Marketing Attribution Defined

I’ve been spending much of the last few years working in the field, implementing, evaluating, and exploring Marketing Attribution.  Recently, I was requested to put together a training session on Attribution and I’ve decide to take some of that content and make it publicly available on my blog.  I’ve discovered that the word ‘Attribution’ is often misused, described as a new feature or a new testing method, confusing marketing professionals who don’t know what to expect out of an Attribution software or project — and creating dissatisfaction.  So I’ll be starting a series on Attribution, discussing multiple elements of it, and attempting to help those interested understand it better.

First and foremost, let’s define attribution: Attribution is a way of assigning credit for a desirable outcome.  In the world of marketing, we use attribution to assign credit to the marketing efforts that may have helped create a lead or close a sale.   Attribution is a tool — a measuring stick used to evaluate marketing efforts.  It is NOT a new project or campaign, but some vendors have special features that may be named Attribution, so it is important to get clarity if discussing with a vendor.

The classic attribution example is that of a basketball game.

four people playing basketball

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

In this example, attribution is a way to help explain which basketball players were important to the process of scoring a goal. Obviously, only one basketball player touched it last, and he was the one who was said to have ‘scored’ — but did he do it all alone? Who else assisted him? Was he only able to score because one player stole the ball from the opposite team, and passed it to yet another player, who then passed it to our scorer? All three players in this example should be attributed some of the credit — to varying degrees!  Attribution then helps you understand which players were the most valuable.  In marketing, our points are things like leads and sales, and our players are campaigns and channels.

If you’ve looked at the market, you know that currently the marketing attribution world is exploding with software options.  In addition, many vendors are adding attribution software options to their existing offerings.

Martech2018Martech 2018

There are so many options and it’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison.  A large number of companies have attempted attribution projects only to eventually abandon them as a failure.  While there are often multiple reasons for these failures, I believe the root cause is a lack of knowledge and clearly defined objectives.  But don’t worry! With a good overall understanding of Attribution, you’ll be able to define your goals, evaluate if a given Attribution project satisfies those goals, and set your company up for successful Attribution.  This blog series will give you the knowledge you need to succeed.

For those who are successful in implementing Attribution, the results are worth it. It can produce amazing improvements to marketing efficiency, by giving you insight into HOW the marketing dollars that are being spent in various areas are actually translating into sales and leads.