Tips & Tricks

What is Marketing Attribution? Challenges, Benefits and Best Practices for Effective Marketing Attribution

Definition of Marketing Attribution

Simply defined, marketing attribution is the credit or value you assign to a given marketing touchpoint. In even simpler terms, it’s the science of determining what media or marketing drives revenue.

A more complex (and still accurate) view of marketing attribution is as the bridge between marketing data and sales data – credit allocation for a conversion or engagement activity. Attribution also provides a quantifiable evaluation of your marketing efforts and their direct and traceable effects on revenue. In industry terminology, marketing attribution ties marketing function to revenue accountability. With hard numbers.

Challenges of Marketing Attribution

While marketing attribution may be simple in definition, it’s not so simple in practice. In fact, many marketers have only a tenuous understanding of attribution, and an even weaker grasp on how to assign it. After all, how do you define, with absolute certainty and in numbers, the value of each touchpoint, channel, or marketing phase throughout the buying process?

Adding to the difficulty of developing and assigning marketing attribution, marketers today are also faced with an increasingly convoluted and complex sales funnel. So, even if you have a solid understanding of attribution, and even if you have defined your attribution values, you may be challenged to identify touchpoints from outside your channel silo.

And therein lies the rub: Today’s marketing is multi-channel, and not all those channels are proprietary; some fall out of your control. And yet, for proper attribution, you must consider and assign value to all channels, in order to properly evaluate your marketing efforts and optimize your marketing budget.

To complicate matters, the changing market requires immediate adjustment of your existing marketing attribution standards. Outmoded models are no longer capable of keeping pace with today’s marketing channels and customers. And yet, marketers face the additional challenges of inflexible budgets and existing partner contracts, which make it difficult to change methodologies. Pile the challenges on, because there’s also the time investment required to properly attribute marketing efforts, interpret gleaned insights, and then develop improved optimization strategies.

How to Improve Marketing Attribution

These challenges can seem difficult, if not impossible to surmount. And indeed, they are difficult. But they are not insurmountable.

So, let’s start with the don’t: Legacy attribution methods are no longer effective, as they do not consider cross-channel, outside-the-silo influences.

To improve your marketing attribution in today’s environment, you must release your customer data from their locked silos and look towards advanced algorithmic attribution methodologies for marketing attribution.

The right algorithm will capture, evaluate, and assess (aka attribute) your data accurately, across channels. And that means you’ll be able to leverage your metrics to measure the impact of your marketing efforts, develop a more precise customer engagement strategy, and in turn plan more effective marketing campaigns – all destined for the right channel, at the right time, for the right customer.

Benefits of Marketing Attribution

Marketing attribution may be complicated, but at the end of the day, the goal is exceedingly simple: determine whether you’re spending your marketing budget effectively, and thus optimizing revenue.

Advanced attribution modeling makes clear connections between your various touchpoints, allowing you to better guide the customer journey. For example, a customer who stumbles upon your website blind will act very differently than a loyal brand enthusiast following a link from a free eBook. Advanced attribution will identify the differences between these customers, and help you make marketing decisions based on each journey.

Best Practices for Marketing Attribution

Whether you have in place an established (albeit outdated) marketing attribution method, or whether you just heard the term yesterday and are starting from scratch, the good news is that you probably already have at least some of what you need to get started with marketing attribution.

The secret is – don’t reinvent the wheel. There are marketers out there who already understand attribution and explain it clearly. And there are data platforms available that already employ advanced attribution algorithms and apply them effectively. Start there. And then, follow these marketing attribution best practices to get the most out of your efforts.

  • Do Get Started: The good news is, the barrier of entry to marketing attribution is low. Advanced attribution methods may take time and budget, but you can get started for free (or nearly so), with analytics for your website and social media.
  • Focus on What’s Important: Attribution is not about justifying your existing marketing efforts, but rather about discovering the best, most effective methods to drive revenue. Don’t lose sight of the goal: better marketing for more revenue.
  • Market by Committee: Gather your team – not only marketing, but sales and customer service, too – to create cross-departmental brainstorming on not only what to measure, but how to measure it.
  • Choose an Advanced Attribution Method: Don’t fall for outdated attribution models; to effectively work in today’s marketing environment, you need an advanced attribution methodology that accounts for all marketing channels.
  • Define Your KVIs: Before you launch a full-fledged attribution program, define and test key value indicators (KVIs) and launch a pilot program.
  • Be Transparent: After you’ve run your test, share it all. Yes – even the not-so-heartening details. Being totally transparent from the get-go will not only help you refine your parameters and attribution but will also provide immediate insight into your marketing efforts.