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The Truth About Marketing Attribution: What It Is and What It's Not

Posted by Allison Sturtevant on July 24, 2018 at 11:08 AM

graphic illustration of marketing channels with man and laptopHow do you know which of your marketing efforts led to sales? Marketing attribution is a way to determine the value or ROI of your marketing channels, according to Salesforce. But accurate attribution is difficult: When a customer interacts with email, social media, website content and other channels prior to a conversion, how do you weigh the monetary value of each campaign?

Effective attribution requires analytics and some trial and error on the part of marketers. But businesses are sometimes reluctant to embrace marketing attribution strategies because there's confusion about the best approach. Here are three common myths that might be holding you back from adopting an attribution strategy.

Myth 1: Conversions Are Often Attributed to a Single Marketing Channel

Perhaps the most basic approach to attribution is a last-click model that assigns all value of a conversion to the last touch point before a consumer converts. While it's better than nothing, this simplistic model doesn't offer much insight into how your entire marketing strategy helped drive the customer's actions. For example, though a customer bought directly from your website, this doesn't mean your website was the most effective marketing channel — maybe an email was what first led them to make a purchase.

Today's attribution solutions go far beyond a last-click approach, implementing complex calculations to determine how each touch point or channel factors in to a conversion. This helps you better understand the value of individual marketing channels and the spending you've invested in them.

Myth 2: Offline Campaigns Can't Be Tracked Online

Even if you run a mix of online and offline marketing campaigns, attribution solutions can help you incorporate offline campaigns into your online attribution. According to Think With Google, it's easy to create a holistic approach that even uses the same key performance indicators to evaluate these campaigns.

Offline campaigns such as print ads and direct mailings may present challenges in creating a perfect picture from your data, but Google argues that this is okay: Even with limited data at your disposal, you can still take advantage of attribution models that fill in the blanks when necessary. A little insight is better than no insight at all.

Myth 3: You Can Borrow Your Attribution Strategy From Another Company

While there are a range of attribution models to use when building your own attribution strategy — from oversimplified single-touch attribution to more comprehensive multitouch models — the best strategy will gradually introduce more customized measurements over time, creating calculations that speak directly to your company's unique circumstances.

The marketing channels you run, the amount of spending you give to these channels and other variables tied to your marketing strategy can all affect your marketing attribution performance, according to MarketingProfs.

While it's fine to borrow a basic attribution model to examine your performance and determine ROI, with time you'll want to add small customizations that increase the accuracy of these numbers.

Marketing attribution may sound intimidating, but free tools such as those available from Google make it easy to gain some experience without much risk. Attribution plays a huge role in shaping your marketing campaigns, so if you don't already have a system in place, it's time to prioritize this initiative.

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