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Simplifying Cross Channel Attribution

Monday, May 02, 2016

Cross Channel Attribution has been the “talk” for quite a while now, but even today, it's still an area where many marketers are reluctant to do more than just dip their toes in the water, which is understandable given the complexities of it.

I believe the main reason for the hesitation is that there's no cut-and-dry way to go about it. There are so many articles out there on the subject, and they certainly don’t always align. And depending on who's making the recommendation, there's typically some level of bias involved. 

Whether you're managing all of your media channels in-house or using multiple vendors, each vendor or internal team is likely going to go with an approach that, at the end of the day, will “prove” that the channel they are managing deserves the most credit. 

So who do you trust? Which way is the “right” way? And if you try one out, are you even guaranteed it will be better than what you are doing now? Maybe. Maybe not. 

Regardless of whether or not you choose to make a change to how you're currently attributing transactions across your marketing channels, there are still some straightforward -- and very important -- things you can do to set yourself up for success. I’ve outlined them below:

1. Implement Proper Tracking

This is probably the single most important thing you can do.  If you don’t have proper tracking in place, you'll never be able to truly optimize your media and drive success for your business. When you take cross-channel attribution out of the equation, improper tracking has a major impact on each media channel individually. As a marketer, if it looks like you are only garnering a 0.5 ROI on a Paid Search campaign, you may pause “underperforming” keywords, pull the budget from that campaign or pause it altogether. Suddenly, you see that overall revenue for the next week took a much bigger hit than anticipated, and there were two main reasons for this. First, you're probably not looking at the downstream impact those keywords have on generating transactions that other media channels are picking up (assuming last-click attribution). Secondly, because your tracking wasn't set up properly, you're “optimizing” half blind.

2. Get your Data Into One Platform

Once your tracking is in place, getting your data into one platform should be goal number two. I’m certainly not saying you should necessarily trust one digital agency to actually manage all of your channels for you, but I am saying that you should make sure that the data from all the media channels you are managing is visible to you in one platform. You need to be able to tie all of the pieces together, and it's virtually impossible to do so if your data is housed in multiple places, at least not without a ton of manual work. 

3.  Collaborate/Plan among different marketing departments

One of the biggest problems marketers have is changing the mentality or structure of their media and marketing departments. Oftentimes, each channel is being managed in a silo, and each department has its own goal to hit for that quarter or that year. They may occasionally talk to each other about some “big picture” items, but there are very few companies that have a fully-integrated department in which everyone works together to achieve a common goal, and where each area of marketing isn't constantly having to make a case as to why they should get more budget than another program should. This is the only way you will ever truly realize your potential, and while it’s not always easy to change over to this mentality, it’s a lot easier to do when all of the marketing and media buying is happening in-house.  When you’re utilizing several companies to help do this for you, it becomes much more difficult. But, if you have the proper tracking in place and have full visibility into all of the marketing channels, you will be much more informed to allocate budgets more effectively, and you'll be able to make better decisions on your overall marketing strategy.

4. Test, Test, Test

If you’ve done all of this, then you're in a great place to start testing out different attribution strategies and models. You can now see how everything ties together to lead to the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve, and this will at least help inform you as to what makes sense to test. One model may work great for a retail company, but not for a financial company. There are so many other factors out there that impact your bottom line, and it is certainly not a “one size fits all” world we live in when it comes to attribution. Testing out various models will give you the final piece you need in order to hit the ultimate goal of fully optimizing your marketing budget to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Meghan Rogers

Written by Meghan Rogers

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