Taking the guesswork out of sales attribution

Avoid folding winning hands by tying your sales and marketing data together at a foundational level. We'll tell you how in this piece.

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We all know that sales and marketing are simply two different sides of the same coin, but flipping that coin and seeing exactly which marketing activity caused a sale is not so straightforward. Many advertisers blindly trust that their campaigns are working (or decide that they're not), even if the tools to analyse the impact on sales are readily available.

It wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive to develop methods for data aggregation that would provide all the relevant insights about this junction of business data, but it requires a systematic approach that starts before any campaign begins and must be pushed from the top of a company to the bottom, across departments.

The exact data collection and management techniques that can be useful in this regard depend on the primary channels of communication that a company relies on for marketing. Let’s discuss some of the possibilities for smart analysis of business data that reveals how you can improve your marketing strategy and execution:

Tracking online marketing activities

Digital communications can be traced more readily and with less effort than traditional media, providing detailed insights into the actions and intentions of customers.

  • Link tracking is one of the most fundamental tactics that can be used to understand how buyers arrived to your online store. For example, use of shortened vanity links is a good advertising approach, but you need to follow it up by tracking where the user goes next after clicking on the link.
  • First click vs. Last click attribution can be useful in this regard, as it gives you the starting and ending point for each interaction with a customer. - - Setting up data funnels with Google Analytics is a way to get even more detailed reports about the actions of the user from the moment he reaches the entry page to the moment of conversion.
  • A lot of additional knowledge about user behaviour and preferences can be gained if data is segmented by demographics, so you can look at the reactions of a certain class (i.e. men over 40) to your marketing campaigns.
  • Finally, it’s important to note that numerous people use more than one device to access the internet, so cross-device tracking is an increasingly big challenge that needs to be resolved in order to gain accurate insights.

Analysing offline marketing activities

The Internet is definitely not the only source of useful data that can be used to evaluate the success of your marketing activities.

  • Geographic location still matters, so if you can understand from where the demand comes you will be able to fine-tune your messages and advertising budgets.
  • Specific phone numbers and area codes can provide this type of information without a major investment, and the same is true for postal codes related to paper correspondence.

Data from those sources should always be harvested and integrated with the digital sources in order to provide a more complete picture. There are also some interesting ideas for combining online and offline channels and understanding the synergy between them. For example:

  • Customizing the landing page based on geographic data in order to match local campaigns in the area where the visitor is situated is a smart idea that can work in practice.
  • Coupon-based promotions also work extremely well both in the e-sales and as classic retail format, as they allow the advertiser to tie the sale to a particular marketing message and channel.

Good practices for sales data analysis

Many of the techniques described above are basically just extensions of a common sense question – how did you find out about our products and what drove you to buy them? You should always ask your customers some version of this question directly, either at the point-of-sale or through a follow up communication after the sale. Another simple thing you can do to get a rough estimate about the impact of a new marketing drive is to define an attribution window and track how many sales were made in that period compared to a control period of the same length.

Most importantly, advertisers should be aware of the connection between their promotional activities and patterns of user behaviour, and they can pick the data tracking tools that are well suited for the type of interaction they want to examine. This examination must be systematic as this is the only way to gather enough referential data for a clear understanding of on-going business trends.

Taking the next step requires professional data aggregation

The degree of difficulty of data aggregation is directly dependent on both volume and complexity. Small enterprises that only have a few sales channels could conceivably track the effects of their marketing with in-house resources and publically available software packages like Google Analytics. On the other hand, larger companies with more diversified sales networks would probably benefit from collaboration with an outside agency (naming no names...).

In summary: do this right and you will never again have to flip a coin to decide whether to continue your marketing campaign or not.

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