Attribution is the science of assigning value to each marketing touch point.
Marketers are experts in raising brand awareness and guiding customers through the sales funnel by using a variety of channels, touchpoints and campaigns. However, when pressed to identify which interactions are the most valuable during customers' purchase processes, many marketers may have a difficult time providing a definitive answer.
Obviously, this can be a problem. How does a company ensure that it's putting its resources behind the most effective channels and interactions when it's not even sure what those are?
This is where attribution comes in. Attribution is the science of assigning value to each marketing touch point -- determining which interactions had the greatest influence on customer conversion. In short, it allows you to see the correlation between marketing data and sales data.
How Is Attribution Measured?
Google Analytics, which is among the most widely used analytics platforms, outlines several different types of attribution models. Understanding the different types of models is essential for understanding when to use them.
First Interaction Model: The first touch point gets credit for 100% of the sale. This model is great for determining which channels ultimately brought buying customers to your website.
Last Interaction Model: This model is the opposite of the first interaction model. Rather than the first interaction getting 100% of the sale, the last interaction does instead.
Last Non-Direct Click Model: This model focuses on the channel that was clicked through right before the sale, providing an effective way to measure how well your offsite channels are performing.
Linear Model: With this model, each touch point receives equal credit for sales, providing you with a simple way to evaluate the overall performance of your channels.
Time Decay Model: With this model, the touch point closest to the time of the sale gets the credit.
Position-Based Model: With the position-based model, 40% of the credit is assigned to the first interaction, 40% is assigned to the last interaction and 20% is spread out among other channels.
Wrapping your head around the various attribution models may seem challenging, but fortunately, there are numerous companies that provide attribution services. LeadsRx provides a clear, unbiased view of every touch point, mapping out the entire customer journey. TrackMaven effectively pinpoints your most engaging content and measures your brand's most engaging channels, providing feedback insights regarding publishing days, times and formats. And Visual IQ can help you understand which combination of events is most likely to result in customer conversion. (Full disclosure: I provide consulting services for Visual IQ.)
What Attribution Can Teach You About Your Marketing
Attribution helps you understand a customer's journey through your sales funnel. While the jury is still out on which attribution model is the most effective, every model has the same goal: to increase your opportunities for lead conversion by focusing on the most effective channels.
When you have multiple marketing activities going on -- as you probably always do -- you'll use multiple attribution reports to understand the impact your content is having on conversion. In fact, you may even use more than one attribution model for the same campaign for a more robust picture of your customers' journeys.
However, it's important to remember that, while attribution can teach you how your customers are engaging with your brand and content, it doesn't tell the entire story. For example, brand-building activities and offline activities both play significant roles in the marketing mix, but online-only attribution solutions don't account for these.
Three Steps For Implementing Attribution Measurement
Understand your sales funnel. Before choosing which attribution models will work best for your business, it's important to understand the generated leads, qualified leads, opportunities and conversions that make up your sales funnel.
Group your touch points. Rather than trying to measure each individual touch point, organize them into groups. For example, instead of tracking each AdWords campaign separately, track all the campaigns as a single unit.
Collect data. Once you begin measuring attribution, the temptation may be to revamp your entire advertising mix based on a couple weeks' data. However, it's important to wait a month or two to give time for trends and patterns to emerge. Once some time passes and the dust settles, you'll have the information you need to accurately assign credit to each channel.
Attribution can lead to improved brand visibility, better tracking and better modeling, all of which can enable marketers to make impactful marketing decisions with confidence.