The webinar was wrapping up, and an audience member had a question — one that comes up frequently these days.
“I’m really interested in developing better insights into our performance. But I’m a team of one, and we don’t have the budget for anything big. Just getting the monthly reports out is a struggle. How do I get started with marketing analytics?”
Let’s be honest: It does take an investment of time, effort and money to develop really advanced insight involving methods like attribution or predictive modeling.
However, there are still steps that marketers can take to improve their ability to understand and harness data for strategic business decisions. And we mean any marketer, no matter the size of their company. These are tactics that can quickly produce significant results. And that work, even if it starts small, has the ability to evolve into something much more powerful.
Step One: Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish
Before you do anything else, you should think about the kinds of questions you want to answer.
You need to make sure you concentrate on questions that can help your organization achieve its goals, whether that’s growth in new business, increased client retention, greater awareness or some other bottom-line outcome.
Because, once you have the questions, you can start thinking about the data sources and KPIs that can answer them. You might want to know …
- What is the average cost of a conversion, lead or sale?
- What is the cost per impression for each marketing source or channel?
- What is the conversion rate for each channel?
- What is the interaction rate or click-through rate for each marketing channel?
- What is the return on investment from my marketing spend in terms of new revenue or sales?
Having a clear focus can help you use your time and energy — which are probably in limited supply — where they will do the most good. You won’t get distracted by vanity metrics, big numbers that look important but don’t reflect progress toward your goals. You’ll hone in on the data you really need to gather.
Step two: Automate data and reporting
Nobody just wakes up one morning and starts building predictive models. It takes time to become adept at generating insights, and most marketers experience a similar series of “developmental stages” as they gradually expand their ability to use data over time. We call this evolution the 4 Levels of Marketing Analytics Performance.
The first step occurs when you automate your reporting. Do this, and you’ll see benefits almost immediately.
That’s because a lot of marketers still manually download their performance data directly from Google Analytics, Facebook Ads and other sources. Then they pull it all together in a single spreadsheet, and pray nothing gets screwed up along the way. It’s an extremely time-consuming, miserable process.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to do things. You can buy software to automatically pull data from those source systems, usually through an API or some other connection, and feed everything into a report, whether that’s an Excel file or a marketing dashboard.
This software won’t be free. But you might be surprised at how affordable your options are. Here are three of the most common choices when you’re just starting out:
- You could use a basic “connector”-type tool to aggregate your data. Software like this often costs $100 or less per month and will feed data from Google Analytics, Facebook and other popular sources into a spreadsheet.
- Dashboarding tools, featuring drag-and-drop elements and template-based dashboards, often come with built-in data connections, though they may not connect to all your data sources or offer storage for your data.
- Your existing CRM also may help with automation, too — HubSpot, for example, includes some very useful dashboards, but it integrates with a limited number of data sources.
Whatever path you choose, you won’t have to spend a whole week putting together reports anymore. Even better, because new data is being piped in effortlessly, your dashboard could be updated weekly or even daily.
Step three: Use your reclaimed time to provide value and make a case for more investment
By automating reporting, you will free up a significant part of your schedule — hundreds of hours per year, potentially. Many of our clients report spending 70 to 80 percent less time on data preparation and management.
And this reclaimed time will be your single biggest asset as you build a bigger, better analytics program.
It’s like Robert Caro, the famous biographer and journalist, said: “Time equals truth.” When you have more time, you gain the ability to look more closely at the data and uncover patterns that you didn’t spot before because you were so busy building reports.
Maybe you notice that one of your advertising channels doesn’t reach that many people, but those people tend to be some of your highest-converting, highest-value customers. Might be a good idea to spend a little more money in that channel, right?
Or maybe you see that Product Z isn’t a particularly big seller on its own. But when it is ordered, it’s almost always part of a larger shipment with Products A, B and C that each have huge margins. A cross-promotion strategy could deliver even stronger sales.
Congratulations, you’ve just developed actionable insights!
Instead of handing your stakeholders a by-the-numbers report — X went up, Y went down, blah blah blah — you can start making recommendations, supported by data, that will directly benefit your company’s bottom line.
And that’s what is going to catch the attention of your CEO and CFO and convince them to invest in a larger, more advanced analytics program.
Because, as mentioned above, there are some things that will demand a greater investment, either in the form of technology, added staff or outsourced expertise, especially as you get into projects like predictive analytics.
By starting small, though, and using your resources well, you can make the case that you’re adding value and, with a little help, can accomplish so much more.
Get Started with Marketing Analytics Today
Alight Analytics offers a suite of next-generation analytics solutions that put actionable insights into the hands of every marketer, no matter their experience level or size. Now through May 31, Alight is offering 90 days of free service to new clients. Learn more here!