By Ken Magill
If there is one area of marketing that has needed an overhaul for years, it’s sales and lead attribution. And current trends indicate that overhaul is finally in full swing.
In a world where last-click attribution is the most widely used metric for assigning lead and sales credit, email doesn’t get even close to the credit it deserves.
Likewise, search gets far more credit than it deserves.
Think about it: Someone performs a Google search, finds what they’re looking for in either the sponsored or non-sponsored links, clicks through and makes a purchase. Google didn’t drive the initial search. Something else did, be it a TV commercial, online advertising or an email.
But in most marketing departments, search gets credit for the sale.
Fortunately for every channel not called search, marketing is moving away from last-touch attribution and toward so-called multi-touch attribution.
Also known as fractional attribution, multi-touch attribution is the practice where marketers assign percentage values to different ad exposures in an attempt to credit them accurately for the amount of influence they had in driving results.
Multi-touch attribution is best suited for companies heavily reliant on digital because it struggles with traditional channels such as radio and television. However, the multi-touch attribution industry—yes, it’s an industry and it’s big—is working toward a day when multi-touch attribution can account for all channels.
The Mobile Marketing Association in May released the results of a survey in which 150 of the top marketers said they are using multi-touch attribution—known in industry parlance as MTA and not to be confused with message transfer agent—and an additional 250 are seeking a solution in the next 18 months.
So MTA is gaining ground. Yet most marketers are still not applying MTA broadly in their organizations, leaving on average about 65 percent of their spending unassessed by MTA, according to the MMA.
Also, while most believe that MTA is marketing measurement’s Holy Grail, in the survey two-thirds of marketers were uncertain whether MTA pays for itself, according to the MMA
“The findings suggest that marketers’ biggest priority for MTA is the ability to show lift in campaign performance and improve validation of results,” the MMA said in a report.
The MMA is focused on MTA because mobile industry professionals are—probably correctly—convinced that like email the mobile channel isn’t getting the credit it deserves for its influence in customers’ and prospects’ buying journeys.
The MMA aims to change that. Email marketers should share that aim.
Email’s greatest strength as a marketing channel is that it is so inexpensive. Likewise, email’s greatest flaw is it’s so inexpensive. Most email marketing programs are chugging along fine pretty much on autopilot as far as C-level executives are concerned.
Thing is, most email marketing programs—even as neglected as so many of them often are—are doing better than fine. They’re driving sales for which other channels are getting credit.
An email campaign goes out, and inbound-call-center and search-related purchases spike. It happens all the time.
At its Google Marketing Next conference in San Francisco in May, the company announced Google Attribution, a new free solution that uses machine learning to assign values to the various advertising touchpoints in customers’ buying journeys.
The announcement signaled a big step toward an industry-wide movement away from last-click attribution.
And while the growing implementation of MTA can be seen only as good news for email as a channel, many marketing departments will not have the six-figure budget required for a complete MTA solution.
Yes, Google Attribution is free and as the old saying goes: “You get what you pay for.” Google Attribution is aimed at giving users a taste of Google’s MTA capabilities and getting them to upgrade to Google Attribution 360, which is said to cost $150,000 a year—still quite inexpensive by current industry standards.
According to the MMA, marketers on average pay $500,000 a year for MTA solutions.
Also, even with C-level buy-in, MTA is often politically challenging to implement across an organization.
But there are tactics any email marketing manager on a tight budget can implement independently that can convincingly demonstrate email’s otherwise unmeasured effects on sales.
We’ll start delving into those tactics in Part 2 of this series.