How to Lead a Successful Multi-Touch Attribution Implementation

March 26, 2019 Moira Freeman, Product Marketing Manager, Nielsen

The modern marketer manages an ever-expanding portfolio of paid, owned and earned initiatives across online and offline channels. One of the ways marketers track, measure and optimize their media mix is through advanced measurement techniques.

Many are familiar with marketing mix modeling, a strategic measurement approach that analyzes online and offline data and helps inform strategic and periodic planning.

Although marketing mix modeling is a powerful option for the long-term view, it lacks the speed and granularity that many digital marketers need today. These marketers want to make precise adjustments to campaigns while they’re still in flight, swapping out creatives or tweaking keywords and placements in near real-time.

As a result, more marketers are turning to multi-touch attribution. Multi-touch attribution is a marketing effectiveness approach that algorithmically allocates credit to every element of every touchpoint in the consumer journey according to its influence on driving a conversion.

An Unbiased View of Marketing Performance

Multi-touch attribution enables marketers to measure, analyze and optimize the performance of their marketing tactics, and provides marketing teams with a single source of truth. Solutions such as Nielsen's multi-touch attribution solution measure all addressable channels, so there’s no longer a need for every channel manager to use their own tools and metrics.

Multi-touch attribution provides CMOs and directors with an unbiased view of performance so they can understand how effectively each channel and marketing initiative is driving desired business outcomes and contributing to the bottom line.

If you’ve identified a need for multi-touch attribution, you’re already on the right track. Far too many companies waste budget on underperforming tactics because they fail to recognize the need to change their measurement practices.

However, implementing multi-touch attribution can seem like a daunting task. Change management and adoption are as important to the success of your implementation as selecting the right vendor and configuring the solution.

4 Best Practices for Success

So, how can you make sure your team is set up for success as you spearhead this new initiative? We recommend these four best practices to ensure success:

  1. Get executive buy-in
  2. Define success
  3. Align the team
  4. Start small

Read on for pointers that Nielsen has derived from over a decade of experience with enterprise clients.

1. Get Executive Buy-In

The impetus to implement multi-touch attribution can come from the top, but more often it comes from individual team members. As champion of the project, securing executive buy-in should be your first priority.

Executives need to see the value of multi-touch attribution or you will not have the support you need to get the project off the ground. Develop an executive pitch so that you can clearly articulate how implementing this solution will help drive growth across the entire marketing portfolio, not just the campaigns under your purview.

Highlight how the solution would help you address some of the marketing team’s core challenges, provide an overview of an internal adoption plan and point to real-world examples of how multi-touch attribution drove growth for comparable businesses.

Executives will also have their own expectations for the implementation. Once you have presented your vision, listen to their priorities so you can configure the solution to achieve their desired outcomes or reset expectations if necessary.

You’ll get a sense for how involved the executive wishes to be during the implementation process and beyond, once the platform is up and running. Nielsen’s multi-touch attribution solution, for example, provides an executive-level view of marketing performance and optimization recommendations so executives can easily get involved without digging into the more tactical features of the platform.

2. Define Success

Once you have an understanding of the executive’s priorities and goals, you can clearly define your mission statement for the project. What would the result of a successful implementation look like? Do you have specific targets that the executive wants you to achieve?

For example, do you expect conversions across all marketing to increase by 15% or whitepaper downloads to increase by 10%? Knowing this, you can collaborate with your vendor to ensure that all channels are tracked and the solution is configured to measure both conversions and whitepaper downloads as KPIs.

While not all providers enable you to measure brand engagement activities such as whitepaper downloads as KPIs, some provide the flexibility to analyze the performance of media channels (including search, display, video, social, affiliate, email, website direct and direct mail) and dimensions (including advertiser, campaign, channel, site, publisher, placement/keyword, and creative) that matter most to your business.

These channels and dimensions should be organized into a “taxonomy” or a hierarchical classification. Taxonomy ensures that all of your data gets ingested and classified in ways that make sense to your business, so that you can effectively analyze, optimize and solve your unique business problems.

3. Align the Team

Before configuring the solution and defining your unique taxonomy with your vendor, however, you will want to consult the rest of your team to understand how they measure the performance of the marketing initiatives they oversee.

A good place to start is by gathering a wish list of dimensions from each channel manager. The list should include the dimensions they need to analyze in the platform based on factors such as media planning, KPIs and reporting requirements for each channel. While everyone is likely measuring performance with different tools and metrics, there are sure to be certain commonalities.

For example, if your paid search channel manager wants keyword as a dimension and a display channel manager wants placement as a dimension, you can consolidate them into a dimension called “placement/keyword” because they are both dimensions that will be used to measure the effectiveness of a campaign at the most granular level. Consolidating dimensions will help streamline the team’s measurement practices and simplify the user experience inside the platform, while meeting everyone’s needs.

In addition to working closely with your vendor, you will need to speak with your media providers to work through implementation logistics and stress the various formatting and data requirements for your data feeds.

You will also want to develop a standard operating procedure for engaging the team. Executive support will help the team adapt to the new normal, but it’s important to recognize that this implementation will impact the way your team operates on a daily basis. Focus on how multi-touch attribution will benefit them and be sure that you’ve selected a vendor with a thorough training and support program so that they will be equipped with the tools necessary to succeed.

4. Start Small

While enterprise-grade solutions are ultimately suited to solve the most complex attribution use cases, they should also deliver value right off the bat to teams that are new to attribution. Rather than attempting to tackle the most challenging problems right away, start small and recognize the role that small wins can play in the success of your implementation. Measure and optimize a single campaign, then share those successes with your team. Not only will this help you take advantage of the solution faster, but it will also ramp up internal adoption.

Lean On Your Vendor

Leading a multi-touch attribution implementation is a huge responsibility, but if you manage it effectively, you can align your team around common goals, equip them with tools to improve their performance, and provide your boss with an accurate, unbiased view of how marketing is contributing to the bottom line. While you’ll be the champion of this project, remember you’re not alone—you have the support of your vendor every step of the way.

Learn More

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