Smart Attribution Modeling

Depending on the size and scope of your advertising and marketing spend, you may have spent time and effort thinking about attribution modeling. Different organizations have very different approaches to attribution.

analyticsDepending on the size and scope of your advertising and marketing spend, you may have spent time and effort thinking about attribution modeling. Different organizations have very different approaches to attribution.

To this end, developing a valuable attribution model that serves your goals and your business can take many forms. Herein, I’ve put together some criteria that’ve been used effectively by a number of organizations we’ve worked with to inform decision-making and use of attribution methods and models.

First Things First: Determine Your End

The most important questions senior marketers need to ask going into an attribution initiative, at any level of investment, include:

  • “What is the purpose for attributing (estimating) media value?” You may be surprised how often that answer is ill-defined. Make sure you can answer, in simple business outcome terms, what the purpose of your attribution is. All else fails if this step is missed.
  • “How logical, defensible and credible is a potential attribution methodology?” While attribution, by its nature, is rarely deterministic, it is requisite that a methodology is credible and has robust basis, or a raison d’etre, if you will, if it is to add value. The understanding individuals often develop is an appreciation that the assumptions underpinning any attribution strategy are tenants of the strategy itself.

The right answers for any brand depend on keeping the end in mind and knowing the expected outcome. So the logical starting point is defining your purpose for attributing media value, as described in that context. For example, “to get the best ROI from our advertising investments.”

3 Strategic Attribution Model Levers

In the spirit of keeping it simple, we think in terms of three strategic attribution levers that an organization can benefit from. These strategic levers are used to inform both the attribution model selection and the weighting of channels. They are as follows:

  • Engagement: Measures a customer’s depth of interaction and potentially, the relationship with the brand.
  • Recency: The amount of time lapsed since the last touch. For example, all other things being equal, a touch yesterday is more valuable than a touch 45 days prior.
  • Intent: Identifies a need the user has or information the user is seeking. Intent is specifically valuable in search, and sometimes in social media. Lead generation programs demonstrate intent, as well. The point of considering “intent” is that it prequalifies traffic in a meaningful way. If the consumer exhibits intent-driven behavior — that should be weighted heavier in your attribution thought process.

While the decision to “attribute” always means judgment is incorporated, the credibility of the attribution is higher when media touches are evaluated within the three strategic levers and should always be based on the nature of the interaction — or lack thereof. If a user did not engage with an ad, then the amount of interaction is lower or even zero.

The following chart breaks out major channels and how you might evaluate each of the strategic levers discussed above.

Ferranti display ad chart

Ferranti display ad chart part two

The ‘Bonus’ Lever: Measurability

Measurability is the “fourth” strategic lever, and can be considered optional for very large brands utilizing traditional non-digital channels extensively. A channel that has evidence associated with its performance is one that can be weighted accordingly. When a channel is measurable, the weighting in the attribution model can be scaled to leverage the predictability of that channel; thereby, improving the efficacy of the attribution. It is a reality that some channels however, will have hard measures, while others require more assumptions and inferences.

Brands should give thoughtful consideration to not inadvertently “reward” a channel, simply because it is hard to measure — and, by the same token, not unnecessarily punish them, either.

Over- or under-weighting channels that have weak evidence of conversion value can actually reduce the performance of the overall media mix.

Viewability and Display-Weighting

While reach, frequency and targeting are hallmarks of display advertising, it has the widely known challenge of “viewability.” Viewability is when an ad is served (and paid for) but a consumer does not see it.

When the objective is to improve the ROI of the media mix, ads that are never seen (un-viewable) should be accounted for in the attributed value of the channel.

One way marketers simplify account viewability concerns is by deducting the percentage of ads that can never be seen on a percentage basis when weighting online display in the model. Bear in mind, “viewable” generally means that only part of the ad was viewable for 1 second. Specific viewability metrics should be discussed and negotiated with media outlets or networks you work with.

How Much Is Viewable or Unviewable?

A recent study done by Google identifies that many display ads are never viewed; therefore, the weighting of display ads should consider this reality (opens as a PDF).

Here are some of the issues with viewability that should influence the weighting of display.

  • 1 percent of all impressions measured are not seen, but the average publisher viewability is 50.2 percent.
  • The most viewable ad sizes are vertical units. Above the fold is not always viewable … Worth considering when weighting display.
  • Page position isn’t always the best indicator of viewability.
  • Viewability varies across industries. While it ranges across content verticals and industries, content that holds a user’s attention has the highest viewability.
  • The most important thing is to give viewability consideration and weight based on your own experience.

Frequently Used Attribution Models

Let’s summarize the most popular attribution models in order of frequency of use, and as based on field experience. There are many more models you may consider, and this list is not intended to be exhaustive.

  • Last Click: 100 percent of the sale is credited to the last click, given its immediacy in driving the sale.
  • Linear Attribution: Equal weighting is given to all touchpoints, regardless of when they occurred. Its strength and weakness is in its simplicity. Not every touch is equal and for good reasons that we’ll describe in some detail below.
  • Time-Decay Models: The media touchpoint closest to conversion gets most of the credit, and the touchpoint prior to that will get less credit. This is the best of the simple approaches. It does not, however, account for brand discovery.
  • Position Model: Position model utilizes intuition and assumption to spread the weights of touches over time, heavying up the first and last touches, and considering the middle touches to spread the difference evenly across them. To be clear, this model presupposes “zero” brand awareness — and, therefore, that every customer “discovered” the brand from a (display/banner) ad impression, for example. Blanketing an audience in advertisements can provide great reach and frequency. It also sets a lot of cookies, which can be used to set the first “position.”

Pointers for Getting Started

The closer you can get to individualized attribution vs. broadcast attribution, the stronger the returns. For example, attribution by segment can provide insights you miss when measuring the aggregate.

Channel measurability should be weighted accordingly. Non-measurable channels should be measured by depth of observable engagement.

The Time-Decay model is widely considered a good place for brands to use when getting started in media attribution. Brands can simply insert logical and evidence-based assumptions and customize the half-life of decay based on the Three Strategic Levers described above.

Follow-up discussion and analysis can refine your thinking and allow you to provide a rationale that helps achieve the most credible, logical and valuable attribution capability.


The Best Sales Touchpoint Email Cadence

The words “sales email” and “touchpoints” are evil — pure evil — because of the context in which “touchpoint” is used. Managers feel pressure to see reps making “X” number of contact attempts per week.

EmailThe words “sales email” and “touchpoints” are evil — pure evil — because of the context in which “touchpoint” is used. Managers feel pressure to see reps making “X” number of contact attempts per week.

“How many new touchpoints have you made in total?”

“How many times did you attempt/touch each prospect on your list?”

This kind of requirement leads reps to type, “What is the best sales email cadence?” into Google.

The results can be disastrous.

Accountability for Spamming

Most sales managers hold reps accountable for spamming. You can call it volume of outbound attempts at new customers. And, yes, it’s vital to aggressively prospect using email, LinkedIn/social and telephone. All channels.

But are sellers being held accountable for spamming?

My experience working with reps proves: 99.5 percent of the time “you need X touchpoints per week” encourages good reps (who know better) to start spamming.

It also forces reps who don’t know better to start spamming … and to fail as sales professionals. Habit formation is key. Bad habit formation is deadly to the individual and organization.

Worse, I see top-performing reps who know a mass, templated, “touchpoint” approach won’t work still doing it. Because they need to follow orders, and unfortunately have very little freedom to explore what works.

The Freedom Box

The last thing you want to do with great reps (and reps who have the potential to be great) is to micro-manage their activities. Instead, manage their activities and keep them moving full steam ahead. But also out of trouble as they find their way forward. So how to balance? Freedom.

Forbes contributor, Jim Keenan created the “freedom box” several years ago.

“If the results are there the employee has all the freedom they want. They can do anything they feel is necessary to be successful,” says Keenan.

The box is big with lots of options. Reps have lots of freedom to innovate on what works.

“They can attack their job in any fashion they see fit, leveraging any approach they want. They have full autonomy,” says Keenan.

“Keenan’s ‘freedom box’ shrinks as a function of bottom line results for each rep and gravitates towards activity management as the freedoms (and the results) decline,” says sales manager coach David Masover.

“In other words, there is a reciprocal relationship between freedom and results.”

Accidentally Forcing Reps to Spam?

By not allowing reps enough freedom to experiment, fail and learn from failure we all lose. Including customers who need our products/services. Sellers end up spamming, failing and developing failing habits.

“Let’s be clear — you can’t manage results. You can only manage activities that lead to results,” says Masover.

Your Future Is Beyond Advertising

I’ve been covering marketing for almost a decade now between Target Marketing and Catalog Success (not to mention some work with EM+C, All About Email and a few others). One word I say far less than I ever thought I would is “advertising.”

IcebergI’ve been covering marketing for almost a decade now between Target Marketing and Catalog Success (not to mention some work with EM+C, All About Email and a few others). One word I say far less than I ever thought I would is “advertising.”

That’s because, when you look at where marketing is now and where it’s going, it’s clear the future is beyond advertising.

That doesn’t mean advertising — paying to run ads on TV, radio, the Internet, your friendly neighborhood Target Marketing magazine, or anywhere else — is going away. But the universe in which you communicate with your customers and prospects has changed, and so has the role of marketing in the company.

Ads used to be the centerpiece, now they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

The customer journey might start there, but it’s going to run through miles and miles your own emails, content, demos, reviews, social media, direct marketing and customer service. And those extra miles do more to define your brand to those people than any ad ever could.

Going Beyond Advertising

One marketing expert who’s very aware of that is Dr. Yoram “Jerry” Wind, lauder professor and professor of marketing at The Wharton School, founding director of the Wharton SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management, and primary author of the book “Beyond Advertising: Creating Value through All Customer Touchpoints.”

Wind will also be the closing keynote speaker at the Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference on June 23. And 10 attendees to that session will win a free, autographed copy of the book “Beyond Advertising!”

“Beyond Advertising” is based on a multiyear, in-depth study of marketers and agencies throughout the world designed to learn how marketing will look in 2020. The conclusion they came to is that marketers are going to need to be able to manage the customer experience to create value across all their touchpoints with your company.

The book gets into the forces of change that you can harness to propel your company where it needs to be, as well as the mental models that you need to challenge because they stand in the way of change. And Wind will talk about those during the keynote, too.

Wharton Value Creation Model
This all touchpoint value creation model is step three in the Wharton Beyond Advertising Roadmap, and puts the emphasis on creating value for your target customers, rather than brand messaging.

What I want to focus on here is the all touchpoint value creation model that emerged from this study, outlined in the image at right.

The core idea of the model is that someone needs to be orchestrating the elements of your company that touch the customer, which is very nearly all of them.

If you align your products with the goals and community orientation of your target customers, provide a unifying brand focus that rallies the people in your company with those goals, and orchestrate all of your customer touchpoints to deliver experiences that reinforce that focus and help your customers reach those goals, then you are creating value for your customers at all touchpoints and become more than just another commodity in their lives.

In this model, you’re emphasizing the types of interaction that add value for your customers, and advertising represents just a couple of those touchpoints.

You can hear more about the M.A.D.E.s and R.A.V.E.s in the interview I did with Wind earlier this year.

What it all comes down to is marketing is becoming more important to companies and customers, while advertising itself is becoming a smaller part of it. Thus: The future of marketing lies beyond advertising.

What skills do you need to make sure your marketing, and your career, are effective in this new situation? Click here to register for the Integrating Marketing Virtual Conference on June 23 and hear it all from Jerry Wind himself. And if you do that, you’ll automatically be entered to win a free, autographed copy of “Beyond Advertising”!

I hope to see you there.

What’s the Best Cold Email Sequence?

Transactional Messaging - Much More than Just a Confirmation EmailThe best cold email sequence is the one that opens the door to more meetings, right?

Not really.

The best cold email sequence is one that qualifies buyers faster. So your meet with more closeable clients.

Sequencing email touches is about increasing quality of meetings, not quantity. And therein lies the power.

Rushing the meeting can sabotage you on the first touch. But pushing for meetings also can ruin your chances during the email sequence.

Point blank: Even when a client invites you to discuss the benefits of what you sell, it’s often not a good idea. Because some clients think they’re ready to buy, but aren’t. They’ll waste your time.

Here’s a way to take the guesswork out of cold effective email sequences that qualify buyers faster. Make sure your email sequence qualifies leads by:

  • Earning replies with a dramatically different first-touch approach
  • Attracting the buyer to the idea of talking with you
  • Sparking curiosity by repeatedly holding back full details on your product/service

When customers want to go fast, consider slowing customers (and yourself) down.

Getting Response to Your First Touch
When “googling” around, beware of bad advice about cold email sequences and techniques to qualify leads. Most of what I see these days does not work. Here is my best advice (some of the below may surprise you):

When making your first approach be sure resist the urge to:

  • Request a meeting
  • Present a clear opportunity
  • List your benefits or clients
  • Include links or attachments

Ninety-five percent of B-to-B email prospecting sequences should not start by requesting a meeting. Because most prospects are not be ready for it. Most perfectly good buyers will, on first contact, say no to a meeting, simply because you asked too soon for it. Especially if you’re approaching “status quo” buyers or practicing challenger selling —where you need a sequence of emails to help re-frame your target’s point-of-view.

Beware of presenting a clear opportunity. Clear is not provocative. I see a lot of self-appointed experts telling people to be super clear about the opportunity. Big no-no. Your prospects don’t want your opportunity. They’re busy with other priorities. Your first touch should create productive tension, not clarity.

Tension provokes.

Stand out by being brief, blunt and provocative — helping the prospect develop a reason to talk with you.

Absolutely never include links and attachments. None. Doing so distracts prospects from your goal (and what could be their goal too). And that goal is hitting reply and inviting you to discuss their pain, fear or goal with them.

Links send buyers to websites and websites are distractions. Help them focus on the goal: Replying. Immediately. Without delay!

Be bold. Resist the urge to do what most sellers are doing right now … and many “experts” are teaching.