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Marketing Attribution Technology: Uncover the Hidden Costs Before You Buy

Volume 6, Issue 4 - April, 2016

Michele Szabocsik, Director of Product Marketing, Visual IQ

There’s a well-known adage that declares three constraints apply to every project, and you can only solve for two of them. If you want something done fast and with top quality, it’s going to cost you. If you want something done fast and cheap, the quality will suffer. And if you want top quality at a low cost, it’s probably going to take more time than you’d like.

Agencies are constantly juggling these constraints when evaluating new opportunities for their clients. They typically ask three basic questions before whittling down the options to a single recommendation:

  1. How much will it cost?
  2. Will it meet all of the client’s needs and expectations?
  3. How much time is it going to take to get up and running, and then maintain?

The trouble is that brands and their agency partners aren’t always asking enough questions – particularly when it comes to evaluating advanced marketing attribution solutions. Most ask about fees and methodology, both of which are important when considering any new marketing technology. But it’s the operational questions that often get overlooked, and those are the factors that can come back to bite you well after it’s too late to turn back. This is where you’ll discover the hidden costs of some attribution solutions. Time is money, and what may look like a low cost solution on paper may actually cost more down the line in both time and additional FTE’s or agency fees.

Here are three questions you should always ask when evaluating an advanced attribution solution:

Will its data collection approach significantly impact my ad trafficking timelines and processes?
Most brands have an agency that manages trafficking. This process is often tedious and complex, especially if the client has many different ads and landing page destinations, makes frequent optimizations, and wants granular reporting. Some advanced attribution solutions will further complicate this process. So it’s important to find out if the attribution provider’s data collection process will be compatible with your current trafficking process. Will it extend trafficking timelines? Will you have to expand your trafficking team to pick up the extra work to ensure ads are pushed live on time? Look for an attribution solution that will automatically ingest new channels, campaigns, and creatives as they are added to your marketing mix without requiring significant retrafficking.

Will it align with my organization’s unique business structure?
Every marketing organization has its own unique taxonomy. Budgets may be allocated by lines of business, specialized channel teams, or campaign objectives. However, some advanced attribution solutions don’t offer the flexibility to align with your organization’s unique structure and vocabulary. Ask if the solution can accommodate your custom taxonomy within its platform. Otherwise, you may end up spending extra time manually breaking down and re-aggregating data in order to tell the story in a way that is meaningful to your business.

Will it accurately reflect my most recent reconciled media costs?
Media costs are constantly in flux, so reconciliation across channels and vendors is often an arduous and time-consuming process. But it is a critical process for accurately calculating efficiency metrics like cost per acquisition. Some advanced attribution solutions make it very difficult to frequently update cost data in their platforms. This often leads to delays in refreshing the attribution model, or to inaccurate metrics. Both will paralyze your ability to optimize effectively and frequently for maximum returns. Look for an attribution solution that not only automates cost data ingestion without impacting your ability to refresh the attribution model, but also enables you to easily make cost changes on the fly.

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