Why Attribution Is All That Should Matter in Digital Marketing

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Digital marketing is a bright new frontier in business advertising. Just a few decades ago, platforms like radio, print and television were the primary options for marketing our products — but today, the digital options are almost endless.

This plethora of options may have you swinging between feeling like a kid in a candy store and being that kid’s parent, unsure of which options are best and a little frazzled at the range of choice.

Choosing which digital marketing device gets your dollars should be easy, though, if you’ve built your choices on the foundation of attribution.

The wasted money

John Wanamaker, a nineteenth-century Philadelphia retailer famously said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

While many may feel they are in the same boat as Wanamaker, it is very clear that the man simply had not built his marketing and advertising strategies on a foundation of attribution. If he had, he may still be wasting half his money, but at least he would know which half.

By building your marketing strategies around attribution, you cannot only see which channels aren’t working for your marketing plan, but also which channels are working better than others.

We’re all chasing the golden conversion, right? Old wisdom tells us that if our attribution tracking shows that a platform is not converting sales, we should move our budget away from it. But it’s just not that simple.

Related: If You Don’t Have a Strategic Marketing Plan, You’re Setting Yourself Up for Failure

Deceptive simplicity

The vast majority of digital marketing attribution models are built on the “last touch” mechanism. Whichever platform a customer is using at the time of their purchase is given credit for the conversion.

If you are following this model, you are likely moving a lot of your budget away from social media because you just aren’t seeing conversions there. But have you noticed how your conversions start to drop when you do this?

That’s because the “last touch” attribution model is deceptive. It’s not showing you the full picture. It’s only telling you what platform your customer used to make the final step in their journey through the funnel.

By the same token, focusing on the first touchpoint your customer makes with your brand is equally deceptive. Attribution is vital to digital marketing, but it’s not just about understanding where your customer buys. It’s about understanding how your customer learns, decides and then buys.

Related: Your Email Marketing Is Destined to Fail Without These 3 Essentials

The hidden benefits of attribution

The process of attribution does help you to identify which channels are directly converting sales, but it also provides a huge number of other benefits.

When you have a proper attribution mechanism, you can tell which channels are building brand awareness, which are directing customers toward your last-touch platforms, and, conversely, which are not contributing at all.

Correct and thorough attribution helps to shift dollars around so that you are focusing on the platforms that contribute to your customers’ entire journey with your brand and not just the one that is closing them.

When you can properly track your digital marketing dollars, you are also able to identify and pre-empt cycles. In the pre-digital marketing era, it was well-known that when the Superbowl was being broadcast, the television advertising space was golden. By the same token today, when certain shifts happen in the digital world, one platform may be more effective than another.

When you have a good attribution process in place, you will be able to move with these shifts and make the most of them.

An attribution foundation

While digital marketing can seem like a playground of tools and tricks to securing your ideal customer and boosting brand awareness, if you don’t start with a solid foundation, you may as well be throwing your money in the air.

Start with a solid idea of how you are going to track attribution. Ensure that the attribution process is not just focused on the first or last touchpoints, and start to watch your digital marketing campaigns take off.

Related: The Biggest Judgment Error You Don’t Know You’re Making


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