Attribution: The critical step in campaign analysis

Health insurance acquisition marketers spend most of their time and effort gearing up to make their open enrollment campaigns a success—but the work isn't over when the period ends.

The last, and arguably most important, step in your campaign analysis should be attribution. This step is critical in determining the effect your marketing had in each channel. Accurate attribution sets the foundation for how you will plan for the coming season. Yet, this is still something many marketers struggle with. The first step is to determine your attribution methodology.

Common types of attribution

Last touch
With last-touch attribution, you give credit to the channel in which the person converted (even if they were contacted through multiple channels prior). This is arguably the most popular method of attribution because it's the easiest to calculate.

First touch
When using first-touch attribution, once someone converts, you look back at their path to conversion to see where they first interacted. This method is usually used by marketers who are interested in giving credit to the effort that drove the customer's initial interest.

Fractional attribution gives a certain weight to each channel that a person interacted in that drove them to conversion. For example, if a person received a direct mail piece, opened an email, saw an ad on TV and converted through a banner ad while browsing online, the fractional attribution model would allocate each of these channels with 25 percent.

Many marketers see the fractional approach as the gold standard of attribution because it gives an accurate representation of what channels may have affected the buyer's journey. With first- and last-touch attribution, you're leaving all the other marketing efforts besides that first or last touch on the table—the other interactions that may have driven the customer's interest or action.

In this analysis, you short change the effect of the other channels. The pitfall in that representation is that when you create your budget and campaign plan for the following year, you might end up cutting efforts in channels that actually performed—even if they were not the first or last touch.

Why the fractional method works
Fractional attribution helps marketers give credit to "the supporting players." For example: We helped a health insurance carrier run a large multi-channel test for their individual business. In the test cells, they saw a 20–35 percent lift in response rate for those who received a direct mail piece along with display ads. However, this group did not have high interaction with the display ads—instead, they converted through the direct mail phone number.

By using a channel control in this test, we were able to see the influence of the display channel and how it drove incremental lift. In this case, if first- or last-touch attribution had been used as the only source of determining channel performance, the insurance provider wouldn't have seen the lift the display ads provided and may not have included display in the plan for the upcoming season—missing out on quite a bit of lift.

So why don't more marketers use fractional attribution?
In a survey of over 600 marketers and agencies, Google found that barely 1 in 10 still consider last-click attribution to be very effective. Yet over 50 percent are still using it. Why? Many of them are lacking in tools or resources to help them get to the next step.

To be successful, you need the analytic resources that can process this more sophisticated model. Many healthcare providers have an analytics team, but they typically have their hands full with other projects. It's a big effort to compile the data and match it all back.

What's the solution?
Many healthcare marketers have found that using a third-party analtyics consultant group can be a great investment because this type of analysis is among their strengths. They compile the data and split it into channels, assign controls (channel and universal) and then as the questions: Is this part of the marketing campaign or is the conversion coming from somewhere else organically? If they were marketed to multiple times, how do I apply the percentages appropriately?

The other benefit is that once attribution is complete, most consultant groups can utilize media mix modeling to provide you with recommendations on how to optimize your campaign for the coming year. The potential lift from maximizing your marketing budget will usually pay for the cost of using the third-party solution.

In conclusion
Understanding what worked and what didn't is critical for successful planning for your next open enrollment period. But in an increasingly complex healthcare world, there are many factors to consider.

To make the most of your next open enrollment season, be sure to view our Open Enrollment Wrap Up SlideShare Guide.