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Attribution Buyers Guide: Timeliness and the Need for Speed

Last updated: December 21, 2020

Timeliness and the need for speed.jpg

Modern marketing professionals at companies large and small are facing the same problem…The need for timely and meaningful insights to make right-time improvements to their marketing efforts. Measuring marketing effectiveness and quickly identifying specific ways to improve the ROI of your marketing spend while campaigns are live has never been easy – even when most of our marketing was limited to a few television networks, radio and newspapers. The problem has only gotten more challenging with the explosion of television networks, satellite radio, digital advertising, email, social networks, and the other millions of modern day channels available to today’s marketer.

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Most marketers are looking for prospective insights that consider the entire mix and are actionable based on what is actually happening today – Not what happened months ago. Unfortunately, many of the insights delivered by tools at our disposal are not very timely. Results typically lag the actual spend by several months. Marketers find themselves working off yesterday’s news responding to the dynamics of a marketplace that are already weeks or months past.

In most companies, marketing is always changing. So, looking backward several months may not be very relevant to the marketing you’re doing today. Think about the impact this has in industries where seasonal changes have a big impact on sales. Retail marketers need up-to-the-minute insights to make sure their programs work for maximum impact on promoting the items their customers need now.

In this installment of our Attribution Buyers Guide series we will try to identify some of the key challenges marketers face in getting timely insights to optimize their marketing. Let’s take a look.

Leading vs Lagging Indicators

Most marketing attribution models look backward at lagging indicators, such as sales. While sales may be the ultimate measure of a marketer’s success, the sale, or “success event,” may not occur for weeks or even months after a campaign. Those who want to optimize marketing need a leading indicator model that they have established as a driver of downstream sales, so that they can interpret data and apply changes while the campaign is still active and they can still make a difference.

Set-Up Speed 


Many models can take months to set up, involving labor-intensive tagging. These models don’t give results for months, while others have streamlined the process and can deliver optimization in under 60 days.

Reports vs. Workflow Dashboards, Service, Technology

Many models deliver backward-looking PowerPoints or web reports. While the attribution may show up in a pretty web interface, for a marketer to gain the benefits of attribution, the attribution has to be linked to a workflow to convert the data into decisions. Attribution vendors come in different shapes and sizes. Some are service-oriented and light on technology. These solutions rarely include workflow. Others are technology-heavy and lighter on service. They may or may not have workflow, and the marketer may or may not have the support they need to get into a regular rhythm of action. The following are important service and technical attributes that marketers should look for:

  • Scalable service levels that will help customers manage measurement and online & offline media optimization strategies, implement marketing technology, interpret data and apply changes to achieve optimal results. You may need to change management support either from the vendor or from consulting partners.
  • A dashboard that allows marketers full access to results in as close to real-time as possible; vendors should offer operational workflow for implementing optimizations.
  • What other features are available such as what-if budget planning tools or audience insights tools.
  • What technology and data is proprietary vs a third party’s; while it can be beneficial for your platform to leverage other best-in-breed providers, it’s important to understand the real value proposition provided by the attribution vendor.

“We have digital KPIs and a digital business but don’t receive results from our [MTA] until six weeks after each campaign. We have no idea what takes them so long.” - A Senior Marketer

Why This Matters

A speed advantage can translate into a 30%+ higher ROI performance. For a marketer spending $25 million on advertising, with a current ROI of $2.00, this can equate to $15.5 million in incremental profits due to more effective advertising. However, the benefits don’t materialize unless a marketer and their agency can easily take action.

Some platforms may already have much of the data a marketer will need, which will decrease the onboarding time to less than six weeks. In contrast, some attribution and mix modeling vendors can take six months.

What to Ask

In response to these questions, vendors may suggest that they’ll review timelines and other activation details with you after contracts are signed and as part of their onboarding process. Savvy marketers will recognize the importance of receiving thorough answers as part of the evaluation process.

  • What leading indicators do you provide to inform optimizations prior to logging sales events?
  • How do you measure advertising impact down to the message-level on these leading indicators?
  • Is detailed optimization provided as a campaign delivers? Please provide an example of what we would receive during a campaign.
  • Please describe the reporting cadence: how often are results refreshed or received? Please review what dashboards and interfaces are available to us (live demo ideally, not just screenshots).
  • What platform capabilities can we take further advantage of to become more self-sufficient?
  • What are the different service levels available to us as we get ramped up and want to become more self‑sufficient?
  • Please describe the onboarding process – how long until we’ll be provided our first optimization recommendations?

Today’s marketers need an approach that leverages reliable person-level data to make right-time adjustments to optimize their marketing efforts. These tools need to deliver person-centric insights, derived from a single set of data, quickly and reliably to drive higher levels of marketing performance. Simultaneously solving the strategic issue of how to best allocate budget, and the tactical issues of how best to invest within each channel, with timely insights marketers gain a competitive advantage in today’s crowded and fast-moving marketplace.

Written by Marketing Evolution