Attribution starts with two dots

The last several years have been some of the most exciting in digital marketing generally and attribution specifically yet many advertisers struggle to make progress. How do consumers engage with my brand? How effective are my traditional and digital programs and where should I shift resources? How do I keep pace with changing media consumption trends? Attribution can address these thorny technical and political problems but where should you start… Rather than connecting all the dots, smart marketers focus on connecting two dots first; then two more and two more after that, iterating to a more comprehensive view of attribution over time.

Measurement comes before attribution

It’s useful to think about measurement and attribution as separate but related concepts. Measurement is the physical act of choosing what events to track and then aggregating sets of data from web, mobile apps, call centers, and other channels. Attribution is fed by measurement and, like anything in life, garbage in leads to garbage out. Whereas attribution can be done iteratively, measurement is usually a centralized process to ensure consistency and build trust with consumers of data and analysis. Worse than an inability to measure key business outcomes is the insular and ineffective culture that results from lack of trust in data. To make attribution work measurement is a necessary prerequisite.

Prioritize your first attribution dots

For organizations looking to both develop momentum and create durable institutional knowledge, how do you approach dozens of competing prioritizes? Let me suggest several straightforward attribution projects:

  1. Estimated conversions for insight into the efficiency of mobile search;
  2. Brand Lift to understand how creative resonates throughout the customer decision journey;
  3. Ghost ads to quantify the incremental contribution of display ads, allowing your team to approach view-through conversions with confidence;
  4. TV attribution to measure the second screen effect and start to build a cross-channel pictures of how your marketing programs compliment each other.

While these projects are tactical, they also align with CMO priorities such as mobile and video. They all have the benefit of requiring minimal upfront measurement work — most marketers can use these as quick wins to build attribution momentum, start a culture shift toward data-driven decision making, and secure more resources for larger initiatives. Before you boil the attribution ocean, try connecting two dots first.