Outdated Models of Attribution Explained By A Doorman

DoormanCropAs everyone in the marketing world knows, attribution is one of the hot topics for 2013. Our friends at RhinoFish Media, a PPC consulting firm, have written a guest post explaining the problems with outdated models of attribution. A simple travel metaphor illuminates just how wrong these models can be.

The number one thing we do here at RhinoFish to ensure affiliate revenue (or any revenue) is incremental is to dive deeply into conversion attribution.

We view driving conversions like taking a trip. Recently, you drove your car to your hometown airport, you took a bus from the parking lot to the terminal, you walked to your gate, you flew to Philly, you walked down to the street, and you took a cab to this hotel. And guess what, the doorman completely ‘attributed’ your arrival just to the cab that pulled into the hotel driveway. Good thing he’s not in charge of attribution!

That would be crazy, but that’s what our industry is mostly doing: doorman attribution. A better travel attribution model might be to give full credit to whichever leg took you the most miles – the plane. If only Analytics could measure that touch ‘value’ in our online selling!

Truth is, it took each leg to get there. But each leg did not contribute the same value, so you can’t just evenly spread the credit over the various legs either. If forced to pick only one leg, you’d likely pick the one with the highest total value.

When asked, your super complex, mathematical human mind would perform a series of very fast attribution modeling calculations. “How did you get here?” “I flew.” You wouldn’t tell people you took a cab to Philly, or that you took a bus, or that you walked – though you certainly did that along the way.

In marketing, you also need to devise a set of mechanisms to discern the contributed value of various touches. It’s not easy, but since we’re all already travel attribution experts, it doesn’t take too much creativity and experimentation to also become a marketing attribution expert.

There are many ways to measure value, but they’ve all been largely ignored in online marketing. The lazy ‘last-in gets 100% credit’ days are coming to an end. Start inspecting your Google Analytics Multi Channel Funnel (MCF) module for value observations, patterns, hypotheses, and experiment ideas. And say goodbye to the doorman method of attribution!

This post makes it clear that getting attribution right is one of the most important things a business can do, because it drives every other marketing and sales decision. Proper attribution is the only way to ensure that an increase in affiliate marketing efforts, for instance, actually brings a corresponding increase in revenue from affiliate programs. The same goes for all other marketing channels. The old ‘doorman’ method of attribution can mislead businesses into channeling resources toward sales and marketing efforts that in reality contribute a relatively small slice of revenue.