5 Things Every Marketer Should Know About Using Attribution Models


Just a few short years ago, marketing funnels were relatively simple to track. But, with the explosion of channels, devices and platforms, marketing attribution has become increasingly hard to keep up with, even for smart CMO-types.

While we aren’t going to solve the crazy complexity of attribution in one short article, we can explore some of the larger concepts that may give your marketing attribution program some direction. They may even help you navigate yourself out of the attribution thicket.

We all know that we need attribution modeling and most of us are already doing it in some form or another. Still, many attribution programs start and end with mechanics and ignore the big ideas that can make attribution most valuable. We have taken a shot at capturing some of the best ones -


#1 Don’t overthink the mechanics.

Perhaps you and your team are scratching your heads trying to figure out how to create a sophisticated attribution system. We have some good news for you…you are probably already halfway there. If you use Google Analytics plus Facebook, Twitter and other social media marketing channels (and you track your data correctly) you have a lot of the basic mechanics in place to do great attribution modeling.

Google Analytics is already tracking how your users interact with your web site and each one of your channels is tracking the all-important key performance indicators (KPIs). If you already tie some of that information into your customer relationship management tool (CRM), you have all the pieces in place to go further. There are many cost effective tools that can help you manage the data you already have, including easy to use subscription-based tools. The main point here is that the data and its collection is usually not the problem.


#2 Ask the right questions.

The problem actually is that, whether you are looking at first-click attribution, last click attribution or all the points in-between, the data isn’t important unless it is answering questions that are valuable to your business. So, ask the right questions rather than letting the mechanics and the easy-to-gather information drive your attribution plan.

One of the most important things you can measure is the lifetime value of a customer (LTV). This is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer. One way to get closer to that metric using attribution modeling is to start putting less value on single-conversion events or single click events and analyzing the process as a whole. Our technology drives us in the other direction, so it’s important to look at ways that attribution can keep being directed back to the LTV question and others like it.


#3 Start thinking like a team.

To really understand things like LTV, everyone in your business has to be willing to participate in the process. Accurate attribution modeling requires digital teams, finance departments and marketing gurus to pull together in a big way. Sometimes it requires strong leadership to get everyone on board. The granularity of a good attribution program can feel uncomfortable for individuals or departments when it shines a light on issues in the sales funnel. However, accurate attribution ensures that everyone gets acknowledged for their contribution, not just the downstream team that oversees the final click.  


#4 Perfection is impossible.

So, that wonderful, perfectly accurate distribution model that takes everything into account…it doesn’t exist. A big part of managing the crazy complexity is knowing when good enough is good enough. Attribution modeling is the perfect example of the law of diminishing returns. This is especially true when it comes to overwhelming amounts of data. Get clear about where you sit on that graph, find your sweet spot and don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


#5 Nothing replaces good marketing.

Even if you magically create the perfect system (see above) where every click and swipe creates accurate, actionable data, you still have to execute a great marketing plan. Attribution tells you which points in your funnel are most critical to your process, but as any CMO knows, that is actually where the real work starts. You still need solid strategy, regular A/B testing and a great content team to actually make the most of those ads, clicks and searches.


The technology of attribution is changing daily and it is easy to get lost in the details of implementing an attribution modeling program. However, one thing is certain - a focus on the big picture, teamwork and a little perspective won’t ever go out of style.