tape-measure-graph-300x223Guest post by Jonathan Beaton

One of the most touted value propositions of marketing automation is its ability to measure and track marketing performance. While in theory this may be true, getting clean, accurate and meaningful data out of any system is harder than it may seem.

Marketers get awfully excited when considering all the potential data/metrics they can gleam from their new marketing automation system. However, as marketers, we should not lose sight of our main objectives and therefore make sure we are putting effort into tracking metrics that are most tied to these objectives.

For example, if our main top-level objective is to drive revenue (and it should be) to demonstrate success, we must track marketing driven leads through the entirety of the sales cycle.  However, in order to do, the specific sources and campaigns from which we acquire leads much be tracked consistently and accurately.

Step 1 – Defining Lead Source Origins

Defining lead sources is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Especially considering the data that many marketing automation systems provide is data we previously did not have access to. Additionally, tracking lead sources can also get confusing when leads encounter multiple touch points.

My advice is to keep things simple at first and then build out more sophisticated metrics. That being said, for the purpose of this post, we still stick to identify the originating source of specific leads.

To accomplish this, the method I have found most useful is to use two fields to track lead sources. Beginning with a generic top-level “Lead Source” field and a more specific secondary  “Specific Lead Source” field. Below are examples of fields I found to be useful for obtaining data relevant to my marketing campaigns.

  • Search (Lead Source)

    • Organic (Specific Lead Source)

    • AdWords or other paid search sources

  • Referral

    • Customer

    • Partner

    • Employee

  • Web Referral (traffic sent from another website)

    • Referring website

  • Social

    • Twitter

    • LinkedIn

    • Facebook

  • Advertising

    • Specific Display Ad Campaigns

    • Specific Newsletters Ads

    • Remarketing

  • Sponsored Content

    • Specific Content Download

    • Specific Sponsored Webinar

  • Events

    • Specific Event

  • Business Development

    • Tele-prospecting

    • Direct Mail Campaign

Why is “Web” not a lead source? Web is not a lead source because visitors on your website may be there for a variety of reasons. A visitor that visits your website because an existing customer referred them to you is very different from a visitor that found you via Google. They represent two entirely different paths. By combining leads like this into the same source, you are no longer able to accurately measure the success of your SEO efforts, etc. More on this in a moment.

Step 2 – Dynamically Tracking Lead Sources

As important as intelligently defining your lead sources is, accurately tracking them is just as vital. If you are using an enterprise or professional marketing automation system, you should be able to automate at least 90% of this.

Here are some tips that may help:

1. Creating landing pages for specific campaigns – Creating landing pages for specific campaigns will allow you to assign specific lead source data for individual campaigns. Usually this can be done with hidden fields. For example, I can create a landing page for an AdWords campaign and ONLY that particular AdWords campaign. When a visitors fills out the form – they are automatically tagged with the Lead Source of “Search” and the Specific Lead Source of “AdWords.”

2. Creating and Defining Workflows – Creating workflows allows you to define lead sources for landing pages that receive visits from multiple sources. Most marketing automation system are able to capture the original referring medium for most visitors.  For example, you can create a workflow that says “if someone becomes a lead and their original referral is an organic search, set their Lead Source to “Search” and their Specific Lead Source to “Organic.”

3. On Import – In certain situations, such as events, leads are imported into the system via a list import. In this situation, it is important to make sure the appropriate lead source fields are assigned before the import. For example, if you sponsor/attend an event and are given a list of attendees in excel – add columns for Lead Source and Specific Lead Source before you import the list into the system.

4. Manual Updates – It is usually inevitable to have some lead source data that cannot be automatically assigned accurately. In this situation, I recommend either not assigning it at all or assigning it as “unknown.” This way you can manually go through your list of “unknown” lead sources and update them as best you can. For example, the most prominent offender of this is typically direct web traffic. Direct web traffic can visit your site for a variety of reasons – they may be a referral from an existing client, etc. I mark these leads as Lead Source “referral” and Specific Lead Source “unknown.” Most likely you will need assistance from sales to update the majority of these.

Pro Tip – I usually treat branded organic visits the same way I treat direct web traffic. Someone searching specifically for your brand may be doing so for a variety of reasons.

Scalably and accurately tracking lead sources is certainly a major value proposition of most marketing automation systems. Doing this step early and correctly is crucial to truly maximizing your new investment.

About the Author
Jonathan Beaton is a data driven revenue marketer. He is currently the Marketing Director at NYC based tech startup, Organic Motion.