Marketing automation and marketing attribution have oft been pitted against each other, like bloodied boxers in a ring waiting for the bell so that one or the other can finish the job. This is one of the most prominent myths surrounding marketing attribution — that it’s the same as marketing automation, or that marketing automation can accomplish the same goals.

Attribution was never meant to replace marketing automation, and the programs can work seamlessly side-by-side to create excellent marketing campaigns. In fact, there’s a lot of give and take that happens along the way.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is a software service that provides ways to make marketing campaigns more user-friendly for marketers. It allows marketers to send automated emails, serve up automated CTAs, display automated forms, and publish a myriad of content that integrates with that automated system. In essence, it helps marketers manage the digital experience of their marketing.

It makes the implementation of a marketing strategy much easier than it’s been in the past, and it helps marketers harness the potential of their marketing.

What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the process used to accurately track, report, and understand the effectiveness of marketing strategies. This includes both campaigns and advertising spanning all the marketing systems and process (including marketing that occurs outside of marketing automation, like conferences and other offline events). Attribution tracks that prospect through the stages of lead generation, opportunity creation, and customer close — and it shows the marketer which pieces of their marketing strategy was involved in generating that revenue.

What’s the Difference Between Marketing Automation and Marketing Attribution?

Marketing automation is an excellent tool for what it does — providing the groundwork for the operational implementation of a marketing strategy. It allows marketing initiatives to be streamlined, organized, and integrated across various marketing channels.

For instance, a marketing automation program might tell a marketer that a particular marketing campaign brought in 500 leads through 8 channels. But that marketer is still left asking the question, “How many of those leads became customers? And which channels, which keywords, which content, which landing pages, which blog posts, and which display ads were instrumental in moving them through the funnel?” Also, understanding channels beyond the scope of marketing automation, such as conferences and outbound calling, can be a real challenge.

Attribution collects that data and tells that story. It enables marketers to make revenue-informed changes to their marketing campaigns in order to (a) bring in more qualified leads, (b) convert more leads to opps, and (c) close more opps to customers.

And this isn’t just all talk. On average, 26% of a company’s ad spend goes to waste (AdAge, 2014) because they don’t have the insight into which keywords ultimately generate revenue. On average, only 1% of leads convert to revenue because companies don’t use marketing attribution to inform their marketing decisions. On average, marketers see a dramatic rise in marketing ROI when they implement an effective marketing attribution system.

So, Why Do I Need Both Automation and Attribution?

Attribution helps marketers make the best decisions possible by revealing which specific activities have generated revenue in the past. Without transparency into a company’s full marketing funnel, the marketing department’s decisions are little more than a guessing game. You can automate your marketing operations to kingdom come, but automating an ineffective strategy doesn’t turn bad decisions into good ones.

Bizible is a marketing attribution solution, and our marketing team still relies on marketing automation to form the operational groundwork for our marketing ops. However, when we discuss marketing decisions for upcoming campaigns and strategies, our first step is to look at our attribution data because that information informs all of the initiatives we use our automation software to implement. Not only that, but most of our Bizible customers use marketing automation software, especially Pardot and Marketo.

Attribution data is an imperative asset for marketers. It affects the choices they make when they’re working on keyword bids, campaign themes, article titles, CTA format, landing page copy, email design, webinars, conferences, and more. Marketers do all of that set-up in their marketing automation program, but it’s attribution that enables a marketer to do them right.

How Exactly Does Attribution Work?

Marketing attribution connects to your website, your ad campaigns, and your CRM via API integration. API integration is a techy term that simply means that the tracking data generated through your website and your ad campaigns can be seamlessly aligned with the information in your CRM (such as offline channels, customers closes, and revenue won).

Every lead has a history. They came from a paid keyword, a paid display ad, a social post, a piece of content, an event, or another touchpoint source. That “first touch” refers to the very, very first exposure / response to your organization’s marketing outreach. When that prospect eventually performs a ‘lead creation’ action, they become a contact in the CRM. Without attribution, there’s no information about what sequence of marketing exposures caused that person to wind up on the lead list. There’s no reported history.

Attribution data can read into the past and connect the ad tracking and website data in order to tell that lead’s marketing story. Attribution shows marketers which channels, keywords, ads, content, or posts that the prospect saw and clicked prior to becoming a lead.

Yet, attribution tracks more than the history of the lead, it also tracks that lead’s subsequent funnel journey. When a lead becomes an opp and is eventually closed as a customer, that generated revenue is attributed to each touchpoint along that customer’s journey through your marketing and sales funnel.

The Money Speaks for Itself

A marketer can compare how the revenue credits stack up and adjust their adwords spend, marketing plans, and campaign strategies accordingly. That’s the power of attribution — it shows you which decisions to make and how to optimize your marketing dollars for maximum effectiveness.

Marketers need both systems. Marketing automation and marketing attribution each have their place in today’s marketing space. It’s time for them to step out of the ring, shake hands, and call it even. They’ve both won, because they’re playing on the same team.