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To Understand Marketing Campaign Value Look Beyond Web Analytics

A few months back our North Carolina neighbors, Newfangled Web Developers, asked an interesting marketing related question on their blog: What Is A Content Strategy Worth? In the post, Newfangled’s President Mark O’Brien writes…

“I was meeting with an agency partner in Chicago a few months ago. We were in an all-day planning session for a suite of new sites we’re building with them and the topic of website leads came up. I had mentioned something about the role of content creation in a lead-generation marketing plan, and the principal, in a kind but slightly challenging way, said something along the lines of “easy for you to say, Newfangled probably gets all its leads from referrals.”

I knew his assumption wasn’t correct, but I realized at the same time that I didn’t have the data to prove it. I actually wasn’t sure what the lead origination sources of our closed new business were, exactly. Not having this data at my fingertips was a problem for a number of reasons, so I decided to trace all of the projects we closed in 2010 back to their lead source.”

I’ll let Mark’s post speak to what they discovered once they dug into the data (and if you have the time, its worth the read), but what I find more interesting is a statement he makes later on in the post:

“This data set is only as good as the honesty of the people who tell us how they found us, but if we can’t trust that then the whole practice of measuring lead origination would be meaningless, and I think measuring lead origination is not only meaningful, but crucial.”

Mark’s articulating a problem that we often hear from the businesses. Specifically, there’s no lack of good marketing and advertising options available to businesses. With a little money, creativity and sweat equity there are literally thousands of ways to reach customers through print, television, radio, out of home, online, through their mobile devices or even in the streets. No, the problem isn’t options its accountability. It’s making sure you understand the results of your various marketing and advertising endeavors and applying the value of those efforts proportionally to the tactics.

The Problem With Last Touch Marketing Attribution Models

Most people have bad memories, or at least are too busy to remember exactly where they first learned about your company (much less all of the different times they saw your advertising). They may tell you they called after being referred by a colleague, but they may have also seen your advertising, visited your website and read your content. Unfortunately, most analytics platforms – Google Analytics included – over-emphasize “last touch wins.” Meaning, they give the last point of interaction all (or a disproportionate amount) of credit for the transaction. After all, that colleague referral may have been the nudge needed to get the prospect to pick up the phone, but that doesn’t mean that the early marketing messaging didn’t impact the prospect’s decision making behavior.

Unfortunately, building a more complex attribution model is well… complex. You can begin to tackle multi-touch attribution modeling, or what’s also called multi-channel funnels with Google Analytics, but while that’s is a step in the right direction that doesn’t give you the whole picture either.

Why? Because most of us don’t only rely on online marketing to achieve our goals. We’re talking with our customers, advertising through traditional media channels and experimenting with new strategies. We’re not only trying to measure the impact of each marketing and advertising strategy, we’re trying to measure the impact of using the strategies as a group.

Does Marketing Attribution Matter?

John Wanamaker has a famous quote: “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The problem with the way most companies attribute credit to their marketing efforts is that at best its an incomplete view. For instance, are your brand’s 20,000 Facebook fans an asset that are converting into increased sales or is Facebook acting as a customer service platform?

When the rubber meets the road, if you don’t have a reliable attribution model then you’ll never know which half of your advertising budget you’re wasting. And if you can’t answer that question then you can’t lower your customer acquisition costs and enhance brand value because you won’t fully understand where you should be investing your resources.

Apply Your Key Learnings To Constantly Improve ROI

Developing a more complete marketing attribution model is an ongoing process that will take time. The more information you have the better informed your model will be; but just because you don’t have that now doesn’t mean your data isn’t useful. Instead, recognize that your current analytics are providing a partial view of the bigger picture. Challenge yourself to apply your current key learnings to constantly optimize your marketing and advertising campaigns. Then, you can incrementally build a more all-encompassing attribution model that will allow you to lower costs and improve returns ever more aggressively.

Posted in Advertising, Blog, General, Marketing