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:
- 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.
- 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.