Attribution Data Preparation: Like Rehearsing for Opening Night

Volume 1, Issue 7 - August, 2011

Editor, IQ Advisor

Imagine the sound of an orchestra when it’s warming up, with each instrument playing snippets of different music in different keys. As you listen to the variety of sounds, your brain tries to make sense of it, wishing only to hear one instrument at a time. Soon the conductor appears, taps his baton on the music stand, and the instruments quiet. Moments later, you hear the orchestra perform its magic, all the instruments playing the same beautiful music in the same key in the same tempo.

Cross channel attribution provides you with a way of “hearing” your marketing performance. To understand true marketing performance, like making beautiful music, you need all your channels playing the same music. In other words, you need each of your channels producing information in the same way so that it can be “heard” or analyzed. Only when your channel data is normalized into common measures and taxonomy, will you be able to identify the insights that are hidden within.

“Aha” Followed by “Uh Oh…”

After reading an article or hearing someone speak about cross channel attribution at a trade show, marketers often achieve their “aha” moment about its potential benefits pretty quickly. “Marketing channels impact each other; the optimal way to measure marketing performance is to see how one channel positively or negatively impacts another to determine optimal media spend for each.” This is a relatively straight forward realization.

However, when you’ve only ever measured one channel at a time, using channel-specific metrics is like listening to a single instrument perform, a marketer may not “hear” or realize the disparate output produced by each channel. When realizing their channels must be producing a common output to leverage a cross channel attribution solution, is when advertisers utter “Uh oh…”

Everyone Reading From the Same Sheet of Music

When you consider that different channels are often managed by different individuals, organizations or even 3rd parties and the type of information that is tracked for digital vs. offline channels, most advertisers have an uphill battle in getting each party to use a standard set of data rules and formats to manage their campaign information. However, until that standard is established and enforced, attribution management will require stitching together lots of mismatched data, similar to listening to the orchestra warm up.

What’s Essential to the Performance

Like the essential components of a musical composition, key and tempo, there are always essential components to your overall marketing strategy. These consist of attributes data that describes specific marketing tactics (publisher, creative, size, frequency, etc.) and metrics data that describes the results of those tactics (revenue, ROI, conversions, impressions, etc.) In order to leverage cross channel attribution, both the attributes and metrics that drive marketing spend decisions need to be common across the channels.

Do all the same attributes exist for each marketing channel? What would need to occur to ensure they were captured for all channels?

Metrics can be associated with the following categories:

You wouldn’t hand the same arrangement of music to both the woodwinds and the strings, but it should be from the same composition, just arranged for that particular instrument. Metrics across all your channels may not be exactly the same; at a minimum, however, they should fall into the same category in order to be compared. Can a methodology be devised to support comparing performance across channels? Marketing attribution providers will assist in mapping similar metrics across channels, but it’s imperative that those metrics exist.

The Sooner You Start Rehearsals the Better

Attribution modeling uses statistical analysis to identify cross channel insights that would otherwise not be apparent with more straightforward marketing response analysis. However, in order to generate meaningful cross channel results, like listening to a well-rehearsed performance, a relatively large quantity of data is necessary. So the sooner you start collecting data, the more likely enough data can be generated to produce insights that have statistical significance. The sooner you require your channels produce this data, the sooner you will have actionable results and have visibility into your marketing performance.

Common Data Yields Beautiful Insights

Like a good conductor, you need to establish and then enforce common data attributes and metrics that are the most critical to your marketing performance across all your channels. Identifying the data that your cross channel attribution solution will rely upon is a necessary first step. Plan to make the necessary enhancements to your marketing data, and then define collection and storage policies to support your attribution strategy. Ensuring all your channels are producing output in a similar fashion, will enable you to produce actionable marketing insights, not unlike hearing an orchestra perform beautiful music.

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