4 Things Marketing Analytics Software Can Do — and 4 Things It Absolutely Sucks At

Matt Hertig Alight Insights

A lot of marketers have a love-hate relationship with their marketing analytics software. And I think I’ve figured out why. 

Remember when you were a kid and you got brand new sneakers? 

As you pulled those babies on and tied the shoestrings, you were immediately overtaken by the knowledge that Holy cow, I am now the Fastest Human Being Alive, where is my celebrity endorsement deal? Especially if your new shoes were red and had flashing lights in the soles.

Then you’d lose a foot race with your grandmother.

(And then she’d do her victory dance. You’re a bad winner, Grandma.)

Well, a lot of marketing analytics software is like those shoes. It’s new, it’s flashy, it probably cost more money than your CMO (a.k.a. Mom) would have liked. And in most cases, it’s not going to make you the Flash.  

There are limits to just how much your software can do on its own. Your success depends to a much greater extent on other things. With that in mind, here’s a quick list of the things that marketing analytics software can — and can’t — do.   

CAN: Marketing analytics software can automate a lot of your data. 

Most tools, especially data connectors, have built-in connections to popular sources like Facebook, Google Analytics and Twitter. Some even offer libraries with hundreds of connectors that can be activated with a few clicks. Those connectors will then automatically collect your data, daily in most cases. Marketing teams can save literally hundreds of hours per year by embracing automation. 

But can they automate all of your data? Yeah, no, that’s a fail. 

CAN’T: Marketing analytics software can’t magically automate ALL of your data. 

I’ve yet to see a platform that instantly connects to every single data source that marketing teams need — partly because there are just so many different tools in the marketplace. (Up to 7,040 in last year’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic!)

Even the ones with a kajillion API-based connectors will invariably miss the one Scandinavian podcasting platform that your entire company lives and dies by. Or maybe you use a custom-built CRM. Odds are, your marketing analytics software won’t automatically connect to it. 

ChannelMix, Alight’s marketing intelligence platform, doesn’t rely strictly on APIs, so it really can connect to any source. It has a large and constantly growing library of integrations, but ChannelMix can also ingest data through automated email or secure FTP processes or direct file uploads. Sometimes those methods make more sense than using an API that’s difficult to use or is unreliable.

Because, oh yeah, data connections break. Sometimes it’s an unexpected, temporary outage. Sometimes it’s because the source has made a change to its API. In 99.999 percent of cases, your software won’t repair the connection or help you recover the data you lost in the interim. 

That’s why Alight’s analytics solutions are supported by a team of data experts specifically dedicated to monitoring and maintaining data connections. Our team takes care of it so you don’t have to.  

CAN: Marketing analytics software can help you create marketing dashboards. 

If you’re trying to make data easy to understand and explore, a marketing dashboard is your best friend

And today’s marketing analytics software makes them easier than ever to create. Most have pre-built templates, even for your entire display, social or search channels, while others feature drag-and-drop elements that allow you to quickly construct and customize a visualization. 

CAN’T: Marketing analytics software can’t always help you build effective dashboards.

Let’s say you’ve bought a piece of marketing analytics software that includes a quick, easy-to-activate dashboard for website performance. Awesome! 

But what if you need to understand how website traffic — including really granular page-level interactions — relates to your larger ecommerce or lead generation goals? A pre-built dashboard template might not give you what you want. You’d need the ability to visualize the data on your own, assuming the drag-and-drop widgets let you do that. Because many of them do not.

And maybe your software includes a pre-built dashboard for a channel or a campaign. They’ll never give you a completely automated cross-channel, cross-campaign report for your entire funnel. (Though we can help you with that.)

We typically recommend that marketers use a dedicated tool like Looker, Tableau or Power BI for creating dashboards. These platforms tend to allow a greater deal of flexibility than a single-stack tool where data aggregation and visualization are all part of the same piece of software. 

CAN: Some marketing analytics software can provide some basic data hygiene.  

Some tools will highlight basic errors and flag potential problems in your incoming data That way, you can address them before they screw up your reporting, forcing you to (a) spend hours and hours correcting the problem or (b) look like a slack-jawed moron when your boss or client catches an error or inaccuracy that you failed to spot. 

Sounds pretty foolproof, right? Uh, that’s a negatory, Ghost Rider.

CAN’T: Marketing analytics software can’t solve all your data issues — or help you avoid them in the first place. 

Marketing analytics software, even tools with thoughtful, AI-powered “guardrails” built in, are ultimately dumb. If they’re presented with a problem they weren’t designed for, they don’t possess the ability to improvise a solution. Like, say, if your favorite data source suddenly stops providing an important metric. You need a human being to fix an issue like that.

Another thing that humans are pretty great at? Building a strategy for measuring the right KPIs in your campaigns, allowing you to understand their impact on your organization’s bottom line. They can also help you devise rules for naming your campaign so that you don’t have hygiene issues in the first place. As a bonus, you’ll also find you have an easier time providing reporting and insight by campaign or across channels.

That’s why most of Alight’s solutions include support from our team of experts, who lead clients through the process of creating a data strategy. 

CAN: Marketing analytics software can provide basic AI insights. 

Some analytics tools have AI-powered features that will highlight metrics that are experiencing above- or below-average results. Google Analytics, for example, will point out anomalies and issues in your data. These automated insights will draw your attention to trends that you might overlook otherwise and put your current results in historical context. 

CAN’T: Marketing analytics software can’t provide more advanced forms of insight.

But let’s be honest, most of those “insights” are pretty limited. In most cases, you’re not going to learn anything that’s particularly surprising or useful. And worse, the AI doesn’t understand your unique business and how you measure success.

Need to know exactly where, when and how much to spend in order to achieve your sales or lead generation goals? Then you need a data scientist who can design and implement a dedicated statistical model that incorporates all of your marketing channels and their specific values. Software alone can’t do this because, in most cases, software is a one-size-fits-all tool.  

ChannelMix includes a suite of built-in attribution models, but we also employ a team of data experts who can, if necessary, assist clients with more complex projects. 

Only One Piece of the Puzzle

Marketing analytics software is one of the most powerful investments that an organization can make in its ability to use data for insights and reporting. But it’s only one piece of the puzzle. To produce relevant insights and reporting, it has to be implemented by experts following a well-considered strategy. 

That’s why Alight designed a suite of turnkey, outcome-focused solutions for marketing analytics. Each solution includes ChannelMix, our platform, along with marketing dashboards, services, technical support and other resources.

Unlike your old sneakers, they really will make you faster. 

Ready for the Next Step? 

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