Attribution and putting your money where your mouth is

Attribution and putting your money where your mouth is

Well over a year ago I was looking at digital trends and it struck me how many of the very same trends I had been musing about the year previously still applied one year later. Whilst fundamental and revolutionary change kept cropping up in our conversations so did the application of simple, well-understood and unifying themes. It really felt like digital was growing up.

That represents an interesting time for an industry that, whilst wholeheartedly supporting a ‘test and learn’ approach, also evangelises each individual step forward only to then find fault in it and then shoot it down in flames. Well you know what I mean. No wonder our CFOs and Finance Directors are skeptical!

At the same time we are starting to develop models around maturity that describe what is happening in our organisations and marketing departments from a development and process point of view. Here is one by MarketingSherpa around Strategic Social Media Marketing (Note to self – sponsored by facebook!). It provides a useful roadmap that charts the progression from trialing a new tool, technology or channel through the development of specific guidelines to a more strategic phase where appropriate governance and management processes are put in place. It points out the critical role that the development of a fit for purpose measurement framework plays. One that supports the calculation of channel-specific ROI in the kind of terms that the CFO or Financial Director understands.

That is exactly where a lot of the organisations and businesses I am working with are. They absolutely understand that the customer journey is becoming increasingly complex and they are already implementing measurement models that move beyond just visibility and conversion. They are developing a set of appropriate metrics based on customer engagement in the pursuit of a better understanding around what is actually happening across that sometimes grey area between brand awareness and a sale.

What is clear however, is that this story is far from complete. In almost every case the link between what are essentially digital outputs and those business outcomes which really matter is far less clear than it could be. Let’s be honest. Whilst the CMO or Marketing Director is starting to become comfortable with investing more heavily in customer engagement programmes I’m still not convinced the guys holding the purse strings are. We need to build stronger business cases around what we are trying to achieve – based on the facts backed up with a supporting narrative.

Enter attribution. The next big thing for us to evangelise? Makes for an interesting read right now. Try Marketing Attribution : Valuing the Customer Journey for starters if you are an econsultancy member. Key take-outs for me include the following;

  1. For those organisations that are engaged in attribution they are still in the early stages but increasingly organisations are adopting attribution based on the accountability that it offers.
  2. Challenging the status quo is always going to be difficult. Building approaches and developing the tools that mean you can focus on the facts help drive change and deal with politics.
  3. Some of the changes in channel investment exemplified were reassuringly surprising and challenged some of my own preconceived ideas. The surprising impact of digital display on search ROI and brand lift is a good example.

Where the two specific measurement projects I am working on now are concerned the case for understanding attribution is clear. What is less clear is the practical implementation of it. That’s the area I am researching now.

Thoughts and feedback most definitely welcome!

Maybe attribution will finally put that phrase to rest that still rings true today; I know half of my marketing budget is wasted but I just don’t know which half. Or maybe it is just another marketing holy grail that is a little too far from our reach?