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Adding Value: How Marketing Attribution Can Be Your Road Map

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Please find it here.

About halfway through Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice comes across the infamous Cheshire Cat. Here’s a snippet of their conversation:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Does this sound like your marketing team? Are your marketing efforts (and dollars) wandering Wonderland? Are your marketing strategy meetings more like a mad tea party? After all, if you don’t really know where your business is meant to be going, then it doesn’t matter which marketing road you’re trying to take to get there.

I’ve met with so many companies over the years that sound just like poor Alice. They’re dabbling in paid search, social media, display ads, video marketing, email campaigns, SEO endeavors and content marketing. All the right elements are in play, but they don’t know which path they’re on or where it’s leading. Getting a strong handle on your marketing can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Let the basics behind marketing attribution be your white rabbit.

The Pros And Cons Of Diving Into Marketing Attribution

The rise of digital marketing channels and new ways of engaging with an audience begat the concept of marketing attribution as a way of providing a structured approach to using the tools. The idea behind marketing attribution is straightforward: If you’re trying a few different things in the market to attract business and something good happens, it would be nice to be able to attribute your success to the tool or approach that’s responsible.

Fully implemented marketing attribution systems are a thing of beauty. Each marketing department dollar can be tied to an ROI figure. There’s defined data for each marketing channel that can tell you how well it’s working. Lead quality can be tracked across your efforts, and data-based insights can drive decision making.

These aims of marketing attribution are easy to support, but it should be noted that fully committing to marketing attribution can turn into a complex rabbit hole. Since leads often interact with your brand in several different ways before turning into a prospect, measuring impact becomes complicated. Which is more important: the first time someone clicks on a link or the last time? What if someone clicks on many different links and you want to weigh them all? What if leads are engaging online and offline at the same time? All of a sudden, you can find yourself dealing with algorithms and formulas to decide between things like w-shaped models and u-shaped ones. There are, of course, many great tools and firms to assist you with these tasks, but I think the most important takeaway from the concept of marketing attribution is found in pulling back the scope to look at the main tenets, which act as a valuable core to any marketing strategy. You can stay out of the weeds by adopting marketing attribution as a looking glass through which to clarify your path and destination.

Four Big Takeaways Of A Marketing Attribution Mindset

The first big boon is knowing your goals. Thinking along the lines of marketing attribution forces you and your team to set and prioritize marketing goals. What are you truly trying to do? Generate leads? Convert prospects? Upsell existing clients? Attribution models are based on specific objectives, and the process of clearly defining your targets is meaningful in and of itself.

The second advantage is collecting data. Marketing attribution hinges on gathering as much performance information as possible, and this practice is helpful in so many ways. You can’t make data-driven decisions unless you have data.

The third benefit is putting effort toward knowing which channels are successful. It can be easy to get caught up in deciding which type of content is most productive, but asking which channels are the most productive is a better question. This kind of insight sharpens your ability to prioritize your spending to make sure you’re putting the most effort in the most fruitful places.

Finally, a marketing attribution mindset is useful because it encourages you to unify your work. Paying attention to multiple touchpoints in a customer journey will show you not only how your outreach projects work but also how they work together with each other. Learning about attribution encourages campaigns that are cohesive and interdependent.

Dipping Your Toes In

Marketing attribution is a progressively important trend. However, it can also be intimidating and time-consuming. Remember that it isn’t an all-or-nothing approach, and that you can glean many great practices by adopting some of the mindset (even if you don’t go all the way in practice). All in all, placing at least some importance on marketing attribution is a way to avoid being lost in Wonderland and keep you on the highway to lead generation success.

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