attributing every customer conversion to its source.
  • Learn where to invest your marketing budgets and where to stop wasting money.

When do you need marketing attribution?

  • 🎯 You run online ads across multiple platforms and want to automate ROI & LTV tracking.
  • πŸ’ͺ You want to see which paid and organic acquisition efforts bring in the best results.
  • πŸš— You'd like to filter conversions by first touch, last touch, and multi-touch attribution models.

Benefits of marketing automation πŸ¦ΈπŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Marketing automation emails

  • Save time by streamlining all your marketing processes (emails, landing pages, forms, etc.).
  • Manage your leads pipeline, and setup lead scoring and nurturing campaigns so your sales teams can prioritize qualified leads.
  • Personalize campaign messaging across channels.

When do you need marketing automation?

  • πŸ“© You need a system to setup, track, and A/B test marketing campaigns.
  • πŸ’― You want to automate the process for lead generation, scoring, and nurturing.
  • ♻️ You want to improve customer retention with targeted lifecycle campaigns.

3. What do they have in common?

At a high level, both marketing attribution & marketing automation have shared goals:

  • πŸ’° Save time and money by automating workflows
  • πŸ“ˆ Track & improve your ROI and revenue
  • 🎁 Optimize your marketing investments to increase & retain customers

4. How are they different?

To bring it all together, we'll use an example to illustrate how they serve different needs, and why having both marketing automation and attribution can best set you up for success.

Multi-channel marketing

Let's say you currently have the following marketing campaigns running:

  • Online ads: Facebook Ads and Google Ads driving to multiple destinations.
  • Inbound marketing: Regular blog content, product videos, weekly webinars, product infographics, landing pages, and quarterly whitepapers on key industry topics.
  • Outbound marketing: Email campaigns to nurture leads, email lifecycle campaigns to customers, and events to promote new products.

πŸ¦ΈπŸ»β€β™‚οΈ How marketing automation helps:

  • πŸ“ Automate the setup & tracking of all your landing pages, email campaigns, whitepaper downloads, webinar signups, and event registrations.
  • πŸ“¨ Deploy and test email campaigns to nurture every lead with targeted content.

πŸ¦‡ How marketing attribution helps:

  • πŸ“Ή Are your blog posts, Google Ads, or product videos better at converting people? Or is it the combination of Facebook Ads and landing pages? See your most effective channels and make better marketing decisions.
  • πŸ“š Track every user's touchpoint to uncover your entire story, from clicks to conversions. E.g. a click on a Google Ad, to a landing page visit, to a blog post read that led to a signup.

Using marketing automation is a great superpower to have from the start, for increasing your marketing productivity and efficiency.

But all the automation in the world can only take you so far. To scale your marketing performance via a bird's eye view of where to focus your time and money, this is where attribution comes in.

5. Getting started

Now that you have the what and why of marketing attribution and marketing automation, here are a few key platforms and resources for trying them out.

Marketing Attribution

PixelMe Smart Attribution

Our new Smart Attribution solution at PixelMe was built as a way to squash the biggest struggle we heard from our B2B customers (and had ourselves) - tracking ROI across marketing channels. It helps you:

  • Measure ROI across ad platforms (Google & Facebook) and non-paid channels.
  • Identify all the touchpoints that led a user to convert.
  • Allocate more budget to top performing channels and stop campaigns that don't convert.

Try out Smart Attribution for free! πŸŽ‰

Marketing Automation

A few of the most popular players in the large marketing automation space, including ones our customers love:

  • HubSpot
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Marketo

We recommend signing up for demos and using review sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra. Reading comparisons can also help you see what suits your needs and budget, such as FinancesOnline's guide to the top 20 marketing automation platforms for SMBs.

The case for both attribution & automation

As you can see, marketing attribution and marketing automation are crucial parts of your marketing stack for powerful productivity and growth.

Whereas marketing automation boosts your efficiency to scale your campaigns, marketing attribution keeps an accurate eye on where to keep investing and automating your marketing efforts.

So it really is a symbiotic marketing relationship πŸ‘―β€β™€οΈ. One where a world with both Batman & Superman is much greater than a world with only one superhero πŸŽ‰.

πŸ”₯ Want to join our Smart Attribution beta? Sign up for free or send us a message using the blue chat feature πŸ’¬ in the bottom-right of this page! πŸ’Œ

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