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We’re more than 20 years into the Internet revolution and the technology disruption curve has fully enveloped marketing. The incredible pace of change is recreating our industry — for example, some of the most important marketing channels we use today didn’t exist even five years ago!

It’s a constant challenge for marketers to keep up, but one issue stands out as the biggest pain point — lack of insight into what’s working across it all. And that boils down to how we manage and use data.

Marketers today have access to unprecedented amounts of data. But the problem doesn't lie in the sheer volume of data, rather in the fact that it lives in countless one-off spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides and disconnected silos of execution tools like AdWords, Google Analytics, Sprinklr, Instagram, Adobe Campaign Manager and many, many more. It’s a mess, and the unhappy result is that we have basically zero cross-channel visibility — we can’t see the big picture. 

That’s made it impossible to answer vitally important marketing questions, like, what channels are most effective? Are we meeting our activation goals? Is our execution working? Where should we spend our next marketing dollar? And on and on.

Common Complaints

To rise above the data chaos and get the omnichannel visibility we need to manage well, spend wisely and make great decisions, we have to unite our marketing data once and for all. But the challenges around de-siloing our data can seem daunting. These are some of the prototypical complaints we hear:

It’s too time-consuming and difficult to pull multichannel marketing data together

There’s no doubt marketing data is uniquely complex and highly siloed. It includes business, customer and campaign data. It lives in spreadsheets, execution tools, agency reports and company data stores. None of it fits together — it’s in different units and currencies and none of the metrics or KPIs are calculated in the same way. What's worse, there’s no consistent nomenclature or taxonomy across it all — what’s labeled Holiday 2015 in one place is called Winter-15 in another. 

Having individual marketers cut and paste late into the night every time we want to run an analysis or report isn’t sustainable, and it certainly doesn’t scale. So we explore automation, but the current crop of generic enterprise data platforms brings its own problems. For starters …

Our enterprise reporting and analytics tools aren’t available to our marketing managers

Or when they are, they’re too hard to use. Most business intelligence and data visualization tools are designed for data scientists to operate, not marketers. To aggregate and normalize reams of disparate marketing data with a BI tool, marketers would have to use scripting languages and other complex functionality way beyond their technical ability. Ideally we could hand that off to in-house experts, but …

We don’t have the engineering or data science resources to deal with the necessary data integration

Few marketing departments have a data scientist team at their disposal, ready to program generic BI tools to provide omnichannel visibility and insight. Consequently, many marketing orgs have, by default, outsourced the data piece to IT, but then …

We’re bogged down with IT

Raise your hand if you’ve experienced something like the following:

  • IT: “We can build you anything you need. Just give us your requirements”
  • Marketing: “Well, what kind of data is available?”
  • IT: “We’ve got a lot. What do you want?”
  • Marketing does some research and comes back with a metric: “We’d like a paid-to-earned media ratio”
  • IT: “Sorry, we don’t see that value in the data warehouse. How would you define it?”
  • Marketing: “Let me go do more research ….”

And round and round it goes, often for YEARS.

Taking Control of Your Data

The data challenge will only grow in breadth and complexity in the coming years, and clearly the old solutions aren’t meeting marketers' needs. 

So what’s the move? Marketers must develop an automated, in-house data governance capability that aggregates and normalizes ALL marketing spend and performance data, as well as with business outcomes. An integrated data solution that transforms data into strategic metrics and KPIs that reveal marketing performance and impact — and one we manage and control ourselves. It’s new ground for most marketing orgs, but it’s eminently doable with performance management platforms purpose-built for marketing.

The benefits flip the data dilemma on its head, converting the aimless fog of siloed data into a strategic asset for marketing performance:

  • A single source of truth: When we unite and normalize our marketing spend and performance data, we replace siloed data and siloed decision-making with a marketing system of record that’s comprehensive, consistent, trustworthy and constantly updated
  • Integrated, omnichannel visibility: We also gain a real time view of what’s happening across all marketing tactics, channels, teams and tools. No longer are we sifting through unilluminating tactical metrics like clicks, shares and GRPs. We’ve stepped up to strategic KPIs like awareness, engagement and outcomes — metrics that reveal performance and impact across all channels at the level of campaigns, segments and lines of business
  • Dashboards and scorecards we can trust: Anybody can grab some data, generate a pretty picture and call it a marketing dashboard. But marketing doesn’t have a pretty pictures problem — it has a messy data problem. Proper data governance lets us create dashboards and scorecards that are both engaging AND accurate — and that tell the story of marketing success in terms of business impact. That’s exactly what marketing needs to gain and maintain credibility with the CEO, CFO and the rest of the organization
  • A platform for experimentation and accountability: Marketing is constantly trying and testing new things — if we put $10,000 into a Pinterest takeover, what’s the result? In-house data governance gives us a platform for accountability—a structured way to compare what performance was like before and after the incremental spend
  • An organizational memory: By storing our spend and performance data in a consistent way day after day, year after year, we create a record of what we’ve done and what worked best. We power knowledge-sharing, establish internal benchmarking and make decisions clear

It’s time for marketing to take control of its own success story. Taking control of the data story is the first step.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Ding Yuin Shan