Is Marketing Attribution So Five Minutes Ago?

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Marketing attribution was probably never meant to be the end-all, be-all focus of marketing measurement. 

Having more data that directly ties marketing activities to sales outcomes should be a good thing for marketers, right? Right — when incorporated alongside marketing analytics tied directly to marketing strategy, not just sales outcomes. 

Unfortunately, the reality of marketing attribution today is that it’s become more of a replacement than a supplement to traditional marketing analytics. 

In a nutshell? Attribution has become the means to justify the expense of increasing marketing tech costs, rather than the method by which marketers understand their customers and make strategic decisions.

In this blog, we examine how we got here and what marketers should do moving forward in order to avoid the problems an attribution vs. analytics mindset can introduce.

Why Attribution Models Are Flawed

How did attribution become the hot-shot method for determining marketing effectiveness? Three words: return on investment. Attribution and tracking ROI are the biggest marketing challenges for B2B technology marketers today, worldwide.

Marketers know marketing provides value — 84% of marketers are confident that marketing impacts revenue and sales. But tying marketing value to, say, impressions or engagement metrics is harder to justify than tying those same marketing activities to specific dollar amounts, especially come budget discussion time. Only 60% of marketers are confident they are able to demonstrate ROI.

Ironically, rather than leading marketers to focus more on marketing activities that drive value, flawed attribution models often lead marketers to chase down data instead, manually populating spreadsheets in order to justify their existence (which becomes harder and harder as they have less and less time to actually market things). A whopping 70% of businesses struggle to act on the insights they gain from attribution.

Indeed, 53.3% of marketers say the main challenge to effective attribution is having minimal understanding and skills about it. (Which actually makes a lot of sense when you consider that most marketers were hired to market things, not analyze complicated data proving that they marketed things.)Given that 84.4% of US companies use digital attribution models of some kind, what’s to be done here?

Why a Focus on Analytics Over Attribution Is the Answer

The answer isn’t to stop tracking attribution altogether. Almost 60% of marketers agree that attribution’s main purpose is to align sales and marketing, which is important. Instead, rather than focusing entirely on attribution, marketers should shift their focus to analytics — specifically, analyzing leading indicators that bring relevant counter-measures to the surface as action items.

For example, analytics can tell you when a key account becomes unengaged. What marketing activities should the team respond with? Attribution models miss these important metrics altogether because they’re usually so focused on bottom-of-the-funnel outcomes instead of outcomes across the entire customer journey.

This shift of focus is especially important in the coming era of data privacy and cookie deprecation. Fewer consumers (less than half) will be willing to share their data for personalization when it comes to ads or brand experiences in general, even though personalized experiences are preferred.

By allowing marketing to focus more on, well, marketing, rather than attribution, there will be no need to prove marketing’s value, because the value will be self evident in the analytics. Not convinced quite yet? 

Consider the emerging attention economy. All signs point to engagement metrics as the most important area of focus in 2022 and beyond when it comes to determining actual intent and consumer buy-in. These are areas marketers need to focus on, now more than ever.

Make Changes Now for More Effective Attribution & Analytics

In summary: Having an analytics-first focus enables marketers to create action-based insights from their data that helps them to focus on the future. Having an attribution-first focus leads marketing teams backward, as they retrospectively prove value in flawed models that may or may not accurately depict where marketing is working.

If that latter description sounds like you, a first step is to take inventory of your martech stack and analytics tools to see where your focus lies — is it on attribution or analytics? Then, decide how your marketing and sales strategy can align outside of attribution, and see how attribution can be simplified in order to give better action items to both marketing and sales.

At Inverta, we provide the missing link between marketing operations and sales outcomes. We can take your team to the next level by providing the strategy and expertise to make shifts from attribution to analytics. Learn more here