Don't Be Afraid of Attribution in Cross-Channel Marketing
As someone who has been trumpeting cross-channel marketing for years and years and years, the conversations about barriers (to cross-channel marketing) just bug me. But what bugs me the most are conversations where people say they can’t really deploy strategies across channels because of budget silos. The dreaded budget silos strike again! How does this cause a problem?
Here’s an example: Marketer A said the digital budget is in a different department, and the revenue that comes through the digital channel is only attributed to that department. Marketer A runs the direct-mail program and that’s in a different area than the digital program. Everyone knows that some of the donors getting a specific direct-mail campaign are going online and giving because of the email campaign. The challenge is that the digital revenue does not get attributed in any way to the direct-mail campaign and therefore the return on investments start to become inaccurate at the channel level. Yet, everyone wants to measure the ROI at the channel level.
And, guess what—that’s just an example with direct mail and email! Add in other channels and the situation gets further watered down. Here’s the problem: Some marketers are making marketing decisions based on how they can count the money.
Here’s another problem: “Channel attribution” (the concept of assigning appropriate value to all of the touches in a particular campaign across all the channels) has been seen as something that a) is very hard, b) is very complex and c) creates problems for the technology, digital and finance teams at the organization.
Finally, I read an article that tries to take all the scariness out of all this. Lena Bourgeois (vice president of the consumer market group at IXI Services, a division of Equifax) wrote an article titled “Before You Adopt an Omnichannel Strategy, Get the Attribution Recognition Right”. But she also said that there are some leaps of faith needed to move this along versus waiting for it to be the perfect approach.
I just love this article. Read it–and then read it again. Here are her key points:
1. “Effective direct omnichannel marketing delivers repeat messaging to the same consumer and takes them through the conversion loop. The same person typically has to see the same message across multiple channels for it to be effective.”
This is something we all know, but what this translates to is dedicating budget for multiple channels to create this dynamic. So, if your organization can’t really measure a campaign across all the channels and understand which channel is driving which portion of the revenue, that’s the problem. But it actually goes deeper than that because we all have to realize that the marketing messages being deployed across all the channels are driving revenue across all the channels. In other words, if you can calculate that 40 percent of the revenue from a campaign was brought in by the digital channel (the channel where the final transaction occurred), it is not accurate to even think that without the direct mail efforts the same 40 percent would have come in through digital. The sooner we all realize that we have moved past the world of “single channel impact,” the better.
2. “There's a buzzword a lot of marketers have heard—closed-loop attribution—that's designed to help them understand which pieces of their omnichannels efforts are advancing their intended goals.”
In short, what this means is you don’t count success based on the “last” touch. The goal is to understand all of the touches that resulted in an action. Closed-loop attribution is an approach to analytics (and software) which enables this. But, don’t stop reading now and think “Oh dear, we have to buy new software … ”
3. “Measurement takes time. Justified as the need to prove ROI upfront may be, marketers also need to make a leap of faith into omnichannel with the knowledge that the level of measurement they desire will take some time. The systems they use to attribute and measure their direct mail were not built in a day, and further investment in digital measurement is necessary to move things forward.”
Perhaps my favorite quote from the article, I love this because there are countless examples I am aware of where people are making decisions not to invest in cross-channel strategies for a campaign because they can’t measure it the way it is needed. With that said, as an organization you can’t allow your channels to be viewed in budget silos forever. An organization I work with recently indicated they were thinking of having the digital revenue no longer be considered a stand-alone revenue source but one that is “added to the bottom line” of all the channels. And, guess what—they didn’t institute some extensive change in technology or finance to reach this decision. This is the kind of thinking we need to really make the giant leaps of faith into multichannel/omnichannel.
Lastly, Bourgeois makes a statement that is strong, and I couldn’t agree with it more. She says “There is a give and take at play here, and for both sides to be successful, they need to encourage each other to grow mutually. Marketers have to be comfortable they will get the data and metrics that they can base all their campaign decisions on. And vendors, for all their claims, need to start providing this comfort and justifying further investment.”
Let’s face it, as nonprofits and agencies supporting nonprofits, we have grown so much over the last decade. However, there are still agencies out there that are truly focused on one channel. So, while nonprofits need to actually start thinking differently and making decisions differently (taking those leaps of faith), their agencies also need to venture outside the comfort zone of traditional analytics and ROI measurement (based primarily on direct mail) and start helping nonprofits create the attribution approaches that matter.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.