Making Sense of Lead Attribution

by Nov 26, 2019Blog, Apartment Marketing

As marketers, when you understand where your leads are coming from, you know where your best-performing marketing tactics lie. Once you identify the areas where your leads engaging, you can focus more of your marketing efforts there. In other words, this enables you to spend less money on more results. 

The trick to doing this well is understanding how to carefully construct a consumer journey that contains a mix of both conversion and attribution tactics. Attribution tactics are carefully-placed marketing cues that will inform your prospect’s decision. Conversion tactics are the places where they eventually sign up. 

For many of our clients who are using their online marketing to drive offline sales, we prefer to implement the W-Shaped Attribution Model. Imagine the letter “W”. The top point of the left side of the letter is where you make first contact with your lead. The right top side of the letter is where you convert that lead. The middle point of the “W” is where the nurturing happens. Each point along the way gets some of the credit for the sale. To keep things simple today, we’re going to take a look at two other common attribution models. Keep in mind, no one attribution model is best; each model serves its own purpose depending on what question you’re trying to answer about your marketing.

First Touch vs Last Touch Attribution

There are a few ways that reporting tools assign attribution to the various channels that can send leads to your business.  The two most common are First Touch and Last Touch attribution, and they act exactly as they sound.

Let’s look at an example: A prospect views a piece of content on Facebook, then does a search for your brand and clicks on a Google Ad. They visit your website and fill out a contact form there. 

FIRST TOUCH                                  LAST TOUCH

Facebook → Google Ad → Website → Lead


With Last Touch attribution, the most recent channel will get assigned to the lead. Here, that means the website would get credit.  

First Touch attribution assigns value to the original source that the lead found your business on. In the above scenario, Facebook would get credit for the lead.

If you’re using a lead tracking or CRM tool that offers lead attribution reports, it’s important to know which type of attribution your system is using, because different marketing tools lend themselves to different steps in the consumer journey.  

For example, an ad on social media will rarely ever show up as a lead source for Last Touch Attribution.  Except for some ecommerce brands, social ads are often meant to generate awareness of a brand. The chances of someone viewing one and immediately converting are low.  If you want to learn more about finding the value in your Facebook Ads, check out our post.

The opposite is true for Organic Search (like Google). Someone who has Googled the property name and converts almost certainly learned about the property somewhere beforehand  – it didn’t just pop into their head (although I’m sure we’d love for that to happen). This means it will show up as First Touch Attribution far less than other channels.

How to Get Your CRM to Report on Other Lead Sources

Many marketers run into an issue where their CRM only attributes leads to their website, and not to the source that actually referred the traffic to the site. This is a problem because it doesn’t paint a full picture of where the leads are being generated.

Your website is meant as a landing point for most of your digital channels. When your website sends the leads to your CRM, your CRM just sees the last source (the website) because that additional lead attribution doesn’t exist out-of-the-box.

How do we solve for this?

Let’s start with people contacting by phone. An easy way around this is to have different phone numbers and emails associated with each source. 

Websites usually have the ability to dynamically change the phone number and contact form destination based on the source.  For example, a user that finds your website from Google will see one number, and someone that found it from Facebook will see a different number, even if they’re viewing the same page on your site. 

Using these tracking numbers is an excellent way to make sure your CRM sees exactly where your leads came from. (Keep in mind that source-based call tracking isn’t perfect and has to be thoughtfully integrated into your tech stack. It’s important to recognize that you may have to choose between seamless integration with the rest of your tech stack and more accurate attribution before you attempt this solution. This can easily become a whole other conversation on its own.)

As the dynamic numbers begin to clear up your sources and help assign value to each source, you can start to make smarter decisions. You can follow a similar process with leads that come through contact forms and live chat.

Because many website platforms have limited capabilities, it’s important that you know what you’re working with before you begin to try to roll this out.  Knowing your tech stack and its gaps can help you better understand what you can and can’t do when it comes to lead attribution.

Next Steps - What Happens Before Last Touch and After First Touch

Anyone that knows the apartment business knows that searching for and renting an apartment is not a short-term process.  Prospects will frequently return to the website multiple times before any decision is made. Any sources that show up in the middle of the customer journey won’t get any credit for the lead.

Below is an example of multiple different leads coming through a property website and the multiple different paths that the users took on their way towards becoming a lead. (This is a standard report you can access in Google Analytics.)


Note how in this example, if you were using Last Touch attribution, Paid Ads would only get credit for one path, but in reality they were the starting point for 5 out of 10 of these lead paths. The bigger the window of time, and the more channels we look at means exponentially more paths the lead can take.

Important Steps to Measuring Effectively

The most important step to reporting anything of meaning with your CRM and website tools is having consistent data integrity.  Pick your methods and KPIs based on your tech stack and sticking with it. It doesn’t do you any good to report on one channel in a different way than another.  If you have specific source you are trying to track–like paid search or social ads–use dedicated landing pages to track those leads. This will position you far better to track your leads back to the right source.

Before you attribute a lead or start a campaign, it is imperative to identify your end goal. Know that not every piece of your marketing campaign is going to drive leads to the property.  Every aspect of your marketing campaign should work in concert; some parts generate leads, some parts increase closing rates and they all contribute to your success. In the end, it might be worthwhile to think contribution, not attribution. The sources that nurtured a lead are just as important as the ones that converted it. 

As you work towards a toolbox to tackle Lead Attribution, 30 Lines is always here to answer any questions and provide you with the right questions to ask your other providers.