5 tips for growth attribution modeling that actually work

  • 28 March 2022
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This content, written by Dean Wenstrand, was initially posted in Looker Blog on Aug 22, 2017. The content is subject to limited support.

Someone told me that marketing attribution was a ‘sexy’ thing to talk about in the analytics community. Despite all the content on the topic, and there is a ton, one important fact gets overlooked almost all the time and the tips below will make sure you don’t miss it. It’s a bit of a secret but I think savvy digital marketers and their analyst counterparts deserve to know. Multi-touch, last-in, w-shaped, time decay, first-touch, etc.… none of it, by itself, actually matters.

This is what matters: do the numbers that come out of your attribution model actually correlate with functional success and do the people who use it, in all their human glory, actually believe in and utilize those numbers to increase the success of your business?

That’s it, that’s the secret. For all the beautiful theory, analytical purity and inflexible logic of specious attribution models, the one thing that actually matters is whether or not it makes your company better. Here are five tips for making an attribution model that does just that.

  1. Keep it simple, stupid. If you can’t communicate how the model works and if people don’t understand it, how can you actually expect them to trust it, let alone optimize the metrics the model spits out? Seriously, 80/20 rule here - ALL DAY.

  2. Don’t be scared to have more than one. Different functions do different things and there doesn’t have to be one attribution model to rule them all. Financial reporting requires one kind, demand generation requires another, mid-funnel marketing a third. If someone needs it, make it.

  3. Choose models that make sense for your business. Is your database really small and do you need to focus on making it bigger? Great, then maybe last touch attribution isn’t for you. Maybe first touch is better because it will give credit to programs that do what your business needs - add net new names to your database. Build a model that biases action towards what your company needs now.

  4. Be clear about what your model is and what it isn’t. It isn’t a way to assign a literal accurate dollar amount to every single marketing interaction. It is a way to establish operating benchmarks and baselines for performance management.

  5. Stay in tune with the people who use them. At the end of the day, attribution is a way to help make people’s jobs easier. If your attribution model isn’t doing that then there is probably something wrong with it. Or, maybe you should find some new people to work with.

  6. (BONUS TIP) You’ve been awesome so far so here’s a bonus tip. Never, ever, for any reason implement omnitouch attribution. That’s when you say the full value of something can be attributed to every single thing that influenced it. I like counting a lot, it’s fun, meditative and often useful, but not so much that I think it’s a good idea to count the same thing more than once. Get it?

So there they are, five six tips for better marketing attribution. If you ignore them, you could end up with an attribution model that no one actually uses, one that actually hurts your business or one that never gets off the ground at all.

I actually like the hard science of attribution just as much as the next marketing nerd so if you too are interested in that stuff (and you promise to remember the above), I recommend this perfectly clear and lovely - may it shower us all with high CTRs and bountiful ROAS, now and forever. Amen.

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