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Feb 06, 2024 BY Adam Wakefield Marketing

Shifting Strategy: Embracing Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution

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Note: This article is meant for marketers with an established understanding of marketing attribution.

Marketing attribution, essential in digital marketing and particularly in the iOS (iPhone operating system) marketing space, is critical to understanding the impact of diverse efforts on outcomes like conversions. Attribution is about identifying and crediting the marketing channels or campaigns that contribute to the acquisition and conversion of users or customers (like your donors, members, students, etc.). You can employ a variety of attribution models, from simple (last non-direct click) to complex (AI-driven multitouch models).

There’s just one problem: as platforms introduce more privacy features for users—like the slow but steady death of IP address tracking in iOS—marketers lose more and more visibility of how a user was acquired or how the conversion was earned. Because of those increased privacy protections, effective digital marketing requires a strategy shift. For example, as Apple devices increasingly strip types of query strings when users click a link, marketers are finding new ways of tracking their efforts, such as adopting UTM-only query parameters.

A balanced approach to attribution that aligns more broadly with business objectives and a shift to less directly attributable marketing channels can help mission-driven organizations adapt to the evolving marketing landscape.

The Paradox of Less Measurable Marketing Channels

The current trajectory suggests a demanding future for attribution as direct measurement is becoming more and more difficult. This new shift underscores the significance of brand marketing and metrics once dismissed as “vanity” metrics—such as ad impressions. Previously overshadowed by more quantifiable data, these metrics now see renewed importance in an environment where direct links between your marketing work and audience actions are becoming obscured.

Rand Fishkin highlights the counterintuitive success of less measurable marketing channels like content marketing and social media. Although they can be difficult to measure in direct conversions—in terms of ROI, these channels can often outperform other more easily trackable methods, such as forms. Additionally, digital advertising platforms can be prone to variability and may overestimate ROI. That’s all the more reason to invest in organic, less quantifiable channels for achieving your long-term gains.

The Shift Towards a Refined Understanding of Attribution

According to MarketSplash, 71% of marketers view optimizing the customer journey across various touchpoints as “very important.” As digital marketing continues to evolve, there’s a growing need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of attribution. This requires a balanced integration of both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of your initiatives. The focus here should be transitioning from an exclusive emphasis on tracking direct conversions to a broader perspective that includes the influence of brand perception and audience engagement.

A strategic component is the shift towards a multi-touch attribution (MTA) model, moving away from traditional lead-based approaches. These offer various ways of evaluating touchpoints in the user journey:

  • Linear: Equally crediting all touchpoints and providing an overall view of the marketing strategy’s impact

  • Time decay: Giving more credit to touchpoints closer to conversion and placing more value on recent interactions

  • U-shaped: Focusing on the first and last touchpoints and assigning them the most credit, distributing the rest among other interactions

Each model should be considered based on your own specific campaign goals and unique dynamics.

Marketing Attribution Models from MarketSplash article

(Source: MarketSplash)

59.4% of marketers identified alignment between sales and marketing as the primary objective of attribution, underscoring the critical role of cohesive efforts across teams in driving successful outcomes‌. The models above go beyond just user (donor, member, student) counts, offering a comprehensive view of your team’s influence and collective contribution of various channels to your organization’s broader strategy and success.

Marketing Attribution Tools

If you want to begin measuring your marketing attribution, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few tools you can leverage to get started:

HubSpot

There’s a reason HubSpot’s popularity has grown so quickly. The platform allows you to drive every facet of your digital marketing efforts from one place—and is very user-friendly. Installing HubSpot’s tracking code on your site enables you to follow every marketing interaction and use automated workflows from that engagement to schedule tasks for your team. Their multi-touch attribution reporting options make it easy to see a complete view of your efforts and how all your marketing touchpoints work together to achieve your goals.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

If you want to track what happens on your website, GA4 is a must. You can set up conversion goals and manage them across your digital ecosystem. Within the Conversions report section, you’ll find several different attribution models (first touch, last touch, linear, time decay, and data-driven) and a model comparison tool that allows you to visualize any touchpoint’s impact. Whether you’re evaluating how long a user stays on a specific piece of marketing content, tracking what percent of your engagement is coming from mobile versus desktop, or comparing custom data sets, GA4 tells a cohesive story about who is moving through your site and how.

HotJar

Wouldn’t it be great if you could zero in on a user and be a fly on the wall as they navigate your site? HotJar gives you a front-row seat to actual engagement by using heatmaps to show session recordings of how they interact with the site. If you want to optimize web performance and increase conversions, this is another excellent tool for your belt.

Multi-Touch Attribution in Action

A real-world example can be seen in the case study of a leading nonprofit university that successfully implemented MNTN’s Performance TV Retargeting to drive cost-effective student acquisitions. They effectively harnessed Connected TV (CTV) advertising to target prospective students, achieving a 50% reduction in cost per acquisition (CPA). We see the power of advanced marketing attribution tools and strategies, particularly successful in the privacy-centric iOS marketing world of 2024. Precise targeting and retargeting can lead to a more cost-effective and impactful marketing campaign.

Final Thoughts

Now more than ever, there’s a pressing need for adaptability and a more refined understanding of your marketing channels. The attribution software market alone is projected to reach $12.9 billion by 2031, showcasing the increased importance of investing in these tools. This evolution requires you to embrace the complexities of attribution, valuing both measurable and traditionally more underappreciated metrics. Success hinges on your ability to adapt and work together as a team, using different models and ideas to leverage insights.

Are you interested in strengthening your digital marketing efforts to better understand your audiences? Reach out—we’d love to chat about how we can partner with you.

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