Let’s face it—change is hard!
And the deeper the change, the harder it is.
Last year, I spoke to countless marketers about the upcoming consumer data privacy changes that are going to dramatically impact third-party cookies and mobile identifiers. Once the final nails in the coffin are hammered in—namely by Google Chrome and Apple’s iOS14—the way that digital marketers track, measure, and optimize their programs will be forever changed.
If it wasn’t for COVID-19, this would have been the most important challenge on marketers’ minds in 2020.
The time has come for practitioners to finally turn and face this issue.
The industry can’t ignore this upcoming dilemma anymore. The most forward-thinking marketers have already begun or even finished their migration away from multi-touch attribution (MTA) as their primary measurement approach toward what I’m calling the Post-Attribution era.
How far into your Post-Attribution transition plan is your organization?
How to ease into a post-attribution plan
Now that the calendar has flipped to 2021, the types of conversations that I’m having with marketers around this issue have noticeably changed.
The discussions have shifted from SHOULD we move away from measurement based on individual customer journeys like multi-touch attribution, but rather HOW we are going to move away from it.
The reason why many marketers have tried to ignore the Post-Attribution issue is that moving away from MTA isn’t like changing email vendors or working with a new image editor. Marketing measurement touches every part of your organization—every channel, every campaign, and every program.
This shift will be significant. You may not even know where to start. And that’s rightfully scary. But it’s time for you to hunker down on a Zoom call with your brightest colleagues and start planning. After all…
Applying change management best practices to your post-attribution plan
As you begin planning your move away from multi-touch attribution as your primary measurement approach, there’s a valuable change management model that you should consider to limit disruption, reduce risk, and have a successful transition.
The Lippit-Knoster model—so elegantly explained in a post by HR thought leader, Sergio Caredda—can help guide you through this process.
“According to the model, there are five or six elements required for effective change: vision, consensus, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan. If anyone of these elements is missing, the change effort will fail, with varying Negative Change outcome.”
The Lippitt-Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change
I don’t have all of the answers for you. But, by thinking through this model, step-by-step, hopefully, the challenge ahead will seem a bit more manageable.
Without vision, there is confusion
The first aspect of your Post-Attribution transition plan to tackle is to formulate a high-level understanding of where you are, where you are going, and how you will get there. That needs to be figured out and communicated first in every meeting on this topic. There’s a best practice in marketing that states it takes 7 exposures for a consumer to hear, remember, and take action on your message. Your teams will need to hear your message over and over before they are truly bought in and called to take action.
Evangelize the vision and the rest is just details.
As of now, the industry consensus is that the best replacement for MTA will be incrementality—as it does not need cookies or mobile identifiers to provide accurate results. The silver lining here is that moving to incrementality will solve long-standing issues with attribution such as the gap in online/offline measurement or what is the right budget allocation between channels.
Focus on the benefits of incrementality as a key part of your vision.
Without consensus, there is sabotage
Change is hard and not everyone is so comfortable with it. You may even still be somewhat uncomfortable with rolling out this message even though it’s clear where things are going. People go through a cycle of shock, denial, frustration, and depression before they can start to do activities that look like acceptance. You can’t rush or berate people through the stages, but you can help them wrap their heads around it with a great change management plan.
If you are still getting any resistance to moving away from MTA, just be patient with those teammates. This can be especially true with the analysts whose main focus is measurement—after all, their jobs will be the most impacted by the Post-Attribution transition.
It seems prudent to start with the measurement team first. Make sure they see the writing on the wall about how ineffective MTA will be after the Chrome and iOS14 changes. Even though it has become obvious to you that MTA just simply isn’t going to work soon, some people may still be holding on to the past.
Just talk your way through it. Ask someone who is still stuck on attribution questions about how they think the limitations on these cookie/mobile ID tracking mechanisms will impact MTA. They will eventually come around to the fact that it is going to be extremely affected by these eminent changes.
Once you have the measurement team fully on board, getting the rest of the marketing organization to see the imminent threat to MTA shouldn’t be that hard. Eventually, the conclusion that you must begin preparing now will become self-evident to everyone on your team.
Without skills, there is anxiety
Moving away from MTA does not mean that you will be moving away from your measurement team. New skills will be needed, but they are still the right group to be running your incrementality practice.
In an incrementality approach, your measurement team will be more important than they ever were running multi-touch attribution software. They will be setting up tests and learning from them which means they will be way more hands-on than they were with MTA! They’re going to need to think more than ever. Even though change is always hard, this should be an exciting opportunity to advance their careers.
Thinking through the way incrementality will supplant MTA is going to be one of the more important areas for your change management team to tackle. For many, this is going to be new territory—so you don’t know what you don’t know.
One of the good things about incrementality, in this case, is that it is a lot like A/B testing which most marketers already understand. You create a test and control group and then expose the test group to campaign elements while withholding those elements to the control group. That way you know the impact that a particular channel, ad group, creative direction, or bidding strategy has on your performance.
And this is the main reason why you need to get your Post-Attribution transition in place as soon as possible. Your team needs to run with incrementality for a little while in order to identify and then ramp up on the new skills they will need.
Without incentives, there is resistance
Okay, it’s tough love time: After Google’s and Apple’s changes, the role of MTA will diminish as the industry’s primary measurement methodology. That means any marketer or agency still reliant on MTA will be less effective on Day 1. Hopefully, laying out a solid vision, gaining consensus, and planning how new skills will be learned have lowered the resistance level of the team.
But it might not be enough.
This can be a hard one to tackle, but all modern change management approaches address this issue—so it would seem to be a miss if you don’t find a way to incorporate incentives into your plan.
My best practice recommendation is that this transition is significant enough to consider realigning your team’s incentive program to be directly correlated to the level of adoption and completion of your migration by your desired end date.
Without resources, there is frustration
Yet another reason to get moving on this Post-Attribution transition to incrementality is that you will need to not just get the people, but the tools in place to make this change.
To be perfectly transparent here, Skai’s incrementality solution, Impact Navigator, is one of the tools on the market. I’ll let you and your team evaluate what’s out there and not hammer home our platform too much here. But, certainly, a platform will be needed.
I’ve spoken to a lot of really smart marketers who tried running incrementality themselves who finally concluded that a tech partner is the right course of action. Marketers and analysts don’t need to be bogged down with manual incrementality tests when there are solutions that can dramatically reduce the time it takes to set up, run, and analyze the results.
Without an action plan, your team will feel they’re just on a treadmill
The final step—once you’ve figured out the other elements here—is your Post-Attribution transition action plan. I urge you to bring in members from the entire team here to weigh in and help you navigate this migration.
They will know the subtleties and implications of how certain steps could create disruption and how best to work around them accordingly. And not only will bringing those folks to the table add value to your transition plan, but it will foster the right working relationships you will need to make this change as successful as possible.
Get started with your post-attribution transition as soon as possible
Hopefully, this post has offered you some ways to think through your Post-Attribution transition plan and give you some food for thought on how to best proceed. Every company and marketing organization is different so only you can sort through the important details to get this done right.
Let me leave you with one piece of advice that will be valuable to everyone who is about to tackle this challenge: GET STARTED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. By getting started sooner, you will be able to start learning how processes and best practices will need to change to work best in the Post-Attribution world.
While incrementality is going to bring a lot of benefits besides simply a cookie-less/mobile id-less solution, it’s going to take you and your team some time to get up to speed. Start now so that you can get some campaign cycles under your belt before MTA is impacted by eminent industry changes.
Here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to ask me any questions you have or reach out with any thoughts you’d like to share. I’m speaking to marketers who have already finished their transition, are in the middle of their transition, or haven’t started yet. I may have some tips for you based on what I’m seeing.