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Living the marketing dream via multi-channel attribution

I had an interesting dinner conversation with some industry colleagues this evening. We touched on a variety of topics but two tried and true favorites stand out in my mind:

  1. We are truly in the infancy stage of online marketing. So much so that I believe if you compared it to a more mature industry like automobile manufacturing, interactive marketers are currently living through the Model T era.
  2. Most of the industry suffers from a very real disconnect between traditional marketing channels and “newer” channels like paid search marketing (or SEO, or etc. and so forth).

At one point, one of my colleagues, who works for a media buying juggernaut, asked me if in my experience was it the norm to see brands allow one agency to handle everything from media buying to media creative services to site creative services (among other things). My answer was that in most cases, the answer was no.

In fact, in some cases, I’ve seen brands award media buying to one agency (usually a legacy, offline agency that handles both traditional media like TV and print as well as online display) media creative to another agency, and website creative to yet another agency (as part of a broader web development and design engagement).

Add separate SEO, social media, and email providers (in-house or agency) and you’ve got yourself quite the silo party.

Which brings me to analytics, which is where things get truly absurd. With different stakeholders in charge of different links in the consumer engagement, conversion, and retention chain you get a wide array of data that’s only loosely connected at best.

You have display stakeholders scrambling to provide soft success metrics like impressions and social signals (likes, shares, etc.) to mask their inability to drive direct response, and on the other end of the spectrum, you have search stakeholders taking credit for direct conversions that are generated by brand keywords that are almost always a function of the brand awareness and that should be at least partially (if not fully) attributed to demand generation channels like display.

It’s enough to make a CMO go insane.

But there is a solution, albeit one that is still far from being fully mature. It’s called multi-channel attribution. In a nutshell, it’s the ability to give credit to the different channels that are responsible for ushering a consumer through the different phases of a sales and retention cycle. When done well, it gives proper justification to non-direct response oriented channels like display and social media while also properly waiting the contributions of traditionally direct response oriented channels like SEO and email. Google has made it a heck of a lot easier to go down this path with their recent introduction of built-in attribution modeling within Google Analytics, and some paid media platform providers are also getting into the mix by providing insight into how the different paid channels interact with one another (display and paid search for example).

And for those that are looking for an even more comprehensive enterprise-caliber solutions (e.g. one that integrates offline channels, call-center data, etc. via enterprise analytics platforms like Omniture) there are specialized interactive firms that can do that as well.

If you’re not quite ready for that degree of sophistication, it’s ok. But please start somewhere. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll begin to properly distribute your marketing/advertising budget and the sooner you’ll maximize your overall business ROI.

And that, after all, is living the marketing dream.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://rbeale.com RBeale

    Great Post, Hugo. At HubSpot, we’ve been working on solving the ROI attribution probelm (first touch versus last touch), what events/behaviors of website visitors are influencing a prospect to purchase, along with many other things. It certainly is not an easy problem to solve, but there are heavy analytics commpanies like omniture, coremetrics, free tools like GA and others trying to help out.

    I agree that even if a marketer is not quite ready for that level of granularity, they need to start somewhere. After all, data wins 🙂


    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Ryan! Glad to hear that you guys are trying to push the needle on this front. You’ve got to start somewhere!

  • http://www.organicseoconsultant.com/ Miguel Salcido

    Something that we would have to do in order to work out attribution a few years ago was to introduce paid search right off the bat, gain metrics, ramp up. Start SEO in conjunction and by the time SEO was kicking in, we would have good averages from paid search traffic so that we could loosely compare lift from running both at the same time. We would create an average percentage lift between the two. THEN, we would start a display campaign and would monitor the lift in branded and non-branded search volume as a result. Through this we would be able to show clients that display was in fact providing a lift in ppc and SEO. If they did not believe it still then we would kill display and watch metrics drop. Thus proving the worth of display. By doing all of this we would develop rough percentages for attribution to each channel. Oh, and retargeting would be the next add on. Whew, still makes me dizzy!

    • Anonymous

      That sounds like a solid approach, Miguel. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Dayne Shuda

      I love the idea of doing holdout testing with display advertising. It’s usually a great way to get the true measure of each marketing effort.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for chiming in, Dayne! Glad to hear that you also like Miguel’s approach.

  • Bill Muller

    In reference to “even more comprehensive enterprise-caliber solutions” mentioned above, Forrester Research’s Wave Report on Attribution Management Solutions reviews soltions from Visual IQ, Clearsaleing, Atlas, Coremetrics and [x+1]. These organizations offer products of varying degrees of sophistication that provide attribution among channels and campaigns that contribute to your specific marketing goals.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing, Bill! I see that you’re from one of those providers. Feel free to share any additional insights you might have.

  • http://www.thecmoclub.com CMO

    Once more there is an evidence that it is useful to sit with your friends and have a talk about what you’re doing and how you achieve your goals. Sharing secrets and experience of marketing is always good!

    • Anonymous

      Agreed Jake. Thanks for chiming in!

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