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  • Natalie Kortum

Perfect is the enemy of good

Attribution requires focusing on evolving and improving.

Inevitably when I deliver a first version of attribution to a client, I find that a strong advocate for the project suddenly questions if it’s worthwhile.  It’s happened regularly enough that I’ve nicknamed them “The Perfectionist”. The Perfectionist suddenly thinks of the data missing from the first version – lack of facebook views, or that the sales team phone calls aren’t being considered, or even that direct mail isn’t integrated — and wants all of that included before we could ever consider publishing our findings and making decisions from it.  And what we have for our first version isn’t perfect. But you have to remember that your Marketing Attribution methods cannot and will not be perfect.  Both data limitations and the ever-changing nature of marketing technology and campaigns make it nigh-impossible to build the “perfect” attribution method.  And that’s okay. The lack of perfection should not stand in your way of progress.

Just like when a person attempts to improve their health by changing their diet and exercise, you don’t consider it a failure if you don’t have the perfect body right away! And they may never have the perfect body — most of us won’t. But they will see improvement. You want to be in a that mindset  — improving the present, not focusing on the perfect.  If you only think about what attribution is NOT doing, not using it to make any decisions until it’s ‘perfect’… then you might never benefit from it at all.

And realize today that you are already discussing attribution within your organization.  When you discuss how well a campaign is doing, most likely your organization looks at some numbers which are already based on attribution (often last touch).  Even companies that lack reporting on campaign performance have a method of defining success around campaigns and channels in order to make changes to those campaigns and channels.   Instead of focusing on how to build the perfect attribution, I encourage clients to first think about where they believe their attribution methods are letting them down.  If the data capture in these areas isn’t too difficult or costly, then focus on these! They are often the most actionable and productive ways to improve attribution.

In the end, the most successful analytics projects in my experience focus on improvement, rather than trying to build the best solution ever.  You’ll improve attribution through iterations, allowing you to get better one step at a time, while you both  make better decisions today AND justify investments for tomorrow’s improvements.

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