By Natalia Selby, Marketing Coordinator, Mediahawk

In today’s device-driven world, it has become increasingly difficult to measure the multiple touch points a prospect has with your marketing and your website before they convert.

This has led many marketers to adopt the “last-touch” or “last-click” attribution model to measure campaigns because, on the surface, it appears to be a much easier conversion metric.

The trouble with last-click attribution is that it doesn’t actually provide a 360 degree view of the consumer journey. All of the relevant touch-points before the last click are ignored and give credit to the wrong piece of marketing for generating the lead.

But marketing attribution shouldn’t be a difficult task. In fact, the most simple, full picture attribution models are easy to maintain and provide a comprehensive understanding of consumer behaviour. The right system will reveal insights about the consumer journey that help businesses and agencies to make smarter decisions about their marketing spend.

So, what can attribution help you to achieve?

• Optimising the media mix by showing you which marketing is working and which area isn’t pulling its weight
• Justify marketing spend. You’ll feel confident in allocating budget for effective channels and cutting spend where return is lacking
• Prove your worth to clients — if you work in an agency, you’ll know how important KPIs are to your clients and how these can make or break the agency-client relationship
• Optimise the impact of content
• Aligning offline and online channels and journeys: You’ll soon discover that offline and online do not work independently; often the two feed off of one another in the purchasing cycle
• Re-engaging lapsed customers: you’ll find out when customers are dropping out of the sales cycle and you’ll be able to retarget them with the right content and advertising
• Forecasting and planning: whether this is in terms of budget or tightening up a marketing strategy
Now you know what correct attribution can do. I’m going to provide you with eight essential tips to help you create a winning attribution plan.

1. Agree on key primary attribution metrics
Different marketing channels measure, report, and optimize using different metrics, which can be confusing, so establishing a set of primary attribution metrics will ensure your marketing team and your clients (if you work in an agency) are all on the same page. Part of the benefit of advanced attribution is that “results” will be measured using a common set of metrics. Conduct an audit of the existing metrics used in each channel and then establish a limited set of attribution metrics that each channel owner is on board with.

2. Observe your consumers’ real behaviour
Before you can bring together an attribution strategy, you have to first understand the behaviour of the consumer relative to various marketing channels. For example, are your prospects researching from home? Which devices are they using? Are your consumers interacting with you across your channels?

More and more people are watching TV with their laptop or smartphone by their side (or in their palms). So if a consumer sees your commercial on TV, they might then visit your website to learn more while the commercial is still airing. It’s for this reason that you would want to attribute a sudden spike in your traffic levels.

If you want to be able to reach a consumer with your marketing, you need to first understand what it is that the consumer is looking for and what types of information might bring them further along the conversion path.

As customers interact with your brand across more and more channels, you must collect data on the ways in which they’re interacting with your brand. After you collect the data you have to analyse it to uncover the types of communication your customers prefer, and the correct timing for that communication.

This is why maintaining awareness of the relationships between channels is essential and you cannot analyse channels in isolation. If you were to allocate resources from an under-performing channel, you could risk interfering with another channel.

Once you observe your consumers’ multi-channel behaviour, you’ll be able to start building an attribution model that is relevant to your unique situation and begin to map out a rough idea of the conversion funnel.

3. Establish how you’ll measure success
Ensure that stakeholders, your marketing teams and your clients (if you work in agency,) are all on board with which metrics you’ll be using to measure your programme. Once this is agreed, you’ll all be working towards a common goal, and you’ll know what success looks like. This is especially vital for agencies who want to show the true value of their efforts to their clients.

4. Collect data across all channels
Do you think that social isn’t pulling its weight? Do you ever check your email marketing stats alongside Google Analytics data? Or do you even know which channel generates the most leads? I’m not just talking about any old lead; I’m talking about quality leads.

To ensure effective, full-circle marketing attribution, you must collect data from every single channel. This means connecting the dots and looking from the initial touch-points through to the last click or telephone call.

Some of the biggest mistakes I see in marketing attribution are neglecting to incorporate telephone call data, and with businesses acknowledging that telephone calls generate 10-15 times more sales revenue than web form leads, it’s a good idea for you to start attributing your web and offline influenced phone calls.

5. Don’t forget offline conversions
Attribution measurement across digital channels such as PPC (Pay Per Click), social media, organic search and email marketing is common practice because they’re highly measureable and they integrate seamlessly with Google Analytics. But how many companies are only implementing digital advertising? Think about it; there’s printed media, TV ads, direct mail and billboard advertising too. All of these will be generating traffic to your site or enquiries to your business.

The most effective attribution measurement takes into account how your customers prefer to get in touch with you, whether this is online and offline, therefore this means tracking the impact of TV, radio, outdoor and print against web conversions like sales and whitepaper downloads. "Online to offline" attribution, in turn, can measure the impact a printed magazine ad might have on in-store conversions or phone call leads.

The only possible way that you can measure offline conversions such as phone calls, against website traffic and conversions, is with call tracking and website analytics software. Once applied to your website, not only will you be able to see the pages a caller looked at before they picked up the phone, but you’ll also be able to see the pages they viewed after the conversation ended.

This provides crucial insight into how effective your telephone calls are at securing sales against all of your other measureable marketing channels.

6. Incorporate Cross-screen performance metrics
In today’s mobile-connected world, our browsing experience doesn’t stop when we turn off the desktop. For example, a prospect may begin their research for holiday destinations on their desktop at home. They might then continue to browse hotel reviews on the go until they pick their accommodation. They might then search for the hotel via their brand name in Google and then finally call the hotel to book their dates from their mobile device. It sounds familiar because we all do this.

But every business is different and so too is their audiences’ path to conversion. Therefore, the bottom line is this: marketers must adopt strong, cross-screen performance metrics and best practices to effectively track shoppers’ firmly established online-offline purchase cycles.

Establishing cross-screen practices now will not only prove the full-circle impact of their digital and mobile campaigns, but will also inform future digital campaign strategies based on a complete picture of what has driven a successful consumer response in past campaigns.

7. Measure current marketing efforts
Quantifying existing marketing campaigns, and the part they play in assisting sales, will give you a better idea about how well your marketing is working in the overall sales cycle

But, because the path to conversion is often complex and bridges devices and offline and online marketing, you’ll need to set up a series of smaller tests to see how one area of marketing contributes and feeds off another. For example, you might want to find out how a TV commercial is contributing to your direct traffic. You might want to find out how social media is assisting newsletter sign ups, etc.

To do this, you’ll need to set up a series of smaller studies and measure KPIs. After your test period you should measure the sales lift over the control group for each test group.

8. Establish a single data warehouse
Too often, organisations lack a central data warehouse — that is storing all of their customer and transactional data in one place. Different channels have multiple data sources and analytics platforms and it is hard to undertake holistic analysis. What's more, this often leads to a discrepancy in data figures within internal teams.

Too many out of the box attribution systems either work well for offline media or online media, but not both. They can be helpful digital media-mix tools, but they fail to attribute cause and effect adequately in categories where multiple external and internal factors will influence customer purchase decisions.

9. Take action and test, test, test!
Testing your model is absolutely key. If you were to stand by your first attribution model without testing it, you could end up seriously undervaluing a marketing channel. This could result in a huge drop in sales or sign ups.
When sales drop, suddenly confidence in marketing attribution slides and you’re back to square one again. So ensure that you continuously test your attribution set up to ensure it’s delivering tangible results.

Finally, it’s all well and good collecting and aligning the data, but without actioning your findings you’ll invalidate all of your hard work. So, once you have collected all of your data in a single warehouse, ensure that at regular intervals you, or a designated team member, is putting the data to use. This might entail split testing landing pages, trialling different PPC ad copy, addressing steps in the conversion funnel or even adjusting your inbound response mechanisms.

Final Word
Correct and thorough attribution, that suits your business, allows for the creation of better customer profiles. In turn, this will help your business move the customer through the decision process more quickly–leading to more conversions.

For marketing agencies that depend upon their reputation to gain more clients it’s imperative to prove your worth. Not only for clients, but to see how well are your own marketing investments paying off.