You know the saying: “who you see is what you get?”

Well, in the marketing world, when you go see a website company, they’ll tell you you need a new website. The social media specialist tells you to post and post and post, and let’s not forget the SEO guys – “we’ll get you on Google’s first page!” What about vlogging or doing a webinar, or even telemarketing?  And what about advertising in the trade press, or your local business magazine. So much advice and so many opinions and alleged experts! Who is telling the truth?

It is the perennial marketing question: which marketing channel is delivering business for you?

Well, if you knew the answer, it would make things a whole lot easier. You could focus on the marketing channel or activity that’s getting you the business and save on the rest. But in reality, for most businesses, it’s just not that simple.

There’s a bit of marketing jargon that has been around for a bit now – it’s rather misunderstood, and in my opinion, it’s also very important.

It’s ‘Attribution’

So what is Attribution and why does it matter (to you!)?

Follow me on this one, and read on…

Before someone purchases a product or service, they are exposed to numerous marketing touchpoints. And these touchpoints include everything from TV advertising, comparison sites, reputation sites, Amazon, trade press, outdoor posters, email marketing, Facebook advertising – in fact, any marketing channel delivered by any one of the alleged experts. Even Trust Pilot or Trip Advisor!

Attribution is the science of assigning a value or a credit to the touchpoints before the customer makes their purchase. And, if done correctly, then the value of that credit is assigned proportionally to each touchpoint according to its influence.

Think about it. If there was only one marketing channel and you got all your sales from that one channel, it’s not rocket science to work out what’s working for you.

So ask yourself, what led to your last customer saying ‘yes, we’d like to work with you’ or “yes, I’d like to buy your product”?

Is Attribution a new thing?

No – just think about the old advertising saying by John Wanamaker (1838-1922). “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”

So even back in the advertising dark ages, understanding what was really driving sales was on the agenda.

What has changed dramatically since then is our dependence on the online world. And whether you like it or not, we’re just at the beginning of this rapidly evolving marketing maelstrom.

And perhaps the biggest change, and I think it’s a truly insidious one, is the way in which targeted messaging will continue to evolve to deliver what advertisers know we like or want. Alexa and Google Home anyone?

Targeted messaging? Remember Tom Cruise getting his eye scanned in the futuristic film Minority Report? The poster site scans his eye and delivers targeted advertising to him.

An important point to remember. Think about paid advertising on Google for a moment. You want a service or a product, it could be a solicitor in Bristol or a trampoline for your daughter! You bash in ‘divorce solicitor Bristol’ or ‘cheap trampoline’ into the search engine. Google delivers the results, you click and you buy. Simple. So that’s called ‘Last click attribution’ and it’s a fundamentally flawed model. Obviously, Google thinks it’s pretty cool, as they pick up 100% of the credit (or attribution). You pour more money into the top of the Google funnel, It could be Facebook etc.

I recently heard this story at a conference run by my friends at SearchStar – they are a very capable and respected PPC and digital media agency in Bath. It goes like this:

“My journey to work starts with a walk to the station, I then get on the train, it’s a short journey from Swindon to Bath. I then walk from the station to the office, that’s about 10 minutes. I then get the lift to the top floor. So, using the ‘last-click attribution’ model, how did I get to work? Yup, I got to work by lift!”

Beware statistics!

Think about who stands to gain by claiming a sale is attributable to their marketing channel. Exactly – it’s the owner of the channel and it matters A LOT! So remember Attribution is a flawed science and the likes of Facebook et al will do all they can to pick up credit, even if it’s not deserved! Yes, it’s true!

This is the most important bit – if you’re going to read nothing else, read this bit

There is a bigger picture here, away from online and blurred statistics. It’s not about whether you pay for any online advertising, or how much you spend on SEO or other forms of advertising. Rather, it has to do with reassurance. Most of you reading this will be in business selling a service. That could be accountancy, training, printing, legal, HR, IT Support, advertising and marketing, dentistry, hospitality, recruitment, catering, even funeral services!

The customer journey starts with a defined need. The customer then starts to look for the service or product they want to fulfil the need. And they find your business (you hope!). So it’s a done deal, isn’t it? No, it’s emphatically not the case.

The potential customer needs to feel reassured that you can deliver what they need. And if you’re not looking great for every touchpoint, then it’ll be your competitors that will be sending the invoice out. You’ll just be part of the process, and you might not even know anyone even bothered to look!

So what builds this reassurance? Well, for a start it’s never about you and your passion and your 25 years of experience – it’s always about the customer and what they want! Always. And it’s a big subject too, perhaps one of my favourite topics!  You can read more about reassurance in my other blog posts.

Have a look at the following for some pointers:

-Perhaps your prospects don’t trust you?
-Perhaps your marketing is just too dull?
-Personality: Why it matters so much for businesses selling high-value consultative products and services.

So how does this link to attribution?

It’s all about not getting bogged down in the jargon and the metrics. You can spend a fortune getting the customer to your business. Be that through any number of marketing channels.

Attribution is crucial if you want to understand where to spend your marketing money. But you need the fundamentals sorted first.

So where IS your next sale coming from? Well, that depends; if you’re not looking the part, and if your potential customers are not impressed and reassured, or if you’re too expensive and if you don’t, on the surface, seem capable, they’ll walk on by.

If you’d like to talk to me about how your business looks, please do get in touch.