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Attribution modeling is a powerful analytical framework that helps you understand what marketing touchpoints should be credited for a sales conversion.
What is an attribution model? It’s a system that evaluates each of the marketing touchpoints that consumers intersect with on their way to making a purchase. The goal of a successful attribution model is to better understand the messages and channels that had the biggest impact on whether a consumer chose to buy.
When an attribution model works best, it helps your business understand how customers interact with marketing messages, when those interactions occur, and where (which channel) they happen. Doing so allows marketers and brand managers to adjust campaigns and messages so that they are meeting the demands and needs of customers as well as informing budgets.
Marketing attribution models help you answer critical questions, including:
In the end, attribution modeling allows your company to measure the ROI of marketing efforts and reallocate for future campaigns.
Conversion journeys are complex and not always evident. They require marketers to develop informed hypotheses and expectations that are not always immediately clear.
It’s the attribution problem. The challenge is determining who gets credit for the sale. How can you assign value to each touchpoint that a customer might have before making a purchase?
That’s the fundamental challenge for advertising and marketing teams. And it’s why attribution models are necessary.
Are you thinking that using an attribution model is a daunting task and wondering whether it’s all worth it?
Consider some of the major benefits to creating and using an attribution model.
There are various models available for marketing attribution, sometimes referred to as customer attribution. Each model values different aspects of the interaction differently. Understanding the types of attribution models, their advantages and disadvantages can help you decide which model works best for your business.
There is no one “correct” attribution model. Instead, businesses should complete attribution model comparison analysis to find the model that best fits their marketing strategy, desired outcomes and business goals. Buying cycles, customer characteristics and marketing campaign types can shape which attribution model is best.
Attribution model comparisons are effective in determining which will provide the insights and identify how to best allocate resources to future marketing efforts.
There are multiple attribution models available for your marketing team. Here’s a closer look at the most popular models and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Single-Touch Attribution Models
These are among the simplest models and are designed to attribute conversion credit to one action and one message. Under first-touch attribution, the model assumes that a customer chose to make a purchase based on the first message or advertisement they saw. With the first-touch attribution model, all attribution is applied to this message, no matter how many subsequent messages the customer saw or interacted with.
Similarly, the last-touch attribution model (also known as last-click attribution) gives full credit to the last message or advertisement that a consumer saw before completing a purchase. It gives no attribution credit to any prior messages or ads that a consumer may have seen.
The advantage of the single-attribution models is their simplicity. Consumers interact with brands and messages across different devices, can clear cookies and use multiple browsers to view messages. By pinpointing the attribution to a single message, it provides brands with some definition and causality.
However, there’s a downside. In the first-touch attribution model, for example, it disregards every other ad that’s part of a campaign or whether a subsequent message was the thing that caused the customer to act. It’s the same for the last-touch attribution model or last-click attribution model, which disregards everything that came previously.
There’s a variant on the last-click model – the last non-direct click attribution model. It still assigns all credit to one interaction, in this case the last channel a customer through before making a purchase. It’s a helpful benchmark to use when comparing results with other models.
Multi-Touch Attribution Models
While the single-touch model assigns all credit to one marketing channel, the reality is that most campaigns use a multi-channel approach to marketing. It recognizes that multi-channel attribution is the primary construct for many marketing campaigns and that marketing teams want to quantify the impact of each phase of those campaigns accurately.
There are several multi-touch attribution solutions available. Here’s a look at some of the most-used multi-touch attribution models.
The linear attribution model is a different approach that is still relatively simplistic in design. With the linear attribution model, you split credit evenly across all the interactions a customer has with your business.
If a customer finds your brand on Facebook, for example, signs up for an email mailing list and then visits your site directly to make a purchase, each channel is credited equally. For a $150 purchase, a third, or $50, is credited each to the Facebook campaign, the email marketing efforts and the website.
It provides a much more balanced approach to your comprehensive marketing strategy. But it fails to weight which marketing tactics are more effective than others. Still, it’s an advantageous approach to showing clients the impact of each component of your marketing strategy. It’s a straightforward approach that clearly articulates the role multiple channels play in securing sales.
Variants on the linear attribution model include:
No matter which of the multi-touch attribution solutions you use, you will better reflect the layered, sequenced approach to most contemporary marketing campaigns.
The growth of online advertising, especially related to search engine queries, has led to a new attribution approach. Google has been the driver behind a data-driven attribution model that uses conversion data based on ad purchases to quantify your customer engagement.
The data-driven attribution model looks at every click from a Google search ad. It then compares the patterns taken by consumers who convert to customers to the patterns of those who do not. Google analyzes which of those interactions yields better conversion rates and gives more credit to the relevant ads.
The result is a much clearer way to evaluate conversions and understand which ads have the most impact.
Some marketers find they need to develop their own customized attribution model to accurately reflect the nuances of the marketing campaign or funnel you’re testing.
Custom attribution models allow you to put the percentages, weights and valuations around each campaign or funnel. However, it can be a challenge to create and, often, these models require lots of data. Businesses with long purchasing cycles and extensive data available are best suited for a customized approach.
How can you begin to develop your own marketing attribution model? Start with a clear understanding of what marketing activities you’re planning to measure, when those activities occur, and why you are measuring them.
Next, make sure you’ve completed each of these steps.
Funnel stages are the framework of any marketing attribution approach. They show how you move leads through the sales funnel towards a purchase. Typically, your funnel stages would include:
Lead attribution is often at the core of marketing attribution strategies, given that different channels and tactics are used for each funnel stage.
Why are you running your current marketing campaign? Is it to increase sales, raise brand awareness or improve brand reputation? The market attribution model you choose should directly correlate to the goals of your campaign. Different funnel stages are likely to be given different weights for a campaign designed to grow revenue over one that’s designed to introduce a new product for example.
If you’re using different ads, different URLs or multiple sources, you need to make sure that everything is tagged and trackable. The value of tracking the customer journey and understanding what marketing channels work depends on being able to mark all the sources, pages, ads, messages and sources.
One of the main advantages of marketing attribution is the ability to demonstrate ROI. However, you cannot accurately calculate ROI without having a clear understanding of the cost per acquisition (CPA). This figure helps you know what you spend for every acquisition and helps determine how much more or less to invest in channels in the future.
Your prospects and customers provide you with massive amounts of information. The challenge for many marketers is how to collect, store and use that information. The key is to capture data from every interaction a customer has during the sales conversion cycle. This information is invaluable, not only for marketing attribution processes but to build more accurate customer personals.
Consider every channel, every tactic and every potential interaction with customers. Then be sure there is a way to capture data from each encounter a customer has with the business, including:
Each of these interactions is communication and says something about your customers. Capture this information and assign the right value.
There are multiple opportunities to engage with customers. While many of the simple marketing attribution models assign value to just one interaction, it’s more likely that your customers are influenced by multiple interactions. That’s why it’s important to analyze and assign lead attribution weights to each touchpoint before determining the model that’s right for your campaigns.
There are multiple approaches to automating your attribution modeling. As noted above, Google provides some attribution modeling for advertisers that hit certain conversion markers.
The list of attribution tools doesn’t end there. Many CRM products provide attribution functions as part of their offerings. Separate sales attribution software products also allow you to build your own customized model or use one of the standard models.
When determining which sales attribution software to use, consider the following:
Marketing attribution modeling is a powerful way to understand deeply the impact of your marketing dollars. It’s a flexible practice, allowing your marketing teams to apply the model that’s most appropriate for the client, the product or service, the campaign intent and the customers and leads being targeted.
DemandJump makes it easy, providing easy integration setup and automated attribution models. Compare models side-by-side to see the true value of different marketing channels. Try it free for 7 days and see if it is the right fit for your marketing team.
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