Chapter 3: B2B Content Writing and Creation

Growth Strategy
0 min read
September 14, 2022
Isla Bruce
Head of Content

Welcome to Chapter 3 of A Master Guide To B2B Content Marketing.

In this chapter, we’re going to review the most popular types of B2B content assets, and best practice tips for creating them. Even if you're outsourcing most of your B2B content creation, you still need to know how to brief and what to look for in submitted work.

There are plenty of options when it comes to B2B content formats, but which will work best for your audience? 

Choosing the best content format partly depends on the channel and platform you’re publishing it on. It also depends on your audience's typical consumption preferences. You’ll need to monitor engagement over time so you can keep optimizing content for your own unique following. 

You may not have the resources to create every type of content for every audience persona. Instead, start with maintaining a production cycle of what already gets results, and gradually supplement any obvious gaps you have in your optimal content matrix.

Do ensure you have bottom funnel content as the first priority before you put effort into attracting new readers with your blog or lead magnets (gated content). It can be easy to forget about the impact of bottom funnel content to maximize the effectiveness of your top-of-the-funnel content.

TOFU MOFU BOFU content creation
Source: Semrush

(And next up, we’ll dig deeper into distribution and promotion tactics in Chapter 4!)

1. B2B Content Creation

There are many types of content options, from long-form and snippets to multimedia formats.

Choosing the right content length and format will depend on the marketing channel used, your buyers consumption preferences, and what stage of the customer journey the target audience are at.

types of successful B2B content

Whatever content you produce, you’ll need a defined process for workflow efficiency, publishing scheduling and quality control. Project management tools such as ClickUp and Trello will help you manage the production process from start to end.

content creation process

The content creation process needs to be planned and managed. Here’s an outline of how to do it!

1. Plan

  • Ideate topics to meet your content marketing objectives.
  • Create a content calendar several weeks in advance, allowing time for briefing, detailed research, feedback and editing.
  • Assign resources, including team and budget.
  • Use collaboration tools for project management and communication.

2. Assign

  • Create clear and detailed briefs for writers and multimedia content creators, breaking content into sections in a logical flow.
  • Include deadlines.
  • Provide content specific reference material, such as customer personas, keyword research, brand guidelines and key messaging.
  • Provide access to editing and SEO tools, such as Grammarly and SEO Writing Assistant.

3. Review

  • Proof-read.
  • Factcheck by cross-referencing multiple sources.
  • Use a professional editor if possible.

4. Get Approvals

  • Get approval from internal project owners.
  • Get approval from clients if relevant.

5. Publish

  • Upload and preview content.
  • Check meta description, title tags, image alt tags and links are correctly configured.
  • Publish.
  • Index new blog or website pages on Google Search Console.

6. Promote

  • Provide article links to team members responsible for social media, email or paid distribution.
  • Repurpose written and long-form content such as videos into snippet or image format for distribution.

7. Content Auditing + Maintenance

  • Audit content to help you understand what’s working and what’s not, and where you have content gaps to fill.
  • Create a content maintenance tracker, periodically reviewing and updating content to keep it relevant and maintain SEO performance.

Now let’s explore what kind of content formats to use, and when.

2. What Content Formats Do B2B Marketers Say Work Best?

From a marketers perspective, a Content Marketing Institute survey of 1,275 B2B marketers globally found that webinars or virtual events delivered the best results, followed by research reports and short articles:

best performing B2B content in 2022
Source: CMI

“Long articles/posts stood out as an area where those who are most successful reported better results than respondents overall (43% vs. 32%).”

These results make sense given that buyers are looking to stay informed about industry trends or technical developments. It’s the type of content that business readers will allocate most time for, whether they are currently in an active buying process or not.

So what about content preferences by customer journey stages?

A survey of 350 global B2B and B2C marketers conducted by Semrush explored the effectiveness of content types and channels for specific stages of the customer journey and sales funnel:

how to build effective content marketing funnels with most effective content
Source: SEJ

But, do the content formats that marketers say work best match up with what B2B buyers prefer? Let’s have a look.

 3. What Content Formats Do Buyers Prefer?

The proportion of time spent on content formats will reflect the fact that most B2B readers only consume high level thought leadership or news regularly. A small proportion of B2B audiences will be participating in an active purchasing process at any given time.

A survey by Demand Gen Report asked B2B buyers what content they found most useful for purchasing research:

most valuable content for b2b purchasing research
Source: Demand Gen Report

These results favored ToFU/MoFU content more heavily than BoFU content, reflecting a greater focus on the earlier customer journey stages as being most influencial.

However, a 2020 Showpad buyer survey found that the most popular content formats were technical specifications and case studies:

most useful B2B content
Source: Showpad

Showpad’s survey also found that 60% of C-suite executives preferred peer reviews over all other forms of research.

These two survey's findings give us an idea what might work best and where to start. They also demonstrate the content preference differences that can exist across B2B audiences and between journey stages.

Visual Multimedia Content

Visual learners account for 65% of people!

Whatever your content format choice, do incorporate photographs, graphics, diagrams or charts, screen grabs or video imagery. Particularly at early stages of the sales funnel. This will help you grab attention, explain a concept or solution more easily, and help convey a brand identity or feeling you want to evoke.

Not everyone has the time and desire to read long form content. Imagery can get your messages across to time-poor readers quickly and clearly, especially when they are less invested at early journey stages.

Now let’s explore the individual content formats, and best practice tips for creating them!

4. Blog Articles

Blog posts and short articles are B2B marketers go-to content format:

  • Blogging is used by 93% of marketers in 2021. 
  • Websites with a blog have 434% more indexed pages on average, making your site far more visible to search engines. 
  • B2B blogs featuring educational content based on audience interests and search trends capture 52% more organic traffic.

Blogs are a ToFU-friendly content format. You’re not looking to heavily promote your business or offerings here, other than occasional mentions when context allows using brief CTAs that point to your mid-funnel content. Focus on industry trends, challenges, best practices, or areas where buyers' knowledge might be lacking. This will help drive more quality prospects to your website.

Blog articles should strategically use keywords to bring relevant traffic directly, as well as help boost your website domain overall within your niche. Google is ultimately assessing how helpful your content will be for users based on their searches, so always make this your north star for SEO optimization and article creation.

There’s a vast amount of blog content out there, most of which gets no shares or backlinks, so here are some top tips to stand out.

Top tips for blogging:

  • Use Short Lists for Share-ability - These are great for social media distribution. Listicles make content very easy for you to structure, easy to incorporate headline numbers, and easy for users to digest. Listicle headlines are very clickable, piquing interest easily. List posts get an average of 218% more shares than how-to posts, and 203% more shares than infographics. Stay within 2,000 words to optimize the effect.
  • Use Longer Headlines With Questions - Headlines that are 14-17 words in length generate 76.7% more social shares than short headlines. In addition, headlines that pose a question get 23% more social shares than headlines that don’t.
  • Use Long-form Articles for More Backlinks - Content that’s 3,000-10,000 words in length gets the most backlinks. Backlinks are an important SEO factor for assessing a website’s domain authority. As long as your backlinks are coming from high quality websites, they will help you gain more reach, grow brand awareness and attract high-intent traffic through the referrals.
  • Provide Data - Back up your messaging with plenty of data and statistics to support it. 66% of surveyed B2B buyers say they want vendors to use more data and research to support their content. More factual credibility makes it compelling for buyers to share content, whether internally or socially.

For more SEO guidance, please refer back to Chapter 2.

5. Video

In 2022, 69% of marketers plan to spend budget on video. I’d say that’s a good strategy, considering 70% of B2B buyers and researchers watch videos throughout their path to purchase.

Research suggests that video is a particularly important research component for larger deals. As the cost of purchase price increases, so does the preference for videos. 

  • Buyers viewed video content in 41% of deals over $100,000 compared to 10% of buyers in deals under $5,000. 
  • Video content is most likely to be shared with colleagues by B2B buyers (42%).
video marketing statistics 2022
Source: Wyzlow

As with any content, your audience’s needs and behavior in regard to video will vary according to their stage in the customer journey. ToFU content would feature challenge and industry oriented thought leadership, including ‘How to’. MoFu would feature solution explainers and the highlights or USPs of your offering. BoFU would be focussed on customer testimonials or case studies featuring ROI and successes.

Top tips for video marketing:

  • Production - Write a script with key messages, and have your interviewee or narrator practice delivering in their own words. A natural and conversational delivery works best, using relevant language and examples for your personas. Use a prompter or hold up cards if your subject needs a little help to remember all the points. Film the subject a few times until they feel comfortable that they have nailed their presentation. Corporate videos for your website should be filmed and edited by a professional videographer. However, social media clips benefit from a user-generated feel when filmed on a higher spec smartphone. Depending on budget, you could train an interested candidate on your team to use video editing software, or find yourself a freelance video editor to support your process.
  • Optimize MoFU & BoFU Videos for Desktop - Buyers proactively conducting research will watch videos on desktop around 87% of the time, so prioritize a desktop-friendly video format rather than vertical orientation. At least for your website and LinkedIn. However, videos on other social platforms are more likely to be viewed on mobile.
  • Minimize Video Length for ToFU - For social media, don’t go over 60 seconds, and 30 seconds is optimal. However, if your video is on your website, positioned further down the sales funnel to target users with more intent, then you have more leeway with time. But do make every second count using the right level of meaningful content. Create two edits of your videos if you want to share on social media, but also need a slightly longer version for your website or vlog. Vlogging is a growing B2B content marketing format, and when contained within your vlog area or platform, can naturally be longer in length to provide value. Video-specific platforms like YouTube show better engagement for slightly longer videos.
  • Use Captions, Subtitles + Compelling Imagery - The majority of videos on social platforms are watched without sound; 85% of Facebook videos are played without sound. So do always include subtitles. Pair that with compelling imagery to capture visual interest and increase the number of views to completion.
  • Videos Need CTAs - Finish your video with a call to action according to the customer journey stage objectives. It could be a ToFU video promoting viewers to subscribe to your social channel. A MoFU video on your website prompting viewers to get in touch with the sales team for a scoping conversation. Or directing viewers to click on the provided link to read the full white paper discussed (behind a landing page form, ideally!). 

6. Webinars

A type of gated content, webinars help you capture new lead PII data during the sign up process on your registration page. Due to the time investment, webinar leads are usually high quality.

  • Buyers are willing to spend the most time engaging with webinars, at 30-60 minutes
  • 63% of buyers say they are willing to share information to access webinars. 

Top tips for webinar marketing:

  • Platform + Promotion - Choosing a webinar platform depends on the number of participants, what features are needed, and the price of course. Three weeks of promotion is great, but four weeks will allow more scope within the diaries of busy senior buyers. 
  • Format - The most popular webinar formats are one speaker, interview style, and moderated panel discussion. Besides presentations, make sure that you have an introduction slide, a slide for each presenter, and a slide with the agenda. Remind speakers about the importance of visuals to accompany their message, and help them improve slides during your brand review process.
  • Follow-up - Follow-up with attendees, whether this falls to marketing or sales, contacting every participant individually. Share the materials and ask what motivated them to participate. If a person didn’t join a webinar, offer access to the recording. Track if they have watched it, and use the standard follow-up process when they do.

7. eBooks + White Papers

 eBooks and white papers are similar forms of information-rich content, typically providing more in-depth coverage than a blog might. 

They are mostly used in mid funnel research stages. That means after listicles and videos, but before case studies and buying guides.  

However, they are targeted differently.

eBooks - Designed for a broader audience, these digital assets have interactive features made with eBook creator tools. They tend to be less data oriented and more visually driven than heavy hitting white papers, providing easier or higher level topic overviews. They can feature embedded videos, links and interactive navigation. eBooks have wider appeal and sit slightly higher in the research funnel than a white paper would, so use these nearer the top of the funnel at interest stages.

White Papers - More academic and technical in style, white papers cover challenges and solutions for specific audiences. Write them for specific industry verticals, business types or departmental roles. They are data or research led, use plenty of graphs and charts, and explore an issue in depth. This can make them more ‘expensive’ to produce. White papers are traditionally downloadable PDFs, which some B2B readers can prefer for printing and file saving. Use them at the consideration stage to help qualify leads for bottom funnel content. However, if your solution or audience aren’t particularly technical, a white paper may be overkill!

Top tips for creating eBooks + white papers:

  • Use a 3-Step Structure - The basic structure for long-form ‘How to’ assets should be 1) identify and clarify a problem, 2) explore methodology or solutions, and 3) propose a recommended resolution or conclusion. 
  • Build Authority - Get the tone right. The primary goal is to demonstrate technical expertise and authority, not to be biased in promoting your offering with a sales focus. Stick to solution categories rather than individual products and keep product comparison guides for bottom funnel content. This builds trust with your audience, getting them ready to explore deeper funnel content as the next stage.
  • Shareable vs. Gated - eBooks can perform better as highly shareable content without requiring a form-fill for access, while white papers should require data in exchange for access. Content offering more detail and technical depth will tend to attract readers with greater intent on average.

8. Case Studies and Customer Stories

Testimonials and case studies are highly influential, particularly for decision makers! 

  • 92% of buyers give most credence to peer reviews or feedback than any other content type. 
  • 59% of buyers use third-party sites to read peer reviews. 
  • C-suite executives are most likely to prefer peer reviews (60%) over all other forms of research.

Case studies mostly come into play at MoFU and BoFU stages. They should provide social proof and tangible evidence that your solution will deliver, and how well.

Top tips for creating case studies:

  • Speak to Customer Challenges - Promote the best projects, not from your company’s perspective but from the customer’s perspective. Base it around their primary challenges and motivators. It’s likely that you’re speaking to high level decision makers with this content, but other personas in the buying process may also have mid to bottom funnel questions to be answered too.
  • Focus on Outcomes - Case studies are most frequently read deeper in the purchasing consideration process, so make sure to spell out exactly how your other customers have benefited from your product or service. Include scenario-specific delivery information, resulting outcomes and ROI data.
  • Provide Social Proof - Include customer testimonials as evidence where you can. Ideally name the client and person providing an endorsing testimonial. An accompanying video testimonial is great if you can get it!
  • Be Concise - Senior executives or decision makers are notoriously time poor and statistically have shorter attention spans. Create a clear structure covering context, the challenge, the solution and the results, only mentioning the most relevant details. Use headings and bullet points to make the case study skim-able, and pull out numerical figures in simple infographics or larger text.

9. Buyers Guide

A Buyers Guide is a crucial piece of BoFU content to help buyers make a decision and take action.  

Whether it’s a webpage or downloadable asset such as an eBook or PDF, tracking engagement with your buyers guide content will help you qualify sales leads. Use this type of content as a self-assessment for buyers. 

Presenting information in tables, as bullet points or graphics is ideal. 

Top tips for creating a Buyers Guide:

  • Working With Us - Lead with your brand and product-specific USPs. Why should clients want to work with you? Trust is a huge B2B decision-making factor, so explain valuable brand elements like post-purchase support provision.
  • Qualifying Checklist - If there are any criteria leads need to meet in order to be a match for your provision, provide them. State clearly what type of business the guide is written for. This either confirms to the reader that they have found the right provider, or will help filter out unqualified leads.
  • Specifications Or Capabilities - Provide as much detail about your product or service as possible. Or provide the key capabilities and processes your team uses when delivering a bespoke service. List out the pain points and challenges that it solves. Depending on your business model, you may or may not wish to provide information about your pricing and contractual model at this stage.
  • Supporting Evidence - ROI information and the benefits of implementing your solution should be detailed. Include numerical data and customer testimonials to back up your statements. Link to customer testimonials on third-party review platforms.
  • Comparison Chart - These are particularly helpful for products. Check off the important features your product has in comparison with best-known sellers in your competitive bracket. Include any relevant gaps to help your leads pre-qualify themselves. Perhaps your product does offer more features than competitors. Or customers could be happy to forgo some unessential features for a provider that’s overall a better fit on criteria such as support or pricing. Saving prospects the time researching and comparing options will build trust and speed up the purchasing process.
  • How To Take Action - Conclude with helpful information so that buyers can take action, such as how the purchasing process works. Provide contact details and next steps. 

 10. Infographics

Infographics are a valuable part of the buying process according to 76% of B2B buyers. They’re great for summarizing a topic or lots of statistical information quickly - ideal for top to mid funnel stages! There are plenty of tools with infographic templates that make the job easy if you don’t have enough design budget. I recommend Canva or Picktochart.

Top tips for creating infographics:

  • Consider Graphic Types - Decide which type of infographic will best help you convey the key takeaways. You could depict process flows, comparisons, timelines, statistical data or listicles, and so on.
  • Use Logical Hierarchy - Bring structure to the data or list of points to create a narrative. Progress in logical order in terms of information that builds upon earlier information, or gives deeper levels of detail. This will aid readers in quickly understanding and retaining the information.

11. Podcasts

Given that podcasts are lower down the list of most marketers current content priorities, there’s more space to stand out and capture podcast listeners’ attention. It’s also generally more cost-effective than professional video production.

  • In the US, 62% of the population (12+ years) are now weekly online audio listeners, representing around 176 million people. 
  • Podcasts appeal most to higher income earners - people earning between $50K-75K (34.1%) and $75K-100K (32.6%) listen to podcasts daily. 
  • A Nielsen study found that 45% of podcast listeners are more likely to have a household income of at $250k+, while also being 51% more likely to work in management. 
  • Among senior decision-makers, VPs, owners and C-suite executives, 44% specifically make time to listen to podcasts. 

The popularity of podcasts among high earners is understandable, as it’s much easier to multitask when you’re listening rather than reading. Perfect for the drive home, while grocery shopping, cooking, at the gym, or en route to a meeting.

Apple and Spotify provide the best known podcast publishing platforms. Most people (64%) learn about podcasts through social media, and there are also audio SEO techniques you can put into play to improve your channel’s visibility.

Top tips for podcast marketing:

  • Gather Tools - The basic podcast toolkit consists of a microphone and voice recording software. It doesn’t have to be high-end to deliver clear sound. However, someone with the skills to edit and stitch episodes together is best for a professional result. There are 4 main structural elements to incorporate: a recognizable brand jingle, an introduction, main interview, and conclusion. Aim for no more than 20-30 minutes per episode.
  • Feature a Variety of Guests - An interview-style podcast is the most popular format. You can use your podcast to amplify the voice of your internal brand ambassadors, subject matter experts and business leaders. Interviewing external guests is also a good idea to keep your content fresh and interesting, bringing in a variety of perspectives. LinkedIn is useful for researching and reaching out to a talent list, or you could contact a speakers agency for a big name, budget allowing. Ask your senior business leaders (or their assistants) to send a drafted invitation email. An invitation from a CEO, VP, Founder or Partner is more flattering and harder to refuse.

12. Social Media Posts

In its simplest format, social media posts are standalone content snippets. You can use them to pose simple statements and thought provoking questions, or share pictures and videos live from an event. However, social media is unsurpassed as the most popular channel for distributing B2B content marketing materials such as blogs and videos. It’s used by 89% of surveyed B2B marketers. 

On social, your goal is to grab the attention of your target audience at the start of the customer journey, and then keep your brand top of mind as you build brand awareness. That said, 53% of buyers said they use social media to research purchasing information, so a mix of top to mid funnel content is required. 

The following content mix is a good ratio to aim for so you can keep things engaging while still achieving your aims:

  • Drive website traffic (sometimes including direct links or using a Link In Bio tool): 50%
  • Curated from external sources or UGC (repost influencers or customers content, industry publications, independent market experts etc): 25%
  • Lead-generation campaigns (promos and gated content): 20%
  • Convey company culture: 5%

Content that resonates on social media platforms is different from website content. Ideas can travel far on social platforms, allowing you to reach a larger audience if you get it right. 

  • Focus on attention grabbing titles and summarized messages.
  • Find unique ways to express messages so you stand out. 

It can be harder for B2B marketers than for B2C marketers to develop content that works as naturally on social media. The impulse appeal can be harder to compete with, and it takes thought and effort to get engagement. But audience insights and some experimentation can go a long way.

It’s ok to go a little off brand occasionally to show human personality within your brand identity. Humorous content gets attention and can help build a sense of connection and community using insider references. After all, businesses are made up of people, and even the most senior business leader appreciates a little humor! Just steer clear of any controversy. Or share content from other non-competing industry influencers who use humor well. 

Be genuinely interesting, whether it's through insightful statistics and perspectives, or valuable educational content. And whatever you do, don’t go in heavy with the promotional content. An audience that feels spammed creates negative brand sentiment. 

  • Irrelevant content is the top reason to unfollow a social account (51%), followed by too many ads (43%) or promotional posts (35%).
best social media channels for B2B marketing 2022
Source: Website Rating

Features across the biggest social platforms have progressively homogenized, and there are core social tactics to use for them all.

Top tips for social media marketing:

  • Feature Industry Statistics or News - People enjoy the credibility of numbers and keeping abreast of the latest industry news. They want to stay informed as easily as possible, and a quick scan of social media headlines is popular for this. Give people an engaging snapshot summary within the post, and link to the long-form version of the content snippet for further reading (or viewing).
  • Use Hashtags - Hashtags make content discoverable to help you organically expand reach, particularly for people following relevant topics but not your account (yet!). You can use paid social media tools to help you research popular hashtags for your niche, plus get inspiration from industry influencers, your target audience and competitors. Aim for 2 or 3 hashtags per post with most topical relevance. A huge list of hashtags in a post can be irritating, spammy and diluted.
  • Share User-generated Content - UGC is a great way to engage your audience by endorsing their content and shining a spotlight on them. Mix it up with the content formats or messages you repost according to what your audience will appreciate, including any genuine advocacy for your brand.
  • Leverage Groups + Communities - Active groups within your industry are a great place to grow your brand's reach. However, corporate feeling 'SPAM' posts are ineffective and may not even be allowed. Ask more prominent employees or allocated authors to use their accounts to post personalized summaries of your content. Engaging content based on insights and personal experience delivered in a conversational style works best. Create a draft for your primary content sponsor to finalize + share, and encourage them to respond to any questions or comments.
  • Be Consistent - Consistency is key for success on any social platform. Pick a sustainable frequency for your publishing schedule and maintain it.
  • Track Links + Measure Success - Shorten links, and use UTM link parameters to track generated traffic by individual posts. Experiment to see what content formats and topics will get you the most engagement and conversions. Identify common traits among your most engaged with posts and links so you can replicate the approach.
  • Try Native Newsfeed Ads - Boost your most popular organic ToFU posts with paid promotion. This content may be more likely to appeal more to new prospects too, improving brand awareness and reach.
  • Prioritize Video Content - Video content is consistently the best performer on all mainstream social platforms.
  • Optimize for Mobile - Social content is mostly consumed on mobile devices, so optimize images, videos and landing pages for vertical mobile screens.
  • Provide Company Information - Fill out your bio or ‘About’ section on all social platforms, including relevant keywords and #hashtags, plus backlinks to your website and contact details.
  • Use Calls To Action - Remember your strong calls to action, particularly for lead generation campaigns. Use specifically designed landing pages by user case; don’t send users to your homepage.

In Chapter 4, we’ll look at more advanced tactics for optimizing your social content specifically for each of the top 4 B2B social platforms of choice.

13. Email

As with social media, email can be considered both a content format and a publishing channel.

Newsletters are an effective way to stay top of mind while gently growing brand awareness for your offering, and are unsurpassed as a lead nurturing tool. 

  • Around 87% of marketers utilize email, and 77% produce email newsletters.
  • Email is the preferred communication channel for B2B consumers; 77% say it’s how they prefer to receive business communications, and 70% say it’s how they share content internally. 
  • PostUp data showed that email newsletter readers visit twice as many webpages per session than visitors from social.  
  • In terms of ROI, it’s hard to beat. Litmus says that on average, email generates $36 for every $1 spent.
  • It’s the number one lead nurturing tool (online), with people who’ve subscribed to an email list being 40x more likely to convert.

Newsletters are the most popular email format, followed by stand-alone (79%), lead nurturing (71%), and transactional (62%). Hubspot has some great inspiration for email formatting.

But again, a quick disclaimer not to be overly self-promotional with your email content. 43% of users say too much advertising from the brand is the top reason to unsubscribe from a newsletter.

To get people signing up to your newsletter: 

  • Make the sign up form easy and visible on your website.
  • Consider using a website pop-up for sign up. 
  • Provide a compelling reason to subscribe.
  • Include a link in email signatures.
  • Directly ask customers if they want to sign up.
  • Ask sales staff and event presenters to promote it via word of mouth.
  • Create a small reward for signing up, like a free email question answered by a consultant.

To build an automated email nurturing sequence:

  • Marketing Automation Platform - You’ll need email marketing automation software to build a chain of emails into ordered and timed sequences. These will be triggered to start on an individual basis depending on the trigger criteria you set. For example, a trigger could be someone signing up to your newsletter or starting a free software trial. Ideally you can use a tool which gathers and compiles data from your website and email platforms in order to build better triggers for greater personalization.
  • Audience Segmentation - Build email nurturing sequences that cater to specific audience needs. You can build in multiple triggers, email sequences and timing depending on the level of segmentation you need to deliver. For example, two different services will have different marketing assets that can be sent to leads who demonstrate interest in them (page views, time on page, clicks, downloads). Build email sequences depending on the content your distinct audience segments will find most helpful and influential in order to convert.
  • Build Journey Sequences - For nurturing sequences, your email content needs to move recipients through their individual customer journey from top to bottom funnel. The goal is to build familiarity, authority and trust. Order email sequences starting with introduction content. Provide access to gated ‘How to’ content such as eBooks, trials, downloads and webinars before proceeding to BoFU content. If emails remain unopened, you can trigger a re-engagement email rather than sending BoFU content before it’s time. Email sequences are a powerful tool to help you qualify leads based on their engagement (opens, link clicks, downloads). 
example of a drip campaign flow for email automation

Top tips for email marketing:

  • Segment Email Lists - Customers' expectation for personalization continues to increase, and 55% of unsubscribes are because people find email content irrelevant to them. Using segmentation for your campaigns can result in revenue increases by as much as 760%. Utilize your CRM database (and client-facing staff) to full capacity to help you accurately segment customers by their persona, journey stage and interests. Ask people to check their main areas of interest during the signup process, as long as it's quick and easy for them. And if you don’t already, use personalization tags to include the recipients’ name at least once.
  • Optimize for Mobile - Did you know that nearly 1 in 5 email campaigns are not optimized for mobile devices? Although B2B buyers mostly use their professional email accounts and make decisions from desktops, news or thought leadership content is still accessed from mobile devices. Don’t ignore the UX on any part of the customer journey if you want to optimize favorable brand opinion and conversion rates.
  • Use Compelling, Short Subject Lines - Email recipients often use the subject line as the basis for opening an email (or not). It’s best practice to get your message across within the subject line using a limit of 60 characters. On mobile, with the iPhone email app for example, only the first 30 characters of subject lines appear. Experiment with the type of subject lines your audience are most likely to open. A/B testing is advised to help you optimize your subject lines, and make sure that they reflect the contents of your email.
  • Observe Permission Practices - Adhering to privacy policies is absolutely not optional. First, never buy an email list or email people without their opt in. Email subscriptions have to be earned over time with engaging content. Second, always action unsubscribe requests, or people will perhaps correctly assume you’re ignoring their wishes and don’t respect their privacy. Break either of these rules and not only will you destroy trust, but you can get yourself into legal hot water. There are differing international email policies you must adhere to. On top of this, consistently use good list management practices. If contacts have’t opened in a few months, ask if they are still interested. Delete contacts that don’t respond, or bounce. Lots of unopens, bounces and unsubscribes will result in your account being flagged as SPAM or as a security threat, blocking your email delivery.
  • Get the Frequency Right - Send too few emails and you can miss opportunities, or people forget about you. Send too many and you can overwhelm or irritate people. ‘Too many emails’ is the top reason to unsubscribe, accounting for 57% of unsubscribes in both the US and UK. Two to three emails per month is the most popular frequency for both B2B and B2C email marketers. If content generation is a challenge, create bite-sized emails a couple of times a month instead of one longer email.

MailChimp has compiled a helpful table of industry-specific email benchmarks you can reference for comparison.

Summing Up

A range of content is required to move leads from awareness to conversion. Different content formats and topics are required at each stage of the sales funnel.


  • Blogging forms the foundation of a content strategy for SEO purposes; B2B blogs featuring educational content capture 52% more organic traffic.
  • ‘How to’ guides are the most popular form of ToFU purchasing content.
  • B2B audiences are willing to spend the most time on webinars at 30-60 minutes, and 63% are willing to share information to access them. 
  • 70% of B2B buyers and researchers watch videos throughout their path to purchase.
  • Infographics are a valuable part of the buying process according to 76% of B2B buyers.
  • 53% of buyers said they use social media to research purchasing information.


  • Research reports are ranked well by B2B buyers and marketers as effective purchasing content.
  • Email is the number one lead nurturing tool (online), with people who’ve subscribed to an email list being 40x more likely to convert.


  • Product overviews and customer reviews are the most popular BoFU content.
  • 92% of buyers give most credence to peer reviews or feedback than any other content type.

To explore KPIs for assessing your website, social and email content performance, see Chapter 2.

This concludes Chapter 3 of Half Past Nine’s four-part B2B content marketing series.  

Ready to discover more of the series now? See the rest of the chapters below. If not, do bookmark them for later!

More In This Series:

Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Brenden Delarua
Sr. Paid Media Strategist
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Isla Bruce
Head of Content
Isla Bruce
Head of Content
Isla Bruce
Head of Content
Jenner Kearns
Chief Delivery Officer
Isla Bruce
Head of Content
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Isla Bruce
Head of Content
Isla Bruce
Head of Content
Isla Bruce
Head of Content
Kenneth Shen
Chief Executive Officer
Isla Bruce
Head of Content

Read next

Unlock Revenue Growth With Data

Knowing where to invest marketing budget to increase contribution margin and overall revenue growth is the #1 pressing challenge for any marketing or growth leader.

As multichannel complexity and media budgets grow, attribution becomes one of those topics we really can’t ignore.

To truly understand the most valuable customer journey design, relying on default attribution reporting within ad platforms or Google Analytics just doesn’t cut it. In fact, it can even do more harm than good due to misattribution and double attribution - a big problem with these uncensored (and self-serving) tools. 

The trouble with free on-platform attribution reporting (like Facebook or Google Analytics) is that they are siloed walled gardens that work in isolation with their own limited data sets. Your most powerful and valuable attribution analysis needs to cover everything, directly tied back to revenue results. 

Without a proactive attribution strategy that connects all your customer journey and conversion data, optimized customer journey design will remain an elusive mystery. Highly influential channels like dark social or offline interactions are often underestimated or completely missing, while non-profitable campaigns are over-indexed. 

The difference in business results can easily stack up to millions of dollars in wasted budget and lost opportunities - especially where larger paid media budgets are involved. 

 Let’s explore how marketers can master attribution to start hitting revenue targets with much greater confidence and certainty.

The Impact of Not Using Accurate Attribution Reporting

The impact of not using attribution reporting - or using it poorly - is worth understanding. It can have multiple negative impacts on decision-making and overall business performance.

The common consequences are:

Incomplete Customer Insights Cause Poor CX

An incomplete understanding of customer preferences, motivations, and pain points hinders the ability to tailor marketing strategies to effectively engage and convert customers.

This can result in a lack of adequate content personalization and a poorer customer experience (CX), meaning your brand gets overlooked in favor of others by potential customers.

Unprofitable Resource Allocation

Struggling to accurately identify the marketing channels, campaigns, or touchpoints that are driving conversions or desired outcomes results in less effective use of resources.

For example, over-investing in underperforming channels, and underinvesting in high-impact touchpoints, wasting budget in the process.

Poor Revenue Growth and Limited Brand Equity

Incorrect assumptions about the impact of specific touchpoints or channels results in suboptimal marketing performance and missed opportunities.

If marketing efforts fail to engage and convert customers effectively over time, the business can suffer from stunted revenue growth, also putting a cap on brand equity.

Understanding the Challenges for Accurate Attribution

Marketers can’t fully rely on free attribution solutions for the insights they need to drive significant optimizations. Results can be significantly misleading when solely using free on-platform attribution reporting.

On-platform attribution issues:

  • No Cross-Channel Visibility - On-platform attribution doesn't have full visibility into the performance of other channels, or wider customer journey outside of their own ecosystem, acting as walled gardens. This limited view can make it difficult to understand the true impact of each channel on conversions and ROI (or ROAS). 
  • Double Attribution - When using multiple platforms, there's a risk of double attribution - where more than one platform takes credit for the same conversion. This overlapping attribution may cause businesses to overestimate the performance of certain channels or campaigns, and consequent overinvestment stunts overall marketing ROI.
  • Inconsistent Attribution Methods - Different platforms apply different attribution rules, leading to inconsistencies in how they assign credit to various touchpoints. This inconsistency can make it challenging to accurately compare the performance of different marketing channels or campaigns.
  • Tracking Limitations - With increasing data privacy regulations, third-party platforms may face challenges in accurately tracking user behavior across channels. A custom attribution model can help overcome some of these limitations by incorporating first-party data and other tracking methods.
  • Lack of Customization - On-platform attribution reporting may not be tailored to your specific needs, goals, and marketing strategy. A custom attribution model, on the other hand, can be designed to accurately reflect a business's unique customer journey, allowing for more precise insights into the performance of each marketing channel and campaign.

There is a compelling case for marketers to invest in their own customized attribution solutions. Especially when paid media investments start becoming more significant.

However, accurate attribution modeling isn’t one of the most straightforward tasks for a marketing department to tackle.

There are several hurdles to overcome to extract and benefit from the most valuable insights:

 1. Tracking Data Across Complete Journeys 

A typical user journey involves multiple devices, channels, platforms, and time breaks between visits, making it difficult to track a complete customer journey path from the first touchpoint to conversion. Cross-device tracking techniques are needed, such as device matching or probabilistic modeling.

 2. Data Privacy 

Tracking restrictions and cookie limitations can limit the ability to track customer interactions across marketing channels, sometimes requiring workarounds. Yet it's essential to adhere to data privacy regulations, maintain transparency and obtain appropriate consent from customers when collecting and utilizing their data.

 3. Offline Data Tracking 

Marketers may need to implement strategies such as unique identifiers, coupon codes, QR codes, or call tracking to link offline interactions to specific customers and attribute them properly. However, implementing and managing these tracking mechanisms may require additional resources and operational adjustments, including manual data entry from both customers and staff.

 4. Data Quality and Completeness 

Ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the data is crucial for building reliable attribution models. Marketers must establish data quality control measures, address data gaps, and perform regular data validation to maintain the integrity of the data.

 5. Data Integration 

Integrating data from various sources, both online and offline, can be complex. Offline data sources such as in-store purchases, call center interactions, or direct responses may not be easily captured and linked to other digital data. Marketers need to develop data integration processes to build a unified view of complete customer journeys.

 6. Attribution Modeling Complexity 

Choosing the best-fit modeling approach for marketing goals, and accounting for multiple touchpoints both online and offline, adds complexity to attribution modeling. Marketers need to understand statistical models that can properly attribute credit to different touchpoints based on their real impact on conversions. This requires analytical expertise, plus the budget for necessary data tools as marketing complexity grows.

Types of Attribution Data

Data attribution models are nothing without the data that you feed into them.

There are 2 main sources of attribution data.

Attribution Data sources

1. Software-based Attribution Data

This utilizes digital tracking tools, such as analytics platforms or marketing automation software, to track and record user interactions and automatically attribute conversion actions to specific marketing touchpoints.

Pros - It provides objective and granular data on user interactions and conversions, and enables real-time tracking and analysis of customer journeys. The reliance on voluntary self-reporting and subjective recall is reduced.

Cons - Aside from missing touchpoints that are not digital or easily trackable by software, it can be complex to implement and require technical expertise. You’ll need the right tracking set up for accurate data and reliable insights, and the analytics tools.

 2. Self-reported Attribution Data

This is data collected directly from your customers and leads, who share information about the touchpoints that influenced their decision-making process. It’s usually collected via an online form or survey but can also be collected in direct conversation with customer-facing staff and then recorded in a CRM.

Pros - It allows for qualitative data collection, using direct insights from the individuals themselves to capture subjective factors and nuances that software-reported attribution may miss, such as offline interactions or word-of-mouth referrals.

Cons - It relies on individuals' willingness to provide information, and their memory and perception which may not always be accurate or complete. This type of data can be more time-consuming and resource-intensive to collect and analyze.

Hybrid Attribution Data

Combining both self-reported and software-based data sources into attribution modeling is what is known as hybrid modeling. It’s the ideal solution to mitigate the drawbacks of each data type, providing the most fully comprehensive understanding of your customers journeys.

Next, depending on your marketing activity and data tracking sophistication, you’re going to have some of the following types of data sets to work with.

The best way to categorize your data inputs is to split it into channel data and event data.

Attribution modeling data

1. Event Data (What Happened?)

Event data typically includes:

  • Conversion Data - Conversion data includes information about the desired actions taken by users, such as purchases, form submissions, or sign-ups. Conversion goals need to be set for each journey stage.
  • Behavioral Data – Any data related to customers' online behavior, such as organic website visits, page views, time spent on site, clicks, search queries, and interactions with specific content or features.
  • Clickstream Data – This is a record of each click a consumer makes while browsing online. Tracking all these actions can help brands form an accurate understanding of the most effective consumer journey design.
  • Ad Impressions and Clicks - Ad impressions combined with click data provides information on the number of times an ad was displayed to users, and the corresponding clicks made. This data helps gauge the effectiveness of specific ads.
  • CRM and First-Party Data - This data provides long-term insights into customer behavior and can include survey responses, purchase history, and any interactions with the brand. CRM data is necessary to link the direct impact on revenue generation and CLV.

Note, there are two common ways to give credit to touchpoints within a conversion sequence: post-click, or post-view.

Post-click Conversion Data - If attribution is done on a post-click (not necessarily last-click) basis, clicked touchpoints will get a part of the conversion credit as long as the action happens within the defined lookback window.

Post-view (or view-through) Conversion Data – Here, the content a user viewed (impressions) within the specified lookback window also gets part credit for a conversion. Most of the advertisers who advertise on multiple channels will have video and social media as part of the conversion journey. These channels usually are not driving clicks, but still contribute to outcomes. This data is more challenging to accurately collect.

The lookback window is how far back a conversion action is included, usually measured in days. So a 7-day lookback window would only include advert impressions or clicks 7 days before the customer converted. In low-cost eCommerce transactions where the selling cycle is short, the most relevant lookback window only might be 7 – 14 days. Whereas for more complex sales like business software, a lookback window of 60 days could be used.

2. Channel Data (Where Did It Happen?)

Channel source data typically includes:

  • Referral Data - This identifies the source that referred users to your website (or app). It can attribute from the high-level referral sources, such as search engines, social media or email, right down to the specific pieces of content.
  • Device and Platform Data – This gives information about the devices and platforms used by users during their customer journey. It allows marketers to track cross-device interactions and attribute conversions across different devices. Device data is also helpful for providing location information.
  • Offline Data - This gives information about customer interactions outside of digital channels, such as in-store purchases, phone calls, word of mouth, events, direct mail responses, etc. Offline data is typically captured through mechanisms like unique identifiers, coupon codes, or CRM systems.

An attribution model is essentially used to link these two types of data together to show which marketing touchpoints deliver the best results. 

Types of Attribution Models

There are several types of attribution models to feed your data into. Applying the right modeling for the goal or KPI is key.

A model essentially joins up your event data (what happened) to your channel data (where it happened) to show you the most profitable journey connections. 

The difference between attribution models is where they place most credit for achieving a desired conversion goal (like submitting a contact form, generating an MQL or closing a sale). Conversion goals should be set up for each stage of the customer journey to feed attribution analysis.

Multi-touch models attribute results to more than one touchpoint, allowing for the influence of consecutive touchpoints to be considered as part of a process that led to the final conversion.

 A model either uses: 

  • Rule-based methodology - Analyzes data in a completely static approach. 
  • Data-driven modeling - Typically uses AI and machine learning to help automatically customize multi-touch attribution based on the influence of touchpoints.
Type of Attribution model

Here’s a breakdown of the most common attribution models:

Last Touch (or Last Click) Attribution

This model assigns all the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint (or channel) that the customer interacted with before making a purchase or completing the desired action.

When to use it? - To understand which touchpoints are most influential for prompting people to take the final step in completing a conversion goal (e.g., submitting a contact form or making a purchase).

Limitations? – Although easy to use and collect data for, it’s not a great stand-alone model for longer and more complex sales cycles where conversion still heavily relies on the preceding touchpoints, particularly in B2B.

Last touch attribution

First Touch (or First Click) Attribution

The first touchpoint (or channel) the customer engaged with receives 100% of the credit for the conversion.

When to use it? - To understand which early journey touchpoints are best at first reaching new audience members who will eventually convert.

Limitations? – It ignores the influence that mid to late journey touchpoints have for final conversion. Data accuracy can also be more difficult to assure depending on your data tracking methods and lookback window

First touch attribution

Linear Attribution

Equal credit is given to each touchpoint in the customer journey, recognizing the role of all channels in driving conversions.

When to use it? – To understand how touchpoints and journey architecture work together to nurture conversions over time, including cross-departmental touchpoints between marketing and sales for B2B.  

Limitations? – The data collection process is more intensive and may require cooperation with other departments to capture all touchpoints, taking time to implement fully. This may include qualitative touchpoints through manual data entry. Distributing credit evenly doesn’t account for which touchpoints have most influence.

Linear Attribution

Time Decay Attribution

More credit goes to touchpoints that occurred closer to the conversion event, with the assumption that recent interactions have a greater impact on the decision-making process.

When to use it? – For longer, more complex customer journeys where later touchpoints are most influential. Equally, it can be useful for very short sales cycles where decisions are made quickly and you want to see which touchpoints have immediate effect for impulse conversion.

Limitations? – The influence of earlier touchpoints for creating brand awareness or intent won’t be accounted for.

Time Decay Attribution

U-Shaped (Position-Based) Attribution

A higher percentage of credit goes to the first and last touchpoints in the customer journey, while the remaining credit is distributed evenly among the other touchpoints. It's based on the idea that the first and last interactions play a more significant role to create new leads and drive conversions.

When to use it? – When you want to understand which channels generate most new leads, and which drive most conversions.

Limitations? – Again, the influence of in-between touchpoints will not be fully understood, and it requires data collection to cover all touchpoints within the journey.

U-shaped Attribution

W-Shaped Attribution

Equal credit goes to three key touchpoints: the first interaction, the lead creation event (e.g., form submission), and the final conversion event. The remaining credit is divided among the other touchpoints.

When to use it? – To highlight the key journey milestones from early journey, mid journey and late journey.

Limitations? – The influence of intermediary touchpoints is not fully understood

w-shaped Attribution

Data-Driven Attribution

Data-driven models use advanced analytics, machine learning, or artificial intelligence to analyze customer journey data and assign credit to various touchpoints based on their estimated influence on conversions. This can be done by off-the-shelf software solutions specifically designed for marketing attribution. There are two widely accepted data-driven models for attribution: Shapley value model, and Markov chain model.

When to use it? – For more accurate full-journey attribution across multiple touchpoints, providing greater flexibility for integrating multichannel data silos and more balanced weighting criteria.

Limitations? - An attribution software subscription is required, some of which can be costly. How the algorithms are coded and applied is sometimes proprietary information that is not made fully clear or adaptable. Data sources still need to be set up and connected, including offline touchpoints. It can take months of work to fully set up and implement a data-driven model covering all marketing channels.

Data-driven attribution solutions

Fully Customized Attribution Modeling

Custom-built models are also data-driven, but can include as much complexity and adaptability as you’d like. They allow for full visibility and control of the combined data sets, rules and weighting in use. It allows the layering of many rules and granular data analysis so you can deeply understand and drive growth to a level that isn’t available any other way.

When to use it? - For larger media budgets where small adjustments see the $ results impacted by millions.

Limitations? - Fully customized attribution requires a specialist to implement because of the complicated algorithms and calculations, along specialized statistical software and coding. Like off-the-shelf data-driven solutions, it can take several months to fully implement.

Fully Customized Attribution Modeling

Choosing Data and Models to Match Goals

For multichannel marketing across the customer lifecycle, marketers will have several different goals and KPIs, so there isn’t a one-size fits all when it comes to using attribution modeling. 

For example, marketing goals will vary by campaign, but also business lifecycle stage. As a business matures and can afford to allocate more budget in demand creation, longer payback periods become feasible in the name of sustainable growth.

For the most accurate results, several rules and weighting criteria may need to be layered together. This requires an understanding of how to choose the most appropriate combination for each goal or data set.

Here are examples of how different goals could affect the overall approach for assessing attribution against KPIs:

Brand Awareness - The main objective is to build familiarity rather than immediate conversions, so attribution models that consider upper-funnel touchpoints using a longer lookback window are most helpful.

Conversion Rate Optimization - Last touch attribution can provide insights into the most influential touchpoints in driving conversions for any journey stage.

Customer Acquisition – With a focus on identifying marketing efforts that drive most new customers, attribution models that emphasize first touch and last touch before sale conversion are a good fit.

Customer Retention and CLV - Attribution models that consider multiple touchpoints over the customer lifecycle are best. Time-based attribution models such as linear or time-decay attribution can help identify touchpoints that contribute to CLV over time.

Cost Efficiency - Attribution modeling using cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-acquisition (CPA) data provides insights into the cost of acquiring customers through different channels.

Channel Optimization - Models like time-decay attribution or position-based attribution can help evaluate the effectiveness of various channels throughout the customer journey.

Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) - Attribution that uses revenue conversion data along with position-based or data-driven models are most suitable for calculating ROAS. These models can help isolate the impact of an advertising campaign against other touchpoints.

Customer Engagement - Attribution models fed with click data are most valuable. Models like engagement-based attribution or position-based attribution can help attribute credit to touchpoints that generate higher engagement levels.

Campaign or Event Success - Campaign-based attribution or event-based attribution allow marketers to filter conversion data specifically for the corresponding campaign (or event) identifier.

Demographic Targeting - Companies that target audience segments based on demographic data, such as geography, need to be able to filter customer event data for segment-based attribution.

Social Media Influence - Models using multi-touch attribution with social media weighting can help more accurately attribute conversions or engagements specifically to social channels.

Experimentation with attribution models will help you find the most suitable approach for each reporting use case.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Custom Attribution Models

A customized approach to attribution modeling allows hybrid data usage to give the most complete and accurate view of your marketing effectiveness. (Reminder - a hybrid approach combines multiple online and offline data sources, reducing the risk of misleading insights).

With customized approaches, you can get journey clarity at the individual level. For example, you could isolate a new customer to see that their first website visit was 9 months ago, and they were exposed to 37 ads across 5 platforms. You can also use heat map tools to confirm how channels work together in order to predict where prospects will go next, targeting content messaging accordingly.

Here are the 6 steps to create custom attribution reporting that will truly allow you to start optimizing your marketing investments:

Step 1 - Clearly Define Your Goals

Identify the specific objectives that your marketing efforts aim to achieve, such as increasing conversions, driving brand awareness, or improving customer retention. They can be different for each channel or audience segment. As discussed, these goals will guide the rule options for your attribution model.

For each goal, decide what you consider to be a conversion for the journey stages, and whether you will need to include post-view data in addition to post-click data. The type of conversion is important, so you’ll want to identify the conversion events to look at for each specific goal, including the lookback window that will be most relevant.

Attributing marketing activity to revenue is the ultimate aim – this will give you the most powerful information to improve ROI and drive growth.

Step 2 - Identify All Your Data Sources

Start with accurately and consistently collecting all the data you possibly can for all customer interactions across all your active channels and platforms. You’ll need to UTM tag every link that matters, and have tracking pixels installed for all active marketing platforms.

Here’s a quick checklist of data sources:

  • Website
  • Social media (organic)
  • Paid media campaigns
  • Email marketing
  • CRM system and revenue data
  • Customer feedback
  • Call tracking
  • Offline touchpoints
  • Third-party data providers


  • Self-reported attribution is most valuable when free text only.
  • B2B buying decisions usually involve multiple people, so it’s better to track the customer journey at the account level instead by combining individual user data.

Step 3 - Bring in the Necessary Data Capabilities

Marketers need to have a deep understanding of marketing concepts and principles to be able to set up effective attribution models and make data-driven decisions.

You will need access to strong data analysis skills to be able to set up, manage and interpret the data for customized attribution models. Some technical knowledge is required to select, set up and configure attribution software tools, integrating them with existing data sources and systems. Knowledge of statistics is also necessary to understand, interpret and communicate the results of attribution models.

If in-house attribution data specialists are not in budget (or available), It can be more economical to use specialized data agencies to support you.

Step 4 - Chose + Activate Your Data Tools

Available resources are a big part of your consideration here. You’ll need to consider what is within means for your company in terms of ease of use, data integration capabilities and subscription cost.

There are 2 options here:

  • Off-the-shelf attribution software

There are several software tools available that can help marketers combine marketing attribution data from different sources.

Tools with in-built machine learning and AI are better suited to help you analyze and weigh the contribution of different touchpoints and channels in your custom hybrid attribution model. This will give you more accurate insights.

Google Analytics (or Campaign Manager 360) are the best known off-the-shelf providers. However, data integration from other sources can be much more of a challenge with GA. Some other off-the-shelf options which offer better data integration capabilities include Northbeam, Wisely, Adobe Analytics and Improvado. 

However, the drawbacks are that you’re still handing over power to a platform that uses its own proprietary algorithms, not always allowing complete visibility or flexibility in how rules are applied or data is weighted.

  • Build your own custom modeling

Depending on your resources, building custom modeling offers the greatest control and visibility of exactly how data is being weighted and analyzed for each scenario. 

If you’re doing this independently, you’ll need a data connector/warehouse solution to import and store your data from across your multichannel data sources. Custom coding and statistical tools can be utilized for advanced capabilities, allowing for layered algorithms and models tailored to any specific need or data set, including fully customized weighting criteria for data sets such as self-reported attribution.

The benefits over any other solution is the most accurate attribution possible, with completely granular insights depending on any criteria you’d like, allowing complete flexibility as variables such as channels, campaigns and customer or market dynamic shifts, and fully aligned for any goal you set.

With customized approaches, you can get journey clarity at the individual level. For example, you could isolate a new customer to see that their first website visit was 9 months ago, and they were exposed to 37 ads across 5 platforms. You can also use heat map tools to confirm how channels work together in order to predict where prospects will go next, targeting content messaging accordingly. 

Step 5 - Integrate Your Data Sources

Using your selected attribution tools, start collecting and integrating data from your multichannel sources.

This involves setting up data integrations between the attribution software and the data sources, whether through configuring API connections (recommended) or importing data files.

Automate the most relevant model-based analysis into dashboards, reporting on each of your specific marketing goals whether by revenue, channel, journey stage, customer segment, etc.

 Step 6 - Test and Iterate

Continuously test and refine your attribution model, adjusting the weights and methodologies as necessary. Monitor the performance of your model and make data-driven adjustments to improve its accuracy and effectiveness over time.

For example, data capture often relies on UTM tags, which requires links to be clicked before they are reported. This means some early-journey channels that rely on impressions rather than clicks (mainly social media and display advertising) will be underrepresented without qualitative self-reported data and weighting adjustments. Lift tests need to be run to help assess weighting criteria.

To test the influence of unclicked impressions, which is common for early-journey touchpoints and channels, you can use lift tests. Lift tests use test and control groups, only showing adverts to the test group. The difference in conversions between the two groups is known as lift, indicating the channel's real impact, and providing a helpful weighting metric. (Audience sample size and segment characteristics are important for statistically valid comparisons.)

Incrementality is a complementary metric to lift.

Lift Test and Incrementality

The Main Takeaways

Marketing attribution is critical to understand the impact of different touchpoints on customer behavior and conversions. 

While various simplistic attribution models exist, building customized data-driven models provides marketers with the greatest control and insight accuracy for their attribution analysis. This is essential to ramp up marketing spend with certainty of generating the required revenue results.

Custom data-driven attribution models offer several advantages over on-platform and Google Analytics reporting:

1. Report Against Goals - Marketers can tailor custom models to their specific business goals, customer behavior patterns, and available data sources. This level of customization enables a more accurate reflection of the complexities of the customer journey and the unique dynamics of the market.

2. Understand Touchpoint Influence Across Whole Journeys - Custom data-driven models empower marketers to attribute credit to touchpoints based on their true contribution to conversions, rather than relying on predefined rules or assumptions. And by integrating multiple (hybrid) data sources that include online and offline interactions, marketers can operate with a significant competitive advantage to drive growth forwards.

3. Allow Flexibility For Refinement - Custom models also provide the flexibility to adapt and refine the attribution process as the business evolves. You can more easily incorporate new data sources, update algorithms, and fine-tune attribution rules to ensure the model remains aligned with changing market dynamics and marketing activities.

Implementing a custom data-driven attribution model requires robust data integration and advanced analytical capabilities. However, the benefits of improved accuracy, granular insights, and informed decision-making make the investment worthwhile, potentially adding millions of dollars of additional annual growth. Particularly where larger advertising budgets are involved. 

By leveraging the power of custom attribution modeling, marketers can achieve industry-leading business outcomes.

If you need any support scoping, setting up or managing your attribution analytics, the team at Half Past Nine are here to help. We live and breathe marketing data! Just reach out.

What To Read Next:

Imagine a future where paid media actually adds real and welcomed value in people’s lives.

Where the information someone needs appears at exactly the right time to help them find what they want. Or while they’re browsing, learn about something that they weren’t aware could solve a pressing need. 

And in the process, brands spend less money putting content in front of people who don’t want or need it, radically driving up the profitability of media spend to deliver maximized revenue growth. 

This future is possible, even without third-party cookies. It will be built on a mindset shift, where the rigid parameters of the sales funnel are no longer paramount, and dynamic customer journeys become the north star. 

Where as marketers, we can cater to real people who don’t behave in linear ways, with empathetic understanding of what their goals might be and providing real value when it’s wanted.

If your goal is to improve customer engagement and fuel new revenue growth, this article is for you. Let’s explore how to build highly profitable customer journeys using digital intent signals.

Building Personalized Customer Journey Architecture

 Our job as marketers is to get the right touchpoints and messaging in the right place to progress our prospects from first introduction to converted and loyal customers.

 The basics of the customer journey remain the same under the tried-and-true framework of Awareness > Interest > Consideration > Decision > Retention > Advocacy.

 The 3 journey stages for customer acquisition are:

  • Early Journey (creating awareness)
  • Mid Journey (nurturing interest and consideration)
  • Late journey (prompting action)
The sales + marketing funnel

However, customers can move through buying stages in very different timelines. They may regularly loop back to previous stages, with pauses in-between. In our digital era, journeys can be incredibly fragmented across devices and platforms, and many journeys are completely unique. 

The typical customer journey today is actually a 3-dimensional process that can shift in any direction, rather than a straight line from A to B. They can resemble pyramids, diamonds, or even hourglasses, rather than a linear funnel.

A linear sales-funnel philosophy fits with the old approach of the stereotypical sales-led company. It’s not that a sales-led approach isn’t right for any business - but an overemphasis on sales goals can cause counterproductive tactics. For example, immediately jumping to harassing prospects with unwanted phone calls or emails, or running a generic sales ad to the widest audience possible and having to pay above average CPM/CPC due to poor engagement.

That’s why the most successful approach to fueling revenue growth is a dynamic and responsive customer journey framework, rather than a funnel approach. 

It allows for the individual to engage with relevant content while on their own unique path, maximizing the number of conversion routes and potentials at any one point in time. 

Personalization: The 3D customer journey

Naturally, the simplicity (or complexity) of a typical journey will vary greatly by the value and importance of the purchase being made. 

For ecommerce brands, a customer could leap from awareness to an impulse purchase in the space of 5 minutes in the right circumstances. Or a B2B sale could take many months from initial touchpoint. (Learn more about the B2B customer journey and buying process.)

 Regardless of journey timeframes, marketers building any type of customer journey architecture will still need to understand:

  • What are the common challenges, needs, goals, and desires of each audience segment?
  • What channels and platforms have best reach for the target audience at the specific journey stages?
  • What corresponding messages will work best for each journey stage and platform?
  • How do cross-channel and platform touchpoints work together to facilitate complete journeys for each segment?

Learning to Read Behavioral “Tells”

How can brands really get to grip with personalization across platforms?

Firstly by recognizing that the old way of building a sales funnel - assuming everyone who enters it will behave the same way - doesn’t reflect reality. We can’t assume that all people in a target market will be relevant leads, use the same platforms, automatically be ready to consider buying after showing interest, or that their consideration process will always follow the same path.

It’s the equivalent of walking up to a colleague in the middle of a phone call and expecting them to answer your question immediately. Or approaching someone perusing the vegan section of a store to offer them a promotional ham sample, then continuing to follow them around after they’ve said “No thank you”.

The need for observation, active listening and empathy applies as much to marketing and sales activity as it does anywhere else in life. 

That’s where intent data comes in. Intent data is the marketers means of observing what people are doing, before we “decide” if and how to approach them. 

Using intent data to target users will outperform targeting by demographics alone. Users who show intent are typically closer to making a buying decision, making them high-quality leads. By targeting these users, businesses can increase the likelihood of conversions to generate quicker and higher ROI.

 And the more digital and mobile customers have become, the more helpful intent data they generate for us. Of course, it still depends on a brand’s ability to manage and analyze the data… But with a solid data strategy, brands can tap into intent data to engineer hockey-stick moments of sustainable growth.

Introducing Digital Intent Signals

Just like in life offline, the key is to observe people’s “body language” within their digital world, building a picture of what might be happening for them in the moment. 

We call these digital actions “intent signals”. 

Being able to read them allows us to connect with only the most relevant people, using tailored messages that are most likely to resonate in that particular moment.

Build customer journeys using intent signals


The majority of buyer journeys start with some type of intent. Although…, your ideal prospects might not always start out directly looking for your type of solution or product.

For example, a person Googles healthy meal recipes. Their goal is to improve their nutrition and lose weight. They aren’t looking for complete nutrition shakes. But if we were to reach the user with content highlighting the quick and easy benefits of complete nutrition shakes to improve health and lose weight, we’re far more likely to capture their attention and create intent to buy. 

These types of people with relevant but indirect intent may represent a large portion of your serviceable/addressable market.

Demand is much easier to create with the right message that talks to a pressing goal, at the exact time a person has that goal front of mind. It’s always the goal we need to understand and talk to.

And to be clear, intent signals aren’t KPIs or “vanity metrics”. We use intent signals to deduce intent, and then target or exclude people accordingly. Intent signals should actively inform real-time content targeting when used correctly.

Types of Digital Intent Signals 

The intent signals we can gather spans internal and external sources. It crosses organic and paid content, to owned and third-party platforms.

  • First-party Data – CRM, website, app and email data (learn more about first-party data)
  • Second-party Data – Audience interaction on non-owned channels (E.g. Facebook)
  • Third-party Data – Data Companies (E.g. Nielsen)

Some signals can be very overt. Especially at late journey stages, such as filling out a contact form or adding an item to the basket. Whereas other signals are less obvious, like running a Google search to learn about a related topic, or following a competitor’s social media account.

The type of intent signal can give you clues about a person's journey stage to build real-time customer segments. It’s helpful to identify which intent signals feature most prominently at each stage of your brand’s customer journey paths.

Split targeted signals up according to the campaign goals they fit with, whether that's demand capture (late journey) or demand creation (early journey) campaign goals.

For example, if a website visitor is behaving like a user that typically converts after another couple of weeks, you can target them with the right tone of nurturing content accordingly. But if you were targeting someone showing an interest in a competitor that hadn’t been included in your campaigns previously, you could show them content that introduces your brand with the comparative benefits of your brand/product/solution over the competitors. 

Turn customer segments into unique journeys

Here are the most common intent signals that can be tracked:

Content Engagement:

  • Reading or viewing content related to specific products or services.
  • Downloading or sharing content.
  • Commenting on or liking blog posts or social media content.
  • Subscribing to a blog, newsletter, or YouTube channel.

Search Behavior:

  • Searching relevant keywords.
  • Searching for reviews or comparisons related to a product or service.
  • Searching for the brand name or specific products.

Social Media Engagement:

  • Following or liking a brand's social media pages.
  • Engaging with posts by liking, commenting, or sharing.
  • Mentioning the brand in posts or comments.
  • Clicking on social media ads or sponsored content

Ad Interaction:

  • Clicking on digital ads.
  • Video ads watch time.
  • Clicking on retargeting ads

Event Participation:

  • Registering for webinars or online events.
  • Participating in trade shows or conferences.
  • Engaging in live Q&A sessions or forums.

Website Interactions:

  • Traffic source
  • Visiting a website multiple times (yours or competitors).
  • Spending a significant amount of time on the site or on specific pages.
  • Checking product pages or service descriptions.
  • Downloading content such as ebooks, whitepapers, or product brochures.
  • Returning to the website after a period of inactivity.
  • Using online tools, calculators, or configurators.
  • Completing quizzes or self-assessments.

App Interactions:

  • App downloads.
  • App usage patterns and content engagement.
  • Search queries.
  • Abandoned carts.
  • Registration or subscription.
  • User reviews and ratings.

Shopping Behavior:

  • Adding items to a shopping cart or wishlist.
  • Repeatedly viewing a specific product or service.
  • Starting but not completing a purchase process.
  • Checking the availability or location of a product.

Email Engagement:

  • Opening marketing emails.
  • Clicking on email links.
  • Responding to surveys or filling out forms.
  • Forwarding emails.

Customer Support Interaction:

  • Contacting sales.
  • Using live chat or chatbots.
  • Requesting a demo, quote, or more information.

How to Use Digital Intent Signals to Inform Customer Journey Architecture

The process for incorporating intent signals into real-time, personalized media targeting requires the following steps:

Data Collection and Analysis

The first step is to collect data on your audience’s behavior across your channels, including offline touchpoints where possible.

This data needs to be analyzed to identify patterns and understand what specific actions might indicate a user's intent to purchase or engage further. What are the main actions taken within journeys, and what conversion goals can help you qualify people at each stage?

Data tools such as connectors and warehouses will help you merge data from multichannel sources for more holistic understanding and analytical power, whether historical or predictive.

A note here on data collection. User tracking and targeting across multiple advertising platforms can be achieved through more than one method. This means that what a user does on one platform can be used to target them appropriately with relevant content on another platform via:

  • First-party Data - Advertisers can import their customer segments into an advertising platform using Customer Match targeting. This matches identifying information that customers have shared with the advertiser, such as an email address, to target specific ads to those customers, and also other people that behave like them (look-alike audiences). This allows advertisers to narrow in on the highest intent/value customers.
  • Cross-device Targeting - Also known as people-based marketing, this approach uses Device IDs or User IDs to anonymize user data while still allowing people to be targeted individually (without cookies), so advertisers can track and target a user across multiple devices. Pixels are used for this type of targeting.

A combination of these data collection methods will give brands the most precise targeting power and best results. 


Once you've identified key intent signals and conversion goals, you can segment your audience based on their behavior.

For instance, users who have abandoned their shopping carts might be in one segment, while users who have spent a significant amount of time on product pages might be in another.


Each segment will have different needs and will be at different stages of the customer journey.

Create personalized paid and organic content for each segment, addressing their specific goals or challenges, guiding them towards the next step in their journey with defined conversion goals for qualifying. Content that matches keywords and the audience’s language directly performs best.

Leverage Media Technology + Automation Tools

There are a number of built in AI and automation tools within the bigger ad platforms for marketers to take advantage of.

Setting campaign goals and conversion goals allow platforms like Google and Meta to automatically optimize targeting to achieve them. Dynamic ads can use AI and machine learning to improve their targeting and optimize ad copy tailored exactly to user search terms. And machine learning already drives real-time programmatic buying, where advertising inventory is bought and sold via an instantaneous auction.

There are various independent solutions that can be used for paid media targeting, such Blueshift and 6sense, including intent data for account-based marketing (ABM) needs.

Testing and Optimization

It's important to continually split test and optimize your campaign creatives and targeting based on performance.

Look at which intent signals are most predictive of conversion, and which types of content are most effective for each segment. Use this information to refine your targeting and personalization strategies. How you use attribution modeling is also a crucial part of your media optimization process.

Summing Up

Recognizing and leveraging customer intent signals in the creation of personalized customer journeys is not just a valuable strategy - it's a business imperative for advertisers seeking to drive revenue growth. 

As the advertising landscape becomes increasingly digital and competitive, the brands that will rise to the top are those that truly understand their customers, meeting them where they are and providing what they need at every stage of the journey. By harnessing the power of customer intent signals, marketers can enhance customer experiences, build stronger relationships, and ultimately, achieve sustainable revenue growth. 

This shift towards a more customer-centric approach rooted in data insights is not just the future of advertising; it is the present. 

If your team needs support gathering, analyzing and incorporating intent signal data into your media strategy, Half Past Nine would love nothing more than to help you realize their transformative power on your bottom line. It’s what we get out of bed for! Just get in touch.

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