November 26, 2012

Attribution is Not Marketing

Today I read a TechCrunch article by Josh Costine relating the news that Twitter and Facebook were attributed tiny percentages of Black Friday sales (source: IBM's Black Friday report).

McKinsey recently released a report called The Social Economy saying that up to 1/3 of consumer spending is likely impacted by social shopping.

So what gives?  All my good marketers out there reading this are nodding knowingly. We all live this every day.

Attribution isn't "real" and there are many challenges with it (learn more here). It doesn't tell the buyers' actual behavior taking them from  awareness to purchase. It just shows their last click before purchase. It is definitely an important thing to know, but it's also not the whole story and it can't be the sole driver of your marketing strategy.

I like Google's Zero-Moment-of-Truth (ZMOT) construct because it clearly articulates that "something" needs to triggers buyers to go and search. It has to be on the person's mind for them to actively go and visit a search engine. And, you know a person must be fairly far down the funnel once they type in your product's or brand's name into that search box.

What is this mythical, mystical "something" that triggers a buyers to go and search? It's not a mystery - it's your integrated marketing strategy and programs. It isn't magic, it's just marketing.

You know need to be where your customers are, with compelling messaging and ads and content relevant and engaging enough to persuade them to take the next step. And their 'steps' aren't linear. It can take many touches as the buyer researches, compares, asks his social network, views it in a store, etc. ZMOT study the average number of touches at over 10! That may not be true for every brand and every product - but it's never just one.

At this time, it is hard (perhaps impossible) to know "precisely" the sales impact of your social channels. Yes, it makes our job as marketing leaders tougher, but that's why you're there!  If marketing were simply a numbers game, an engineer would have automated it by now.

So continue to set your marketing strategy and allocate your (always too limited) resources - optimizing appropriately where you can, but always keep in mind that attribution is just a tool - it's not marketing.