Everyone wants credit for a job well done. However, it is often the person with the last word, the most recent idea, the more lofty title, etc., who gets the credit for success. However, most every success we have in life is influenced by the contributions of others. You know, the “it takes a village” idea. So, why is it in marketing, where we have the ability to give credit to the influence or the contribution, do most companies not attribute any credit at all or attribute it only to the most recent contributor?
The easy answer is because it is not easy. It takes technology, methodologies and expertise in both software implementation and analytics. But attribution – tracking user behavior allowing each marketing vehicle to receive credit for the desired action (sale, request for quotation (RFQ), meeting, etc.) – can provide a holistic view of your marketing efforts and allow you to make better decisions that can be game changers for your business.
Many companies who do practice marketing attribution focus on last click. This is a direct approach allowing you to see the most recent source of the engagement. It is one way to track engagement and action that is very effective. However, there are attribution models and systems that allow you to track all (or most) touch points with a user that led to the desired outcome.
While this is important for most marketers, it is even more critical for B2B companies whose products or services almost always have longer sales cycles than a purchase on Zappos.com. In some cases, the sales cycle can be a couple of years. Clearly a prospect may be exposed to touch points continually throughout the timeframe before a decision or action is finally taken. Do you only give credit to his/her attendance at the webinar last Tuesday, for example, for the sale? It becomes all about what engages a customer, how the customer wants to receive content to help him or her make decisions and ultimately what vehicle or vehicles will make a prospect choose your company, product or services. Identifying and understanding the most influential marketing vehicle is the key to repeating success and directing budget towards those things that make a difference to your specific business or segment of customers.
So, now you understand, at a high level, the importance of attribution. How do you do it?
Implementing a methodology to track attribution can have some challenges. Here are four big ones, which if not fully understood, often make the difference between a system that creates value and one that leaves your company and the project stakeholders frustrated and no better off than where you started.
- The technology Finding and implementing the right technology to track attribution is critical. Can these software systems integrate with your existing analytics software? Can it address the complexity of a diversified business with multiple product lines which all operate as separate entities? Is it too complex for a small business? Is it eCommerce-focused or designed to track more high-touch engagement? Can it meet the expectations of your vision? And is that vision the same for all stakeholders? These are key questions. It is often the technology itself and the internal conflict and expectations that stall a project.
- The complexity or simplicity of the measurement system and data output It is critical to structure what you want to measure with enough complexity that you can extract value but not so much that it creates inertia. We are all victims of data overload. Just because you can track it doesn’t mean you should. The ability to attribute engagement is important to get a complete look at the influence of your marketing efforts, but knowing where to draw the line means you might actually make some decisions based on the data you are extracting.
- Tracking the hard-to-track Tracking URLs, social media posts, event attendees, etc., can all be done but how do you track a conversation between two colleagues where a recommendation was made or when a prospect watches a TED talk on TED TV about a new innovation which led that engineer to research a part at Texas Instruments (full disclosure: TI is one of our clients. Shout out to all the TIers!)? These are harder topics that will continue to be addressed as the concept of and attribution capabilities continue to grow.
- Expertise to extract value from the data So you have a software system that works and a nice dashboard of data with as many spreadsheets as you care to view, now what? The value of data comes from the ability to extract trends, patterns, salient points, etc. You can get the “what” with data but you need expertise to determine the “why” and “what should happen next.” Without expertise to analyze the data, to make it actionable, the effort to get a system in place is essentially moot. This often translates into the creation of an analytics role or team, depending on the size of company, or an external partner that complements your team with specialized expertise.
Here are a few additional resources on the technologies, ways to measure attribution and some interesting statistics:
- Tracking The Customer Journey by Google Analytics & Econsultancy
- Marketing Attribution Management Buyer’s Guide 2013 by Econsultancy, October 2012
And for you visual learners, check out this infographic from AdobeMktgCloud:
One of the most interesting statistics in the infographic is that “only 54 percent of businesses carry out any form of attribution.” As a marketer, that is hard to comprehend. Without spending more money (outside of the investment in an attribution system and experts, of course), the data and subsequent analysis could significantly help a company streamline marketing efforts and extract more value for every dollar spent. Seems like a missed opportunity to have a large impact.
So, in this competitive landscape, you have to ask yourself “do I have the right technology and expertise in place to help me funnel my marketing dollars in the most effective manner that will ultimately impact my company’s bottom line?” If your answer is anything other than a resounding “yes,” we should talk.