Digital attribution as a means to an end

(FYI: cross-posted on Medium in response to A Case for Ambiguity in Data-Driven Marketing.)

Until we are studying motivations, even as we frame our tests in the context of generating the revenue that keeps our companies or clients afloat, we are condemned to do our work amidst the uncertainty of an infinite array of possibilities for why our campaigns succeed or fail. The technology makes it easier to forget how little we actually know.

Digital attribution as a means to an end

One of the fundamental tensions in marketing exists between understanding what motivates people and why they are motivated. Jordan Baines explores the philosophical questions at the heart of this tension and encourages us to embrace the ambiguity inherent to campaigns success and failure.

Besides accepting the unknown, can digital attribution shed light on why some people become customers and others do not take action? How do we arrive at an understanding of behavior that is both actionable and reliable? While pragmatism rules the real-world of marketing — it’s often necessary to focus on “what” over “why” when you’re trying to keep the lights on— digital attribution can serve as a means to end for marketers looking to acquire and retain profitable customers.

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Marketing by way of the scientific method

Several years ago I started exploring frameworks to balance competing priorities such as intellectual rigorous but fast-paced results. Both priorities have opportunity costs. What I needed what a common approach; similar to the scientific method but not more approachable. I arrived at a five-step process to guide our marketing and analytics work:

  • Create a well-formed hypothesis or idea to be tested.
  • Design an experiment to test your hypothesis.
  • Gather data and analyze your experiment’s results.
  • Learn through repetition and conduct related experiments.
  • Develop broader theories based on your experimental insights.

HEART: five flexible steps that can help your marketing team become more effective and data-driven. Inductive reasoning isn’t always pretty but comfort with ambiguity is increasingly a competitive advantage for digital marketers. Combined with a little humility, this approach can go a long way.

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. — Albert Einstein