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An A+ in Marketing Analytics Isn’t the Goal

Posted June 9, 2021
Carey Picklesimer

Data is Essential for Good Marketing

Carey started her career in design but has always felt compelled to dig into the data side.
“Marketing is a blend of art and science. Once advanced marketing analytics came onto the scene, we couldn’t just be considered the arts and crafts department anymore. “Now that we have all this data about how people are acting, we’re able to learn more about what information prospects need and the topics that they’re researching. You can see where they fall off in the sales cycle and learn how you get the right message to them at the right time and in the right way. “Data must be foundational in any marketing department.” Carey made it very clear that reports should serve marketing. Marketers should “make friends” with the data and understand which indicators are useful in improving a campaign. If you’re a digital marketer or email marketer or social media specialist, we recommend you work closely with your analyst or marketing operations professional to define which indicators should be tracked throughout your campaign in order to apply lessons learned to your next campaign. “Data should be viewed by marketing as a tool as much as Photoshop or any software platform. The key is thinking of data as answers to a question instead of thinking of data as a busy spreadsheet. Campaign Improvement Cycle “When people start reporting, they should begin by asking a question. For example, which content drove the most email opens this past month? Now that we’ve got the question, we can review open rates. Next, research the audience engaging with the email. Is it the right audience? Are they clicking through to the website? Do you see an increase in form fills? “When you start to use the data as clues to help you move your marketing forward, you get more of a benefit. It’s less about making each report perfect. It’s about understanding what works and what doesn’t. Any marketing report should be the starting line of your next marketing campaign.” While operations is often tasked with reporting, the rest of the organization should be using the data almost daily. “We tend to look at reports as the result of a campaign instead of the starting point of the next campaign. Marketers should look at the data we have for every campaign as an opportunity to make the next campaign better.”

Why a B+ in Marketing Analytics Is Good Enough

Frontline marketers need to understand the metrics they can access related to their activities and see how their efforts eventually influence or drive pipeline. Leadership will need more aggregated information that shows, in general, how channels are performing. If there are channels trending in the wrong direction, then it may make sense to get more detailed. Executives need even fewer details. They’ll need some leading indicators, but they should be primarily concerned with pipeline and revenue performance. “As marketers, we want to be doing what our organization needs. We want to answer any requests from our bosses and their bosses. But often, I see CEOs asking for what are often called vanity metrics. Revenue is the most important indicator for all of us. At the end of the day, if we’re not driving revenue, it doesn’t matter how many MQL we generate. If those new leads turn into nothing, we haven’t done a good job as marketing. And if our sales team can’t close them, we have ownership in that as well. “Sales and marketing are on the same team: the revenue team. We are compensated differently, but we have the same goal. marketing analytics balancing act “That being said, most people using marketing automation tools have long sales cycles, and the revenue’s not instantaneous. So we do need some leading indicators. But we cannot make our job’s sole focus perfecting reports. The metrics are check marks on the way to a destination. We’re checking MQLs at the end of this month to make sure we’re on the right track for revenue in four or six months. “Just like when you’re driving, you have to keep your eyes on the road. You glance down at the indicators to make sure you’re at the right speed and your engine’s not overheating, but you keep your eyes on the road ahead. In the same manner at work, revenue is the destination, and we need to stay focused on the other metrics to help us stay on course. “We should absolutely do our best to have accurate reports. Because everything’s digital, there’s this tendency to believe that we can track everything perfectly. And it’s just not possible.” There are many reasons why marketing reports are problematic (see the six most common reasons here), but it goes beyond your team’s skillset. We’re tracking interactions by the individual, and sometimes those interactions are anonymous. We’ll never know how many times a sale comes about because two parents talked about their jobs at the playground or a podcast inspired someone. “People do silly things. They fill out their email address with a typo, or their computer at work is being fixed, and they pop on their wife’s computer and download something. And now the cookies are associated with her. We can spend all day trying to make reports perfect, but the cost is astronomical.” And anyone in sales can tell you that an opportunity rarely, if ever, comes about because of a single interaction or department. It takes a combination of sales, marketing, and partner relationships. “I think it’s essential that marketers take the lead on the types of reports they want to bring to the CEOs and the sales team. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘Here’s how I want to report on this. Here’s what I hope to gain. Here’s what I hope to learn. Here’s what I want from you: help me understand if I’m doing this correctly, and then we’re going to go back, and we’re going to tweak it and refine. We’re going to change our marketing based on what we learn.’ “If you are proactive, your leadership team will be more confident in your suggestion. Hopefully, trust increases because you are transparent. You have to let the data speak, but you have to let it speak honestly. There are going to be times you do a marketing campaign that is not effective. Own it and learn from it.”

Only Measure What You Use

“I began my marketing operations adventure while working in the fleet management industry. One of the fleet managers for the top three cities in America spoke at one of our conferences. They manage over 20,000 vehicles in their fleet, which means they’re also dealing with at least 20,000 drivers or more and the public interacting with them. He said, ‘We will never report on something that we are not prepared to take action on because if we know something and don’t take action on it, that’s a liability.’ “In this case, he was speaking about safety data. They didn’t report on any data publicly until they were prepared to take action on it.” Marketers should have the same mindset. If you don’t understand what the number means and how to impact it, don’t throw it in front of a wide audience. Instead, stick to what you know, or at the very least, get familiar with what you have to report on and understand what levers can be pulled to impact the number. marketing report push back Once you understand your data, have the confidence to push back on executive requests when appropriate. “I’ve had CEOs ask for a list of every email you sent out and how many people interacted with it. I tell them I can give them that data, but email marketing isn’t a big focus. Email marketing doesn’t perform like it did five years ago. So if it’s not a company’s key tactic, that’s a good thing.” Don’t be afraid to educate your executive team about the tactics and tools that no longer perform as they used to and how your organization has pivoted to compensate for the change. Nobody can be an expert in every discipline, and CEOs should (hopefully) trust the marketers they hired to understand best practices and market trends. It’s also marketing’s responsibility to communicate when new tools are added to a tech stack and how the changes will impact the data. This includes incorporating a tool like CaliberMind that deduplicates information. Your lead volume and MQLs will change historically due to deduplication. It’s a good thing, but alerting others to the change before it takes place goes a long way in instilling confidence. Unfortunately, without that proactive communication, people may assume you don’t know what you’re doing. Data is a fantastic tool, and it should be used for incremental improvement. But it doesn’t need to be flawless to do its job. “At the end of the day, we need to remember that it’s marketing first. Our analytics should serve marketing and not the other way around.”
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