In the age of data, it's more important than ever to know what's working and what isn't before making big decisions about our businesses. And, as our data systems evolve, this need for accurate measurement will continue to grow. Fortunately, marketers are moving away from outdated attribution systems like first-click and last-click, in favor of custom digital marketing attribution models that better suit their needs. Want to get a handle on digital marketing attribution? Here's an attribution checklist to get you started:
1. Begin With a Clear Strategy and Set of Objectives Copy
Number one on your attribution checklist — define your objectives from the start, and share them with your company, applying key performance indicators (KPIs) when appropriate. Having a clear set of goals from the outset will help you decide which attribution model(s) to use, what data to include, and what technology is most appropriate. Think of the key stakeholders and other teams that need to contribute, and make sure they understand and support your strategy.
2. Get Internal Buy-In for Attribution
The impact of attribution can be far-reaching, affecting workflows, commissions, and bonuses. Look for senior-level backing so that all departments are clear on the benefits, business goals, and methodology. This will help ensure that certain teams don’t start to question a model’s validity when they don’t like the recommended outcomes.
3. Build a Strong Business Case to Make the Necessary Investment
Attribution modeling can be costly up front, but if you're willing to make room in the budget, it is a great source of future revenue. Building a strong business case that clearly spells out the return on investment (ROI) will make it possible to fund the necessary investments. While it is likely to focus initially on the savings your company might see, the aim should be to increase marketing investment—understanding that larger budgets will deliver more than sufficient payback. This AdRoll guide can help you build a business case for attribution and eliminate wasteful spending.
4. Define the Customer Journey
Research from AdRoll and Econsultancy's State of Marketing Attribution 2017 shows that defining the online customer journey is brand respondents' most significant barrier to using attribution effectively. Although the path to purchase is becoming less linear and funnel-like, it is still possible to get a holistic view of triggers and typical pathways. By combining qualitative research—such as focus groups and customer interviews—with quantitative analysis of existing data, you can get closer to a customer-journey framework that’s tailored to your business.
5. Focus on Physical As Well as Digital Touchpoints
It's an ugly word, but companies need to think "phygital." Attribution is more effective when it encompasses traditional marketing and physical-world touchpoints, and every company can benefit from a more connected approach.
6. Make Sure Data Sets Are As Clean and Accurate As Possible
Before plugging data from various tools and platforms into your modeling system, make sure to cleanse and unify it into a consistent format. Unifying data is a clear starting point for developing insightful attribution models.
7. Invest in Technology That Gives You the Flexibility You Need
While there is no shortage of tools on the market that can help you with attribution, it can be difficult to find technology that caters to your particular needs. Choose a platform that allows for adjustments to your models and changes in user patterns, so that you can test new hypotheses and continually refine your approach.
8. Try Different Models That Align With Your Business Goal
Algorithmic attribution models rely on rich, solid data sets, so they tend to be popular with companies that are further up on the data maturity scale. But there's no reason why companies at all levels can't aim toward this. Try to remove biases through last-click and first-click models to see which channels really drive impact. Experimenting with different attribution models and methods allows you to determine what works best for your data and which processes will be most effective.
9. Use a Test-and-Learn Approach
Consolidate your data first to understand which channels deliver results that align with assigned budgets. After that, start modeling the data, making small changes each time to move closer to your goal. Testing against a forecasting tool can instill confidence that the correct balance is being achieved.
10. Focus On Recruitment and Training
Successful marketing attribution is a combination of science and art. Recruiting the right mix of analytics skills, broader commercial awareness, and softer skills will help facilitate cooperation across your business. It's equally important that existing staff are equipped with the right knowledge and skill sets. In-house training programs can empower employees to handle data, which in turn can make attribution more effective.
The insights in this attribution checklist are taken from Econsultancy's State of Marketing Attribution 2017 report, published in association with AdRoll and based on an online survey of 987 brands and agencies in Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. This in-depth report reviews the current adoption levels of marketing attribution, the confidence in its usage, and the effectiveness of companies' attribution methods. To find out more, check out the full report here.
Now that you have this attribution checklist, learn more about multi-touch attribution.
Last updated on August 17th, 2022.