Give Credit Where It’s Due

How can marketers make cross-channel attribution a reality?

“How can marketers make cross-channel attribution a reality?” has been a burning question for almost a decade. In my early days working with Fortune 50 companies in the tech and finance verticals, marketers attempted to solve budget struggles between search and display by trying to develop a true apples-to-apples comparison for conversions in a market of apples-to-oranges. Now, with better tracking tools and technologies, marketers can truly see what channels drive results, creating an evolution in the way we attribute value to each step in the consumer’s path to purchase; many marketers no longer give all the purchase credit to the last ad clicked.

These tools help marketers examine how each invested dollar performed in delivering consumers to purchase decisions. For example, what we’ve suspected all along—e.g., awareness efforts in the upper funnel drive lower funnel conversions and therefore deserve a larger share of the credit—can be proven factually based on data.

Thus, having clear insight into how upper-funnel activities make an impact becomes critical to assigning the appropriate credit. Organizations must take proactive steps to ensure they’re positioned to gather these insights and capitalize on them.

The right tools and continuous measurement

First things first: If you don’t have the right tools, you’re flying blind; and if you don’t have the resources to leverage the data output from these tools, you’re flying without a pilot. As organizations work to better understand the impact of cross-channel attribution, their infrastructure and related resources for data collection and analysis become key factors for success measurement. Cross-channel marketing efforts can generate large amounts of data and can shed light on which channel or team should be credited for what percent of a lead or conversion. However, to do so effectively marketers need tools that allow for seamless data integration across channels, as well as people who can analyze the relevant data to provide clear comparisons of the effectiveness of each component.

Marketers in organizations just starting with cross-channel attribution should pick a few seamless channels (perhaps search and display) to start the process. Use these channels to establish the process, including:

1. Who’s responsible for data analysis?

2. How frequently will the data get analyzed?

3. Should the cookie/look-back windows change?

4. What’s your testing plan in terms of tweaking to see how small changes impact performance?

When analyzing the data it’s important to incorporate relevant historical data to paint a full picture of performance fluctuations. This helps identify external factors, like seasonal trends, which may impact certain channels and allow for quick adjustments to capitalize on the best performing channels, assets and tactics.

The key is to remain nimble. Do more of what works and reassess what isn’t, including your analytics tools. What worked last year won’t necessarily work again next year.

Move beyond the silos to align with business goals

Still, there’s more to cross-channel campaign success than just measurement. For true success organizations should take a holistic approach to campaigns, including evaluating internal structure. Historically, marketing existed in silos defined by specialty or media type, often leading to internal competition and misalignment with overarching business goals. Organizations need to adjust their structure to remove these silos and drive a change in how digital marketing factors into business decisions to ensure better alignment.

It’s critical for marketing teams to build close working relationships across departments like IT and PR to ensure efficiencies and understanding between their efforts. As marketing strategies shift, IT implementations are necessary to ensure success; website or server updates implemented unilaterally result in broken or missing tracking and measurement codes integral to the success of marketing efforts. These communications breakdowns result in lost dollars and man-hours until the problem is identified and repaired. Marketers can also provide a wealth of knowledge regarding SEO enhancements to press releases, website layouts, and other valuable assets, boosting their value to the organization and consumers alike. PR teams and IT can both use this knowledge to become more nimble in their efforts to react quickly to opportunities such as breaking news stories that can impact the entire organization.

Of course, change takes time and effort, so start by taking small steps. By using data to assign appropriate credit, teams will begin to better understand the role their efforts played, and hopefully, that it’s time to move beyond antiquated attribution models like last click.


Viji Davis, Resolution Media

As VP of Marketing at Resolution Media, Viji Davis is responsible for brand strategy, corporate brand identity, and ensuring that all of the company’s products and services are well covered in the marketplace. Throughout her time at Resolution, Davis has worked with such brands as Bank of America, Lowe’s, HP, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Her passion for teaching and collaboration has led her to serve as an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago’s Graham School. Also, the University of Illinois alum frequently speaks at industry events.

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