Five Best Practices for Marketing Attribution

September 12, 2017 Ginna Hall

​Marketers in 2017 are slowly moving “from aspiration to action” when it comes to improving measurement and attribution, according to a new report from eMarketer, Marketing Attribution 2017: Five Best Practices.

An annual poll conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Winterberry Group showed 73 percent of US digital marketing and media practitioners plan to devote themselves to better reporting, measurement and attribution this year.

Today, just slightly more than half of US companies use multi-channel attribution models for their digital marketing efforts.

The challenges to better multi-touch attribution are numerous. There’s the perennial shortfall of time, money, and staff that face any new initiative. There are legacy systems and thinking to overcome. There are issues associated with integrating data from multiple sources, not to mention implementing new technology.

Few marketers (8 percent) have effectively tied together all the data and technology required to achieve a more holistic attribution practice. Nearly two-thirds have started connecting the dots, but feel they “have a long way to go.”

​But although they face numerous hurdles, eMarketer’s report notes that companies with successful marketing attribution practices have five things in common. Keep these in mind when launching your push to take attribution to the next level.

1. Don’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good.

​In a perfect world, there would be a simple way to understand what is driving conversions and how to optimize budgets. In the real world, establishing a holistic measurement approach is fraught with choices. Marketers must use different attribution approaches in combination to increase accuracy and maximize results.

​Before you can begin, you need to figure out which attribution models to use, find out what type of data is available and which data sources should be used, and select a technology partner. Successful marketers don’t wait for a perfect solution to emerge. Rather, they start with a mix of attribution models and practices, and refine as they go.

2. Get buy-in from other teams and leadership.

​Multi-touch attribution efforts require input and cooperation across internal departments, including IT, channel managers and external vendors or agencies. Some of these remain happily siloed, even territorial.

​Getting these teams to talk to each other, share data, systems, and tech, requires a champion who can break down those walls. Enlisting the cooperation of senior management and those driving business performance is essential.

3. Build the right team.

Successful attribution efforts these days are managed more often by internal staff and rely less on external partners. These teams are looking for greater control over their practices, increased customization, and are not afraid to get their hands into the data to pull campaign and performance information.

This requires analytics talent in-house that can interpret the data and send recommendations to brand and advertising managers. In-house experts also offer the speed and convenience of asking “what if” questions face-to-face.

4. Use a people-based approach.

Building effective campaigns around your customers and prospects across digital, mobile and physical touchpoints is marketing nirvana. This starts with creating a customer-centric view, and integrating it with multi-touch attribution from there. It’s a shift for many companies, but those that are able to identify their customers and prospects with a persistent identity can figure out which touchpoints across the entire consumer journey are driving outcomes, and which aren’t.

These unique IDs can also be linked with demographic, intent and interest attributes from data management platforms and other data sources to create more robust consumer profiles. Generating audience-centered insights allows brands to see the relationship between an impression and an engagement action, sale, or other desired outcome, improve future campaigns, and allocate spend correctly.

5. Adopt metrics that measure results, not channels.

Companies that use only channel-specific KPIs such as opens, clicks, impressions, and page views tend to remain locked in their silos. They allocate budget and optimize spend within those silos. But it’s easy to make the wrong decisions when you’re looking at a single channel.

The move to multi-channel metrics such as brand engagement or sales can be challenging, but necessary. Measuring meaningful markers reveals information about where your customers and prospects are on their journey and reveals how each touchpoint contributes to a conversion.

The bottom line is that most companies are trying to learn whether their tactics support their strategy. If you’re among them, consider these five best practices as you move toward a holistic measurement approach. You’ll be in good company.

​Read more, download a copy of Marketing Attribution 2017: Five Best Practices from eMarketer.

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