9 Ways You're Messing Up Marketing Attribution

min read
9 Ways You're Messing Up Marketing Attribution

We’ve all been there. You tell a hilarious joke, and then hear someone else tell the same joke in the break room the next day. While the pain of your stolen laughs cuts deep, things get a little more serious when money is on the line.

In our complex, omnichannel world, getting marketing attribution is tough, and revenue is being attributed to the wrong marketing source all the time. Just because someone converted over the phone, it doesn’t mean that the display ad seen further up the funnel didn’t have anything to do with that conversion. And without knowing what marketing efforts contributed to a conversion, you can’t make effective optimizations and you start making bad decisions.

It’s time to start giving credit where credit is due, and make sure your marketing efforts are being tied back to the bottom line. Here are nine common attribution mistakes you should avoid when calculating marketing ROI.

1. Holding on to Last Click Models

I get it: last-click attribution models are easy and have low data requirements. The trouble is they offer a very limited and even skewed view of the customer’s path to purchase, especially now that customers are bouncing between channels more than ever. In fact, Adobe reports that 79% of people switch devices in the middle of an online activity. With last-click attribution models, you don't see how all marketing efforts work together, and you're likely to dismiss upper funnel tactics. This could lead you to decrease your budget in the areas that are actually responsible for driving discovery and initial engagement with your brand.

It's time for more sophisticated attribution models that work for your business. Here's a rundown of other common models:

  • Position-based attribution: Visits from the first and last channel receive the most credit while each channel in between receives an equal amount of credit.
  • Linear attribution: Every touch point gets equal credit.
  • Time-decay attribution: Gives varying amounts of credit to each touchpoint leading up to the conversion with the last ad getting the most credit.

2. Failing to Act on Attribution Data

The whole point of gathering attribution data is to help you measure the value of your marketing efforts and make better decisions. If your data shows that a big chunk of your conversions are coming from paid search ads, reallocate your budget to spend more on the most effective paid search ads. Or if most of your highest value sales come from phone calls, try encouraging calls throughout your marketing channels.

Attribution also helps marketers improve the customer journey by giving insights into customers' behaviors and motivations. Of marketers that use attribution to measure the path to purchase, 83% say it helps them send relevant, targeted messaged and offers, according to Forrester.

3. Not Having a Single View of the Customer

We all struggle with this. In a multi-channel universe, it’s inevitable that all involved channels will take credit for some of the same conversions, and it's likely our databases have some duplicate leads. The key is tying all interactions - even offline interactions -back to a single customer ID. This typically involves some type of cookie tracking on the digital side and some call intelligence for the offline side. You also need to make sure all your data is integrated and that you purge duplicate records.

4. Ignoring Phone Calls or Other Offline Conversions

Tracking online conversions is second nature to most of us. But when it comes to tracking offline conversions that may have originated in online channels, things can get a little tricky. In many cases, phone leads have been proven to be more valuable than online leads, so you want to make sure you’re using call attribution to make sure those conversions are tied to the right marketing sources.

Call intelligence brings phone calls into the picture, allowing marketers to not only see how their efforts drive phone calls, but what's happening on those calls. Without call intelligence, all attribution data is lost as soon as the customer picks up the phone, leaving you in the dark.

5. Only Attributing Direct Response Campaigns

While direct response campaigns, like paid search, make attribution pretty straightforward, you still need to account for other types of touch points like display impressions. Upper-funnel media and branding and awareness campaigns are usually not thought of as revenue drivers, but they still need to be a part of your attribution solution. While a prospect may not have clicked on the display ad, the impression may be influenced their purchase.

6. Not Measuring Ongoing Value

You have to look beyond the initial conversion. Not all leads are created equal, so you need to calculate the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer. This is where you project the possible revenue that a customer will generate over their lifetime. How long do your customers stick around? How often do they purchase from you? And how much do they spend each time? So you need to think about the average customer lifespan, customer retention rate, and profit margin per customer to determine the LTV of your customers.

7. Not Having the Right Marketing Attribution Tools

Sure, there are free attribution tracking solutions, but those only work up to a certain point. Every marketing technology stack will be different depending on the business, but it's pretty safe to say it will include a CRM to track customer interactions throughout their entire lifecycle, a marketing analytics solution to measure and analyze the path to purchase, and a data management platform to help you make sense of it all.

8. Leaving Involved Parties Out of the Loop

Attribution strategy involves a lot of people and teams. It’s not just about the marketing team; you also need alignment across the C-suite. You need overall objectives from your CEO. Then you need your CIO to be aware of the needed data points. Your CFO sets the budget and will want some justification for an attribution strategy spend. And finally, your CMO will be the primary owner and drive the initiative. So if your attribution conversations are only happening in the marketing room, you’re going to need to invite a few more people.

9. Tracking What Doesn’t Matter

Some think that attribution models are exact and static, but the truth is that attribution is not an exact science. It’s impossible to track the entire path to purchase with 100% accuracy without violating some serious privacy laws in the process. So you need to determine what attribution data you actually need. Ask yourself what information will have the biggest impact on your marketing decisions and help you with your optimizations.

So it turns out that there are a lot of mistakes you can make when it comes to marketing attribution. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about making sure you’re gathering the right information using the right tools, communicating with everyone involved in your attribution strategy, and expanding your view of the customer journey.  

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