Do More Firefighters At A Fire Cause More Fire Damage? Rethinking Attribution

When thinking about attribution, it would make everyone’s lives much simpler if there was a straight line between marketing, conversion and a sale. As car buyers increasingly visit more touchpoints in their car shopping journey, attribution becomes more challenging. 

There was an interesting analogy in a recent article on Business 2 Community that I felt nailed the challenges we face - and errors we make - when attributing a sale to a particular source. The article shared that data has proven the more firefighter at a fire, the more damage the fire caused. It was hypothesized to reduce fire damage the answer was to send fewer firefighters to fires. Of course, we all know that would probably not solve the problem, or reduce fire damage. After a deeper analysis factoring in other variables, it was found that the presence of more firefighter at fires was not, in fact, what increased fire damage. The reason more fire damage happens is because more firefighters are present at larger fires. 

While reviewing month-end expense reports to determine whether a vendor’s service is producing sales, do you simply measure cost versus revenue? Too many dealers make this mistake. All dealers - whether they realize it or not - have multi-channel marketing strategies. Some more than others. But, the simple fact is that every dealership has varying combinations of marketing channels that include print, radio, TV, online, social media, and more. How many messages from these channels did it take to compel that lead to respond, or that customer to walk through your door? It could have been one, or it could have been many. I’m sure you do your best to source customers. However, simply attributing a sale from an online inventory service based on a call-tracking number might steer you to some erroneous conclusions. 

In all probability, that lead, conversion or walk-in customer was influenced in some way by one or more of your marketing channels.  The customer may not remember which touchpoints they visited that lead them into your dealership. However, even asking them will typically give you more insight as to what was their primary influence. 

I’d bet that your customer’s journey looked something like this: They passed your billboard every day on their way to work. While scrolling through Facebook, they saw your targeted ads. Perhaps a neighbor brought home a new car, and they saw your license plate frame or sticker on the back. Watching TV late at night, they viewed one of your TV ads.  They conducted some online research about a specific vehicle and viewed one of your listings. They visited your website and browsed your inventory, then left to read some online reviews about your dealership. Maybe they even posted on Facebook; asking friends, family and associates for advice on the vehicle they’ve chosen and any opinions about your dealership. They decided to give you a shot and made plans to come to your store that weekend. And then they show up. Where do you attribute the sale? Which marketing channel gets credit?

The reality is that all of your marketing channels are working together to drive business to your dealership. So, consider digging a little deeper when analyzing attribution and judging any particular service’s performance.  Save yourself from making a mistake that could do more harm than good and drive in more sales and profitability into the bargain.

april rain

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