My hypothesis is that attributing actions (like site visits) to specific marketing initiatives helps you make better decisions on what marketing initiatives to spend incremental dollars.
One useful approach to attributing site visits to specific creatives, channels, and marketing tools appears to be to use and to filter UTM codes.
What are other tools or tips do you use for attribution of performance to marketing?
Consider setting up landing pages for each of your specific marketing activities, then use the full url within the marketing piece. You see and hear this all the time on tv and radio. Example: Dell.com/tv or Dell.com/radio.
Then use Google Analytics to track the results.
It's hard to ever get this resolved too granularly.
Someone might see 10 of your ads, and every ad mentions your URL, and it's the worlds easiest URL, something like travel.com. Yet a good fraction of your users will STILL go to Google, or Yahoo, or whatever search engine was setup by default in their browser and type in "travel.com" and then click the top link to your site. So, do you attribute that hit to the search engine? The radio ad? The email(s) you sent them?
As others have mentioned, the use of specific landing pages will help filter things somewhat. Also, engagements on social media sites can help you resolve where interest is originating from.
But, at the end of the day, marketing is a little bit like scattering wildflower seeds in the wind and hoping that enough of them take root to grow into something pleasing.
TagMan is a potential tool that could be useful.
I saw Flashtalking 's pixel fire on ESPN.com, they seem to have some attribution modelling technology.
Please provide comments if you have first hand experience with these technologies.