I’m going to tell you something that’s going to sound a little crazy right now.
You possess the ability to significantly increase your ability to produce valuable, actionable insights.
Even in a global pandemic.
Even in a challenging economy.
Even if you don’t have a single extra dollar to spend on new software or people.
Anyone can elevate their marketing analytics because the most important part of analytics starts with thinking carefully about data, the questions you need to ask and how the answers could guide your organization’s business strategy.
You can accelerate your reporting, produce valuable insights and drive business growth.
Don’t believe it? Our team has created a 90-day challenge that anyone can follow to improve their ability to use data for marketing strategy.
In this post, you’re going to learn how to:
- Measure what really matters in your business
- Identify the data will let you connect marketing efforts to marketing results
- Diagnose your team’s current ability to produce insights
- Level up your insight into marketing performance
Ready? Let’s get started.
Step 1: What questions are you trying to answer today? How long does it take to get those answers?
Here’s the thing: A lot of marketers build their performance reports without thinking about why they need to know certain things.
They’ll focus on obvious metrics, like impressions or clicks, because they’re easy to understand and are (usually) large, impressive numbers.
But — unless you’re focused solely on awareness, and most marketers aren’t — those metrics aren’t particularly helpful in isolation. They don’t really tell you if marketing is helping your organization achieve its bottom-line business goals, e.g. make crazy loot.
So get out a piece of paper, and write down all the questions that you want to know about the impact of your marketing activity.
It might be useful to know your conversion rates, so you have a better idea of which marketing tactics move prospective customers closer to completing a form or making a purchase. You’d be better off talking about the cost per lead or cost per conversion, so you know if you’re spending more on marketing than what those customers are actually spending.
And it’s a good idea to take stock of how long it takes to get these answers. Not-so-fun fact: A lot of marketing teams produce monthly or (gasp) quarterly performance reports because it takes them so freaking long to build the damn things.
It can be useful to have a 10,000-foot view of performance over several months so you can assess long-term trends. But holy cow, you cannot underestimate the value of having daily reports on your campaigns, so you can adjust spend midway through. You can’t fix a crappy media mix if the campaign is already over.
Step 2: How confident are you that your marketing spend is really generating ROI?
That is, can you clearly (and, in a perfect world, quantitatively) prove that your marketing efforts are directly impacting the stuff your boss or clients care about most — more conversions, more leads, more sales?
First, grab a whiteboard, and list all the data sources you’d need to answer the questions you identified back in Step 1. Maybe that’s Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Google Analytics, your email service provider. Maybe you also need to get data from HubSpot, Salesforce or whatever CRM you use.
Now, what sorts of metrics do you want to gather from each of those sources?
A handy way to think about this is to map each data source to a marketing funnel.
If you’re using Facebook Ads or Google Ads, you’re probably using them to generate awareness and engagement — near the top of your funnel.
How do you know if they’re effective? Well, you’ll probably want to know how many people they’re reaching (impressions), how much you’re spending (cost) and what percentage of those folks are engaging with the ad (click-through rate). And you probably would like to know cost per click, to see if you’re paying an arm and a leg for those clicks.
In most cases, your ads are sending folks to a landing page on your site, and our good friend Google Analytics can give you all sorts of intel on what they’re doing there. Bounce rates, sessions — that’s all useful information.
But more importantly, how many people are doing what you want them to? For eCommerce, that’s going to be making a sale. For other types of businesses, it may mean filling out a form and giving you contact info, making them a lead. You want to count conversions (how many people did the thing you wanted) and conversion rate (of the people who saw your marketing message, what percentage bought something) and cost per conversion.
This is an extremely simplified example. If you’re selling something more complex, like real estate or health insurance, a website conversion is just the start of that particular customer journey.
But we’ve done something pretty important with this exercise.
We’ve identified (A) what we’re doing to generate leads or sales and (B) what we want to see as a result of that activity. At the most basic level, you can tell if more of A leads to more of B.
At some point, you’ll need a resource for connecting specific marketing activities to outcomes. That could translate to attribution modeling or a dedicated tracking tool. But you can do a lot with Google Analytics and a disciplined naming convention for your digital campaigns.
The better you get at tying marketing activity to marketing performance, the more confident you’ll feel about your impact. And once you know what tactics and channels really work, you’ll increase your ability to optimize your overall performance.
Step 3: How sophisticated (or unsophisticated) is your reporting and analytics program?
Human beings gotta walk before they run. Nobody expects babies to back-flip out of their cribs and start sprinting. (Though, I think we can all agree, that would be remarkable if they did.)
Same principle applies to marketing analytics. Most marketing teams gradually increase their ability to produce reporting and insights. Heck, most of them even follow the exact same learning curve. We call this the 4 Levels of Marketing Analytics Performance.
Here’s what each level looks like …
Basic automated reporting, by source. You’ve got a tool that automatically aggregates your data, so that you don’t have to manually download it. That tool usually pipes the data into a marketing dashboard, though you can also send it to Excel or Google Sheets. As a result, you save significant amounts of time, and you get reporting much faster, which lets you adjust spend and tactics faster.
Reporting across channels and campaigns. Take Level 1 up a notch. Instead of having a report for Facebook and a report for Twitter and yet another report for Snapchat, you get a single dashboard that lets you see the results for an entire channel, like search or social, with the ability to drill down into specific sources like Twitter or Facebook, or the power to measure performance by campaign.
Understanding channel value in order to optimize spend. You can quantitatively attribute marketing outcomes (like leads or sales) to the marketing activities that produced them. You’re also able to monitor your progress toward performance goals, and ad spending against your budget, so you don’t run out of money before the end of the campaign.
Predicting the right media mix and forecasting ROI. Also known as predictive analytics. By applying a statistical analysis to a critical mass of historical data, you can gauge where and how much you need to spend to reach your business targets.
Each level builds on the previous one. For example, once you automate reporting for all your data sources, the next step is to unify each source’s dimensions and metrics, so that it’s possible to produce cross-channel and campaign-level reporting.
Once you know where you are, and what the next level looks like, you have a roadmap for improving your ability to produce actionable insights. Alight’s Buyers Guide for Marketing Analytics, a free resource, has tons of specific, actionable advice to help you do that.
Step 4: Commit to the resource investment needed to get to the next level in the next 90 days
Here’s where it starts getting real. Now that you know …
… what types of questions you want to answer about your marketing
…. what data sources you’ll need to connect marketing investment and marketing performance
… where your performance is today — and what you need to do to make it better
… you have to line up the resources necessary to reach the next level. Make a plan and take action.
“Resources” might involve a commitment of time and manpower. Or it might mean lining up the tools necessary to automate and visualize your data.
If you’ve got a “black card” budget and unlimited hiring authority, whoo, go to town!
But, uh, there’s a good chance that you don’t have limitless funding or the unquestioned ability to do whatever you want. What can you do?
If you have no choice but to build reports manually with a rusty old copy of Excel, you can still refine what you’re measuring by the work you did in Steps 1 and 2.
Can’t get the budget for a fancy enterprise-class analytics platform? You might be able to qualify for a free trial. Or buy a budget model that lets you automate your reporting, which gives you more time to study the data for insights and recommendations.
Do that long enough, and you’ll build a case for a greater investment in analytics.
Time for a Confession
You may not actually need an entire 90 days to complete this challenge. Some people have knocked it out in an afternoon!
One reason why the challenge works, though, is because there’s a deadline attached. It’s so, so easy to keep procrastinating because you’ve got something else more important to do.
Right now, for marketers, nothing is more important squeezing every last drop of ROI out of your already stressed budget. Marketing analytics lets you do that.
But only if you get started. Today, ideally, or as soon as humanly possible. Let us know if we can help!
Next Generation Analytics Solutions, Free for 90 Days
Alight’s suite of next-generation analytics solutions give marketers everything they need to speed up reporting, deliver actionable insights and drive growth. The solutions feature automated data workflows, quick-start dashboards, built-in attribution and much more.