Marketing Attribution and the Achilles Heel

Organizations are struggling with marketing attribution accuracy, often unknowingly, and it’s costing them a fortune.

John Wanamaker lived from 1838 to 1922 and was credited with this quote:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker

John Wanamaker had the same marketing attribution problem that plagues modern business leaders. He decided to err on the side of caution by continuing to spend for the sake of business growth and profitability. With this tactic John was able to grow his department store chain to 16 locations.  His business eventually became part of what we now know as Macy’s. Fast forward 100+ years later and we now have increased global competition with more than 15% of all retail sales coming through online channels. As a result, advertising mediums have never been more complicated than they are today. Furthermore, only the largest conglomerates have the luxury of taking John’s position on marketing budgets.

Small & Midsize Businesses Cannot Waste Marketing Spend

Small and mid-sized businesses cannot afford to spend twice the needed amount in marketing simply because they are unable to account for the 50% that makes the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. Blue-chip companies are lucky to have an operating margin in in the 30% range. For SMB’s, an efficient marketing budget may be the difference between having an operating margin at all. Without identifying what marketing spend is the most valuable the business stagnates or worse, closes.

The ability to track and attribute marketing spend to desired outcomes has improved drastically. However, as advertising has increased in complexity many companies suffer from the same attribution problem today. The paths on the customer journey have increased equally to our ability to accurately track it. This dilemma leaves the same potential for error that John experienced. The good news is that we absolutely can chip away at the 50% of wasted spend, but we have to understand the true problem behind the inaccuracies.

The Achilles Heel of Marketing Attribution

Achilles Heal
Achilles Heal

Put simply, the Achilles heel  of marketing attribution is the knowledge gap between marketers and technologists. The underlying chronic issue with marketing attribution is “inaccuracy” versus poor strategy. Many marketers and businesses understand concepts like attribution, multi-touch attribution, customer research journeys and cost per aquisition (CPA). In most cases they have even selected and implemented a relevant strategy. The problem is not the strategy or lack thereof. It is that the execution is delivering inaccurate results. Many marketers are unable to get into the weeds of the technology to fully understand and implement an effective marketing attribution framework for their business.

Marketers have outsourced the underlying details of marketing attribution to a technology system, technologist, or a combination of the two. In that dissonance is a knowledge gap between the systems, technologist, marketers and the desired business outcome. This results in inaccuracies and lost revenue. The inaccuracy can boil down to a bad line of code buried deep within the weeds of a system written by a developer unable to see the forest through the weeds.

Fix Your Marketing Attribution Inaccuracies

If fixing marketing attribution was easy then it would not be a rampant issue. To solve the problem the Internet has created another evangelically inspired unicorn title: Growth Hacker. Like most buzzwords in their infancy this title is fraught with ambiguous titles not well understood by the businesses who need them most. To start, let’s define what a Growth Hacker is intended to be:

A Growth Hacker (unicorn) is a proven marketing professional with a very high level of technology skills.  Here are some of the critical skills needed:

  • Proven marketing professional with experience building marketing automation platforms (not just Pay-per-Click campaigns)
  • Fluency in programming languages and web technologies
  • Ability to write, modify and troubleshoot queries and interact with databases (MySQL/SQL)
  • General understanding of data science principles with the ability to distinguish causation and correlation and can perform multivariate analysis
  • Ability to translate complex technical and marketing concepts into digestible narratives

As a result, few organizations have acquired (or can afford) a real life, full time unicorn. However, those that have can eliminate their Achilles heel, chip away at the 50% of wasted spend and are able to grow their business while increasing operating margins. The Growth Hacker completely understands your marketing strategy and desired attribution tactics, can execute it and can find and fix that bad line of code buried deep within the system hosing your marketing attribution.

If you are interested in renting a unicorn, the staff at IronFocus are here to help.

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