Today’s marketers are swimming in data from multiple sources, including their CRM, Salesforce Automation (SFA) and marketing automation (MA) systems, web analytics, social media and more. The sheer amount of raw data collected can seem overwhelming and often becomes a barrier to data analysis. The fact is, few of us have enough time, or the right tools, to dedicate to analysis and reporting. And it’s often difficult to discern exactly which data sets or reports are most important or where to focus your efforts. With a few simple guidelines, it’s possible to better manage and make sense of all of that data – and actually use it to your advantage.

RULE #1: What Doesn’t Get Measured, Doesn’t Get Done

Regardless of how much you may think of your latest great idea, outreach plan or marketing campaign, if you can’t measure it, it shouldn’t be done. It’s that simple. So, take stock of your data and ensure that it’s properly aligned with your end goals. That means you must clearly define – and limit – the metrics you’re going to measure. Then, set clear goals and write down the questions you want answered by your analysis. Don’t try to capture or report on everything. Instead, measure just the essentials. For example, make sure that you’re measuring:

  • Metrics that are actionable (don’t pull data for the sake of having data)
    • Now that I know “X,” I can increase my PPC budget for region “Y” 
    • Now that I know “X,” I know which page on my website needs to be refreshed for better user experience 
    • Now that I know “X,” I will change my email call-to-action to improve results in my next campaign
  • Metrics that measure success
    • How many leads/conversions/new customers did my campaign generate?
    • What is my search engine rank?
    • How many blog views did I receive last month?
    • How much revenue did my marketing activities generate last quarter?

RULE #2: Automate. Automate. Automate

Automation is essential. If you don’t automate, analytics quickly becomes a dreaded chore. Automation doesn’t have to be overly complex or sophisticated – and you don’t have to do it all at once. Start with something as simple as scheduling reports to run automatically, then work toward fully automating marketing analysis.

  • Schedule your reports to run automatically and be delivered to your email inbox instead of setting calendar reminders and manually logging into Salesforce to pull a specific report.
  • Stop rebuilding the same charts and graphs in Excel week after week. You can build your workbook once, then simply update the raw data each week. Structure your workbooks with hidden tabs for raw data and formulas.
  • Leverage built-in analytics available within your Channel Marketing and Management (CMM) Platform or CRM, SFA or MA system. Spend a few extra minutes to build your custom reporting to spec, then schedule your reports to deliver to you or your recipients automatically. 
  • Connect your data sources to a Business Intelligence platform to fully automate your marketing reporting.

RULE #3: Pull Data from a Breadth of Sources

Pull and examine data from a variety of sources. That’s the only way to see, show and tell the full story from a marketing analytics perspective. Just as reporting on an email click-through rate doesn’t provide the complete picture of a campaign, pulling and reporting on data from one source won’t deliver the overarching view of your marketing efforts and impact.  

To get a more holistic view, draw data from a variety of sources, including Google Analytics, your internal CMM, CRM and SFA Platform, HubSpot, Pardot and more. Many of these systems work together to provide deeper insight. Are you measuring Facebook shares in Hootsuite? Then you should also measure website traffic from Facebook in Google Analytics. Of course, don’t get carried away. You’ll want to be sure that the data you’re collecting is actionable. (See Rule #1)

RULE #4: Set a Cadence

Not all of your marketing metrics demand the same amount of attention. Set a cadence and stick to it to avoid wasting time analyzing, or overanalyzing, your data. You can usually prioritize data to determine which metrics should be analyzed:

  • Daily: Visits to your website, total number of leads, leads generated by marketing channel
  • Weekly: Campaigns, inbound links, calls-to-action (CTA) click-through rates, overall blog views
  • Monthly: Search engine ranking based on campaigns, costs per lead, average email click-through rates, social media metrics
  • End of Quarterly or Annual Sales Cycle: Lead to customer conversion rate, revenue generated by marketing activities

Our friends at HubSpot published a great blog that provides more detailed insight on When to Check on Your Marketing Metrics: A Simple Guide.

RULE #5: Make Data Meaningful via Visualization

Raw numbers on a sheet of paper or spreadsheet are difficult to digest and understand. Use visualizations, not numbers, to tell your story. Whenever you’re sharing data with an audience, find a way to make it more meaningful by using charts, color, etc. as much as possible. Using visualization makes your data more accessible and easier to understand, thus enabling your audience to see patterns and trends, make faster, more effective decisions, and ultimately derive value from the data you’re presenting.

RULE #6: Find the Right Tools and Optimize Them

To analyze data and create those visualizations, you’ll need to find the right tools and optimize them. Old standby’s like Excel and PowerPoint coupled with newer, leading-edge Business Intelligence tools like IBM Cognos Business Intelligence, Roambi, or can help you take your data analysis and visualizations to the next level.

  • Master the essentials of industry standards such as Excel and PowerPoint. Taking a few minutes to brush up on the basics and even learn some tips, tricks and shortcuts will help you make more informed marketing decisions in less time.
  • Leverage built-in analytics tools within your marketing automation platform, CRM, CMM platform, etc.
  • Consider using a Business Intelligence tool like IBM Cognos Business Intelligence, Roambi, or to explore and visualize data, connect multiple data sources, and publish reports.

By following these six simple rules, you and your stakeholders can transition from being overwhelmed by data to effectively using data to drive your business and marketing efforts forward much faster and more effectively.