Contact Attribution in HubSpot

Matthew Deal

Attributing the creation of contacts to source, campaigns, whatever is a critical skill to have. Why? Because contacts are the building blocks of everything in HubSpot.


Hi, everyone. So this week, I wanted to cover a new topic for helping to make your marketing overall more effective through the lens of data analysis on your existing data. And explicitly, what we're talking about today is contacts and contact attribution.

HubSpot Contact Attribution

So a few weeks ago, I put up a video discussing deal attribution, which is basically deciding how to either attribute different types of deals or opportunities in your organization as they relate to different departments or different campaigns or really anything. That's pretty typical stuff. Contact attribution, however, is a little bit different in the sense that these are the fundamental building blocks of how contacts come to be in your ECRM, which is a great method for being able to understand trends and current behavior of how your marketing program or demand generation program is running.

HubSpot contacts as building blocks

If you think about it, it makes sense. You really can't have companies or deals or opportunities if they don't have contacts associated with them. So the first big reason why I think it's important that people discuss and think about contact attribution is it really goes down to the core of what you're producing from the marketing side.

So first falls under this big header of optimization, I've talked to many a business owner where the concern was being able to optimize things, but no clear definition of what that actually means in no way, shape or form. In this case, to give a smaller definition, you are reducing the number of things that you do not want to do and increasing the number of things that you do want to do.

HubSpot Attribution: Source, Medium, Landing Pages

So in this particular case, what we're looking for when it comes to contact attribution and optimization is really the building blocks of how these contacts come into our system. The four most commonly used building blocks that I like to employ are medium, source, landing pages, and forms. And if you are a customer using HubSpot or Pardot, it's a very similar structure between both. Some systems that I've seen want to integrate landing pages within forms or use source different than the way that people use Source in Google Analytics.

HubSpot Contacts and Traffic Sources

In this particular case, having the building blocks of saying, "Where does my traffic come from? Did they come from search engine ads that we're running? Or are they coming from paid social? Or are they coming from organic traffic?" And then drilling down into there with individual sites with source, knowing if they arrived or they came into your system as a landing page through a particular landing page offer, through a particular landing page form that the form exist in many places. And typically, the other portion that I like to recommend with this is really starting with both attributes and lifecycle stage.

HubSpot Lifecycle Stages

If you're big into lifecycle stages, especially on the HubSpot side, you will definitely want to know where your leads are coming from and the number of leads that ultimately turn into MQLs and SQLs, right? And ultimately, opportunities. But knowing that first part of those building blocks of how contracts come to be is an excellent starting point for making intelligent decisions around how to maneuver your marketing.

HubSpot Deal Attribution

The other big way that I see contact attribution mattering a lot for both, everyone from the CMO to a sales coordinator, is that contacts fundamentally represent a different model of attribution as it relates to deals. Oftentimes, it's slightly different in every organization, how ultimately deal attribution works and who in theory would get credit for producing a deal, especially when you have both sales and marketing teams that are working together.

And so what often happens, especially on the deal side, or the opportunity side if you're using Salesforce and Pardot, is that we will have a contact that is created at one period of time. And then some period of time goes by. And then ultimately, that person turns into a closed one opportunity or a closed one deal.

Notes on Buying Cycles

You see this situation a lot with products where there are intrinsically longer buying cycles. So the idea that I may have a contact that's created in one period of time is ultimately nurtured up to the point, to where they actually take a most recent action, like contacting somebody from the sales team. The other situation where contact attribution becomes critically important relates to back-to-deal attribution. Oftentimes, many different organizations will simply base attribution of the deal off the most recent action. This is often called last click. So if somebody ultimately decides to call and contact a member of the sales staff to learn more about pricing or a quote for a particular product, then that opportunity may be deemed as attributed to a sales effort.

But in reality, in most organizations that are on this longer sales cycle, the contact for the deal to even be in existence may have been created way in the past through demand generation of marketing. And so you're in this sticky situation to where if you're basing off the most recent action, that last click, versus first click, which is the opposite of last click, then you're essentially saying that the last interaction was the most important and that's how you intend to assign attribution. So oftentimes, it's really important for marketers to know the original sources.

HubSpot and the Original Source

So look, if you use HubSpot, this is actually a field called original source. When a contact gets created in the system, that is semantically recorded and kept with the contact record. Same thing for Pardot. There's also a field that will pull in the web source for a particular contact.

So that way, it stays with their contact record. So knowing that information about the contacts and using that as a different and alternative method for being able to evaluate how to attribute different deals. And so for marketers, I think it's critically important to keep that into perspective. Because the last click, in many cases, isn't the most important.

HubSpot Contacts and “Getting Credit”

Understanding contact attribution, again, I think it's critically important for getting credit, for being able to say that your department, or a particular campaign, or a particular idea that we have within the organization functionally worked or did not work based on the number of opportunities or maybe the amount of opportunities, whatever.

It really doesn't matter, but it's to be able to be ultimately connect the contacts that a lot of inbound marketers are diligently creating through great content and translating that ultimately back to the revenue that exists ideally between the marketing system and your sales system.


So if you're into the idea of contact attribution, and especially if you're using HubSpot, you're going to love what I'm about to announce next. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter this week on the website, matthewdeal.com. And we will be publishing a video to newsletter subscribers only, that is going to just basically walk you through how to do contact attribution, how that might actually play out for your specific organization, and delve into some of those more tactical questions and practical questions.


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