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Bucket full of water

We ran a proof of concept for one of our products over the last one month. The aim was to better understand our target audience and their reaction to our product. The whole process highlighted the problem that every marketer faces. The problem is one of attribution.

The target audience for any product are exposed to many types of touch points through which they receive communication about the product. It is every marketer's nightmare to attribute how much each of those communications contributes to the final decision that the customer makes about making the purchase.

I like to see the potential customer as a bucket and the marketing efforts as water. The purchase action happens only when the bucket is full of water and is about to overflow. Every marketer has jugs of varying shapes and capacities at her disposal. This could be social media marketing, TV advertising, referral marketing, direct sales efforts, etc.

Every time a marketer gets her communication across to a potential customer, she has used one of the jugs to fill some water in the bucket. Now, each jug takes its own time for re-filling. For example, if a potential customer sees two advertisements for the same product one after another, the incremental effect of the second one is very little. Whereas, if some time elapses between the two, the incremental effect is higher.

At the same time, two plus two isn't always four. In fact, it is never four. During the time that elapses while the marketer is re-filling her jug, there are competitors that make their own efforts at targeting the customer. This is akin to making holes in the bucket that the marketer is trying to fill. The customer herself tends to forget about the communication as time elapses. This is akin to the bucket being out in the sun where the water being filled constantly evaporates.

The task of the marketer lies in identifying how quickly the target audience forgets about the communication, the effect that the competitor's communication has on the target audience, the weight associated with each type of communication that a marketer can use and the ideal frequency at which they should be used for the best incremental effect. All this is clubbed as the problem of attribution.

In order to know how to be less wrong with your attribution (you can never be right!), I highly recommend this wonderful article by Avinash Kaushik.

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