December 04, 2016

Marketing Attribution

Can I show you something?

Here are a few snaps from the Oklahoma / Wisconsin basketball game on Saturday. Look at the image below.

The player who has the ball is going to score in a few seconds. He will get the credit for the basket. But there are two players I want you to watch - watch #10 and #24 in white - watch what they do, ok?

#10 is moving up toward the free throw line. #24 is moving toward the corner. Their movement is going to stretch the defense, as we will seen next:

Look where #10 is - he's now near the top of the key. This pulls the defender, #1 in red, away from the basket. And look at where #24 is? He wants the ball, look at his right hand. He's wide open! But most delicious is that the player defending him is caught in no-man's-land. Should he cover #24? If he does, the player with the ball (#22) scores an easy basket. If he covers #22, he leaves #24 wide open for an easy three point shot.

The result?

Look at that. The two Oklahoma defenders are rendered helpless. #1 must stay near #10 ... and the poor defender caught between #22 and #24 ends up covering nobody.

It's a layup, an easy basket for #22.

Again, who gets credit for this basket?

Officially, #22 gets credit for two points.

But without proper execution of the play by #10 and #24, #22 cannot score a layup.

Some in the basketball world evaluate what is called "plus/minus". They look at combinations of five players, and they look at individual players, and they measure how many more points are scored when an individual player is on the court or combination of players are on the court at the same time.

Can you see where I am headed with this?

I have spent the past year practically begging you to implement your own marketing system, your own Unique Point of View, which when coupled with a Low Cost Customer Acquisition system yields business success.

In other words, I am practically begging you to run your own version of a basketball offense, just like in the four images outlined above.

And every time I practically beg you to run your own version of a basketball offense, to have a Unique Point of View, I get email messages that look and sound like the messages below:
  • "You talk a lot about low cost customer acquisition programs. Can you please share five or six ideas that are guaranteed to work, and can you name the clients that use them so that I can perform some research on the topic, kthanx?"
  • "How do you attribute the marketing activities that worked? If we create a Unique Point of View and then the customer purchases via Paid Search, should I give Paid Search credit for the order?"
  • "Which vendor does the best job of attributing orders due to marketing activities?"
In my opinion, every one of those questions misses the point.

Later in the game, this image appeared.

Who is sponsoring the free throw attempt?

That's one tiny part of a low cost customer acquisition program. Duluth Trading Company is doing the same thing that #10 Nigel Hayes and #24 Bronson Koenig did on the play sequence above. This mini-ad is the same as when Hayes / Koenig cleared out defenders so that #22 Ethan Happ could drive to the basket and score. It is one small component of a Unique Point of View coupled with a Low Cost Customer Acquisition Strategy.

It would be incorrect to say "how do I attribute orders to the specific ad displayed at the moment when Nigel Hayes shoots a free throw", right?

All of the pieces have to fit together.

Say you execute your individual marketing tactics perfectly, and then this is the presentation of the merchandise in a store.

Who do you attribute the failure to generate an order to ... Paid Search ... or the Department Manager within the store?

Oh, you don't take attribution down to that level?

Then why the heck are you taking marketing attribution down to the level vendors want you to take it down to, when you know darn well that your individual marketing tactics interact with your Unique Point of View and your Low Cost Customer Acquisition strategy to either yield success/failure?

Maybe you don't have a Unique Point of View? And it is most likely that you ignore having a Low Cost Customer Acquisition Strategy, right?

The past ten years led us astray. We've broken business down into 388 tiny pieces, and we manage each of the 388 pieces independently, and we try to then attribute success to each of the 388 pieces.

We need to do the opposite.

We need to behave more like sports teams. We need to have a comprehensive strategy, a Unique Point of View coupled with a Low Cost Customer Acquisition Strategy. Then, when success happens, we don't give credit to one of 388 individual tactics ... instead, we "win", just like Wisconsin won their game against Oklahoma (90-70).

Questions? Email me at

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