Attribution models: don’t let imperfection stop you from attributing sales

In 18 years I haven’t seen anything or spoken with anyone who claims to have landed on THE model for digital attribution. That’s not wholly surprising in the world of business to business, with its unique sales journey. But that doesn’t mean B2B marketers shouldn’t try and develop a model to help them understand what various elements of the marketing mix really do work for them. In fact, quite the opposite: there’s never been a greater need for one.

Here are six areas every marketer should consider when evaluating channels:

Learning from consumer model

From a digital perspective, much focus for consumer marketers has been around tracking the offline purchase that has been influenced by online advertising, rather than the more straightforward digital purchase from a digital ad campaign.

The same should hold true for B2B marketers. There is a very easy way to evaluate performance in a single channel world, but we don’t live in a purely digital world. You need to understand the impact of online spend in an offline world, even without levels of footfall common to consumer marketers.

How can this be done? Make sure you are asking for (and tracking) feedback from the sales teams. Anecdotal evidence isn’t always something you should dismiss (for example, are pre-sales teams finding it easier to set up appointments?) Research is also your friend. Using market research (from independent parties) to evaluate brand uplift is key. But make sure it is independent – never ask the supplier to mark their own homework.

Search is part of the bigger picture

Search is an important tactic, but much of the impact of marketing happens before, in the run up to a prospect searching for your services or your name. That means the channels that help build up awareness of your brand, the problems that you aim to solve, the products you offer and your expertise and USPs, are vital.

All of that activity should lead to the user finding you via search, so investment is important, but when evaluating the impact of search remember that it’s very much the final touch point.

Drilling down into search spend

Evaluating any tactic shouldn’t be done at the very top level. Interrogating data further always provides the best possible opportunity of seeing what specifically is working. Search is a great example. If you have allocated that fixed amount towards search, understanding how that breaks down further helps you understand how other tactics support.

Any marketer would prefer more of their search spend to be allocated to very specific keywords (your brand name, the specific product or service you provide) rather than the longer tail of search terms (which may be relevant but also may not). Seeing an increase in these specific search terms is an indicator that some other marketing tactic is increasing awareness. So suddenly that investment is not just demonstrably working – it’s making the separate search budget work harder.

How martech can help

Martech kicks in when there is a some form of a relationship with the prospect or customer. At the very least, you need a visit to the website to start understanding user behaviour and engagement.

Adoption of any platform that helps you understand prospects better can be incredibly powerful, as long as you are aware of the limitations. Take into account those prospects you want to engage with but are as yet unknown. Basing an entire strategy around the known prospects and customers leaves you in danger of simply repeating patterns and not expanding them to incorporate the entire target market.

Re-marketing activity

One of the most successful tactics any marketer can use is re-targeting (or re-marketing as we prefer to call it – a tweak in the approach used by consumer marketers to drive abandoned shopping carts). However, it can also lead you to over-emphasise how powerful it can be.

Seeing that re-marketing is driving fantastic repeat visits to your website and driving initial sales inquiries can be misleading – this isn’t an easy tactic to expand quickly. Simply driving significantly more traffic to the site won’t lead to a greater opportunity to re-market users with the same strong results. The quality must remain as high. Ensure sure you are still attracting the same type of (relevant) users.

Broader comms integration

PR has certainly not had the easiest of rides over the past decade. The challenge of adapting to digital, the explosion of social media and the rise of the influencer are just the start. And many of the old metrics for demonstrating success (reach and AEV, for example) don’t make sense in an effective attribution model.

However, few marketers would deny the importance of PR as part of a comms strategy. How do we get authoritative people to talk about what we do so potential customers know about us and trust us? Although those pieces rarely lead to an immediate site visit, much less an inquiry or sale, their effect is something you can monitor over time.

As well as tracking interactions with coverage online – how many social shares there are and links back to your channels; what’s the DA of the platform; how many engagements there are – you should also see YoY gains in relevant website traffic. Traffic that stays on the site and reads the type of content you want them to read; the kind of content that makes them more likely to become your customer.

While there might not be a single model which can tell you exactly how to allocate every marketing dollar, by tracking all activity over time, intelligently and not in isolation, patterns will emerge to help you refine activity. And if someone does develop the elusive attribution model in the meantime, I’d suggest getting a patent PDF. I’d quite like to be proven wrong.

Management strategies: the power of specialising

As a business develops, it can be tempting to look at increasing your range of services. A smart move for some businesses, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

Many businesses would profit by sticking to the old adage that you shouldn't run before you can walk.

“I think early on – the first year or two – the best thing any business can do is to specialise,” says business coach Rebecca Morley, “because then you get to focus really hard on one thing.”

Morley points out that ‘specialising’ – be that in the short term or for the entire life of your business – doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to a single product: it can mean being a force to be reckoned with in a very specific target market, or perhaps in one region. Professor Nelson Phillips, from Imperial College London’s Business School, agrees it can help to think laterally, “It’s distracting to only think of specialising in terms of products because what you need to do is think about what you’re good at, which might actually be a capability to do something really well. What is it that you can become so much better at than everyone else, and that people will pay extra for?”

Specialising and the power of knowledge

According to Philips, in almost every area of today’s economy, specialism is rewarded – and he argues that one of its biggest advantages is it enables you to keep on learning, ensuring that you continue to stay one step ahead of the competition. He points to the example of Honda, which spotted opportunities in adjacent markets and seized them. “It started with motorcycles, but then came outboard motors and other things that needed small, powerful engines,” Nelson explains. “And every time Honda went into a new field it learned a bunch of new stuff that it could take back to its core market.”

Becoming an expert takes commitment. Expand your knowledge by connecting with people who are doing similar things, suggests Phillips, and then let the world know of your expertise by drawing customers to reviews about your business online. Winning awards, he says, is a great way to show customers that you outshine your competitors. Morley, meanwhile, throws free promotional channels like Facebook Live, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram Stories into the mix. “It’s all about engaging with your audience, asking them questions and involving them,” she says.

Target advertising to reach your market

Finding niche audiences has never been easier. Daniel Shaw, co-founder of Encore Digital Media, says the rise and adoption of advertising technology (ad tech) has reduced the wastage that was seen when SMEs simply placed ads in magazines that were the best fit for their target market. “The campaign can now be refined and honed so it only addresses the audience you know you want to reach,” he says. “Knowing your product is potentially of interest to only 1% of the adult population doesn’t make it commercially unviable.”

Also, says Morley, a highly targeted approach can help keep your business relatively headache free. “It simplifies everything,” she says, “and that can give you a huge advantage in terms of how everything runs. The simpler you can make your business, the fewer the conversations with suppliers, the lower your costs, the more profitable you can be.”

There may come a day when the only way you can grow is to break through your self-imposed glass ceiling and move into new areas, but it’s not likely to happen overnight. In fact, it’s taken Preston-based card-services and risk-management company Suresite – specialist in all things related to the petrol station forecourt – almost 25 years to get to that point. “We’d come a long way,” says sales and marketing director Keith Bevan, “but we were effectively a big fish in a relatively small pond.”

“After 16 years, we were so convinced by the power of our niche that we rebranded to reflect our specialism – and it’s only ever put us ahead of the competitors”

Mike Richards, CEO and founder, The Treasury Recruitment Company

Accordingly, Suresite decided last year to start marketing the expertise it had gleaned beyond the forecourt – and it now feels the sky’s the limit. “But we’ll never forget our roots,” says Bevan, “and we’ve ring-fenced our core business to make sure we remain at the top of our game in the forecourt sector.”

Four specialists, four questions

1. What’s the best thing about specialising?

Agatha Chapman-Poole, a PR in the food and drink sector, says: “It’s the ability to act quickly. Clients often demand quick results which can only be achieved at optimum quality if we’re already knowledgeable about the sector and we already have the right contacts.”

2. How has specialising helped your business to succeed?

Mike Richards, CEO and founder of The Treasury Recruitment Company, says: “We’ve had many opportunities to diversify, but being one-inch wide and a mile deep means we can share our knowledge, expertise and experience in a way that competitors can’t. After 16 years, we were so convinced by the power of our niche that we rebranded to reflect our specialism – and it’s only ever put us ahead of the competitors.”

3. How have you resisted the temptation to expand?

Charles Fawcett, founder of Land Rover re-engineering firm Twisted Automotive, says: “There have been a number of times over the past few years when diversification would have been seen as the sensible option. My issue with diversification is dilution. We are absolutely focused on one product and that enables every single person in this business to learn everything about it and be the best we can be.”

4. What’s your top tip for staying ahead of the generalists?

Holly Andrews, MD at specialist bridging finance firm KIS Finance, says: “It’s important that your customers have confidence in you. They will probably require a more in-depth service than your main competitors can provide, so make sure you can deliver.”

By ContentLive

Mobile location: bridging the gap between online and offline

With brands allocating 25% of their marketing budget to mobile location targeting in 2017, and 50 billion devices predicted to be connected by 2020, mobile location targeting is both a valuable and increasingly important asset in any marketer’s arsenal.

Once limited to just a few data sources, now layers of data can be accessed, and, used correctly, mobile location could help bridge the all-important gap between the online and offline worlds.

Tackling the topic head-on, the IAB Mobile Location seminar, held on 27 September, outlined the potential for brands.

Here are four key points to take away from the event:

Mobile location is much more than a pin on a map

Mobile location data (MLD) is now much more than just a single location point. The best MLD should be applied using three important dimensions:

  • Data about the user – latitude, longitude co-ordinates.
  • Data about the surrounding area – places of interest.
  • Context – is the user travelling; how many times has a user visited the place?
  • Collection methodologies dictate its potential

Gaining insights for better advertising can only be as good as the data itself. So, it’s vital to understand collection methodologies, the accuracy of data and its practical limitations.

The "holy grail": telecommunications provider data

This is the gold standard of mobile location data. Telecommunication providers, such as O2, store a massive amount of data on their mobile user. Mobile-provider companies collect data as a user’s mobile device "swings" from cell tower to cell tower when they move around during their day. With cell towers, data is accurate to within 150 metres.  

This data can build a picture of a user’s "dwells" and "journeys" – essentially a map of millions of mobile users' origins and destinations. This map, layered with declared demographic data (collected when the user signed up to the network), in-app and mobile web behavioural data, device types and data usage, can provide a holistic, agnostic and consistent view of a consumer. This is vital for any seriously targeted mobile campaign.

Obviously, a single body collecting this much personal and identifiable data gives rise to escalating concerns over consumer privacy, not to mention the looming legislative changes to collecting and processing consumer data. However, telecoms providers sidestep this by providing a value exchange, and aggregating and anonymising user data.

Other sources

SDK
A piece of code inside mobile apps that tracks a user’s location in the background. It’s accurate to 10 metres via GPS.

Bid stream
Latitude/longitude data derived from ads making a bid request on a mobile web page or mobile app. The accuracy depends on the precision of the co-ordinates sent back from the bid request.

Beacon data
Data is collected when a user’s mobile device connects to a piece of hardware in store. This is normally collected via Bluetooth. Often, however, this in-store beacon data is available only to the store owner, not to exchanges, and is limited to where they are positioned. It’s accurate to 10 metres.

Bridging the gap between online and offline
The key is using mobile location data wisely at every step of a campaign. Mobile location allows you to understand a user much better so, from an awareness point of view, you can accurately run personalised creative messaging for a better, more relevant user experience. Mobile location information also helps efficiency, as it enables a marketer to make more informed decisions when serving ad campaigns – both minimising media waste and increasing relevancy. For the retail sector, mobile location information can help link together in-store retail sales, which still account for 90% of all transactions.

There are still challenges to overcome
As with any developing tech, there are challenges to bear in mind. Scale can be an issue. However, combining GPS and beacon information helps to overcome this. Ad fraud is an industry-wide challenge, so this, too, should always be considered. Lastly, and most importantly, in planning to use MLD are you sure you’re using the right type of data for your campaign? Precision and accuracy can be excellent, but ensure that the costs and scale are in line with how the campaign needs to perform.

Good application of the layers of MLD now available could be the key to meshing together a consumer’s offline and online world. This, in turn, would make mobile location one of the most exciting data developments of the next few years.

Targeting a Niche Audience? Programmatic Should be at the Heart of your Digital Strategy

Programmatic has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. But as the fastest growing digital channel - it’s set to grow 31% in 2017 alone - it’s ignored to the detriment of your marketing plan, particularly if you’re targeting a niche. By eschewing scale and being very targeted and specific, brands can retain control and reap the benefits of the channel. Here are the three key steps to take and the strategies brands should follow when targeting a specific audience.

Define your audience as clearly and robustly as possible

Programmatic allows any niche audience to be reached effectively; with so many options available it’s important to translate how this audience may be created and where the pressure points are.

Eligibility is a great place to start - for example, if your product or service requires qualification, say a minimum salary requirement, then you need to start with a quality offline match. Accuracy is a necessity at this stage and programmatic data can make this possible.

Contextual interest works well in demonstrating intent, but it needs to be married with recency and frequency where possible. For example knowing that a person has been reading around luxury watches (even specific brands) is great. As long as it wasn’t 4 years ago… And common sense tells you if someone is reading about something, again and again, you can infer they are much more likely to be genuinely interested, and even that they are further down the process of buying that product/service.

Be clear and realistic with what success looks like for you

Defining and communicating your indicators of success is fundamental. Digital display is a very effective awareness and nurture tool, but with niche audiences, you will need time and messaging which resonates with your precision-targeted audience.

Using multiple ad creatives - ideally sequentially targeted - really helps throughout the campaign and allow a minimum of 4-6 weeks to see results. Unless you are selling low-value products, that impulse purchase (see an ad, click on an ad, make a purchase) just won’t happen.

Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes

No one will know their niche audience better than you, so it’s worth putting yourself in their position. Will the audience trust your brand more if it’s seen on a reputable industry site with only a few ads on the page? Modern programmatic has incredible reach so you don’t need to lose sight of the environment.

To make an impact, use multiple ad sizes which work across all platforms, particularly mobile. Programmatic works across all devices. Having a holistic view of how your audience is engaging helps you control important levers like frequency. Get the message in front of them often enough to make the campaign work, but not so much they feel bombarded.

 

By Guy O’Brien, co-founder of Encore Digital Media

Do You Really Need a Standalone DMP in 2018?

Over 50% of businesses currently use one, but one-in-five are questioning that decision, according to Gartner.  This year’s Forrester’s DMP Wave Report also raised some interesting questions.  Here, Kristen Sesto, DMP and data consultant, Encore Digital Media, outlines some areas to focus on when assessing your DMP needs for 2018.

1. Do you really need a standalone DMP?
Several leading DMPs in the Forrester Wave report are also demand-side platforms (DSPs), meaning clients have the benefit of collecting data and using it to buy inventory in the same platform. This means no data transfer process and less data drop-off due to low network overlap rates (and in markets where scale is everything – this is important).

For years I’ve advised the best solution for a truly unified data strategy is an unchained DMP; but given factors like the above I can now argue it both ways.

If a combined DSP/DMP vendor has the best overall product functionality for your business, such as a unique custom reporting tool or fantastic professional services capabilities, that may prove to be a better option. Standalone DMPs also come at a higher price tag and may not add enough value for a positive ROI for organisations that don’t use the platform outside of their display activity.

When DMPs were in their infancy, I think they could’ve been seen as an end-all, be-all solution for collecting and activating customer data across marketing channels. Many marketers have got it right, but I don’t things have quite played out as originally expected. One cause for this could be how marketers have handled DMP ownership and use within teams and across organisations. It can be difficult to get everyone on the same page.

Most DSPs already have data collection and segmentation capabilities that customers benefit from, even without a full DMP add-on. It may pay off to outline and quantify what exactly the added value is with a standalone DMP.

 

2. Product capability aside, do you know how to leverage key platform capabilities?
In the most recent DMP industry report, 9 of 11 vendors were rated low in either ‘analytics and audience insights offerings’ or ‘custom report creation’. If the overwhelming majority of vendors are being rated poorly, what else might this mean?

As a DMP customer who works with reporting and analytics tools daily, I would argue that the platforms aren’t always the issue. What could also be causing dissatisfaction is a general misunderstanding of how best to apply insights and learnings to media and marketing plans, and how a crowded and confusing data ecosystem further contributes to the problem.

There’s a disconnect between data reporting expectations and reality, and it isn’t entirely product-related. Regardless of what type of DMP solution you have, ask your team if it’s worth having an updated training session to better understand new and existing functionality. Most of these platforms are sold as self-serve, but even the most detailed decks or product wikis aren’t as valuable as a good hour of an expert’s time.

 

3. Are you prepared to dig deep on data leakage and security?
The same report evaluated 11 leading DMPs, with most of them performing well in data security as well as data-leakage prevention. It is important to understand that having a DMP doesn’t necessarily mean your data is ‘safe’. Those looking to invest in the future should understand that data leakage and/or data security is more than a checkbox to include in your RFP.

Research is needed to understand what data leakage actually means to your business, how it works technically, and where potential threats exist. Who will have access to your DMP and data? Make sure you know what happens after data leaves your DMP and arrives somewhere else. Do you have the ability to deactivate an audience segment or remove tags from pages after a campaign is over to ensure the data isn’t used for other purposes?

Data leakage is as much a matter of trust and what is included in contract terms as it is with what technical safeguards are built into the tech.

 

4. Does your DMP support your third-party data strategy?
Not covered extensively in the report, is this nonetheless important point. Third-party data providers are notoriously vague with their category descriptions and there are no clear industry standards when it comes to collection methodologies.

There are some major questions around where data is located (by country/region), the device from which it’s sourced (mobile web vs in-app data vs desktop), and if it is modelled, inferred, or predictive. Caution is required when dealing with third-party data and more open conversations need to be had with all parts of the ecosystem that supply it – especially as GDPR approaches. Stick with a solution that will provide as much transparency and support as possible.

This industry changes constantly; and what was previously seen as best-practice may not be today. As we move into 2018, I hope the new year serves as a reminder to consider each contract renewal carefully, and base investment decisions on every resource available.

Encore Digital Media launch pinpoint online targeting for luxury brands

Encore Digital Media, the experienced programmatic partner, is launching Business Elite, a highly targeted global programmatic service designed for luxury brands. Based on four years’ experience in reaching niche audiences for clients such as Investec and Fujitsu, Encore Digital Media can offer pinpoint targeting and advanced optimisation.

The carefully honed approach means Encore can target exact users, offering unique access to quality first party data sources and full insight and transparency to all clients, at a time when programmatic is very much under the spotlight. Now a 15-strong agency, Encore Digital Media, part of the Next Fifteen Group, already works in the luxe space for brands such as William & Son.

Business Elite core audiences are much more targeted than standard segments such as ‘High Net Worth Individuals’, and include new groups such as ‘Active Investors’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Women’.

“We offer brands precision as we specialise in hard to reach audiences, and we’ve always ensured transparency,” Guy O’Brien, Co-Founder of Encore Digital Media, commented: “With Business Elite we are focusing in on the really hard to reach but most relevant audiences for luxury brands. We can also offer brands – many of whom haven’t worked with programmatic partners before – a regular, holistic view of impact and engagement and the ability to optimise quickly.”

Launched in 2013 by Guy O’Brien and Daniel Shaw, Encore Digital Media has always worked with brands and agencies to engage hard to reach prospects, delivering highly targeted campaigns in premium digital environments.

Don't reinvent the wheel with programmatic

YouTube, fake news, ad fraud – programmatic is still being seen as part of the problem and was very recently described as a "murky" business by Procter & Gamble.

But it’s also the fastest growing area in digital display and is set to grow 31% this year with big and small brands reaping the rewards.

Innovation and new systems have their place but there’s no need for a total rethink when it comes to transparency in programmatic.

Here are six steps every brand can take in conjunction with their programmatic partners to ensure transparency in campaigns they’re running today.

 

1.  Communicating and understanding how audience data is being used
There are excellent data providers out there but a partner should vet a supplier and share some key information, such as:

  • Which country is the audience data collected from? We always recommend that it’s sourced from the same country as the campaign is running in, where possible.
  • What are the rules that are categorising an audience – is the information modelled? If so, how is it modelled? A direct relationship with a data provider - one known by all parties - can help shed light on this.

 

2. As exciting as defining your audience is, a dose of realism never goes amiss
Often as a marketer you will know how big the potential universe for your product or service is. If the numbers from a data provider are hugely out of kilter with what you know, something is wrong.

For example, right now there are data providers out there who suggest they can identify 120,600 users in the UK who are in-market for a Ferrari. Does that really feel right? Always interrogate.

 

3. How does the data that is used correlate with campaign success?
Transparency is as much about communication as anything else – and this is a two-way process.

Too many providers talk about instant optimisations and success. Very often, campaign changes made too early are based on too little data. We should be open about how long it really takes to learn and improve a campaign, and what is really achievable.

 

4. MRC-accredited content verification tools are useful and integrations are constantly improvingThis really must be standard practice and efforts such as the Digital Trading Standards Guidelines (DTSG) are a step in the right direction – but these should be just formalising what has been in operation for years now.

The tools are never 100% infallible. The role of an agency and their knowledge of a quality media owner is always going to be a valuable and necessary skill so make sure this isn’t just a tick box exercise.

 

5. Programmatic has grown up and quality inventory can be found, but it does cost
Direct relationships with a publisher and a programmatic partner should be firmly established to understand not just the method of buying and the prices, but also the product approach of a publisher

For example, what is the publisher’s approach to how many ads there are on the page? Does a publisher push one format size over another?

Always start with the user experience and the campaign objectives. Programmatic user-focused advertising does not need to sacrifice where the ad is placed. You can achieve both. Is ‘brand-safe’ re-assurance enough for your brand?

 

6. Understand up front exactly what reporting will be provided and that this fits what you need
Even the most successful campaign requires deeper reporting than simply "goals exceeded”.

Understand all the metrics you would like to see – and expect regular updates. Programmatic is associated with real-time in so many ways, but reporting is often delivered only at the end and not as the campaign progresses.

Ask for regular reports and understand what will be provided and what you need. The two should be closely aligned.

Transparency isn’t about popping up the bonnet and being talked through the technology behind programmatic. It’s about knowing what information is available and what questions you should be asking at each stage of the process, as well as being reported to clearly and regularly throughout an effective campaign.