For anyone that has been in the marketing industry for a while, you’ve no doubt noticed the explosion in the marketing technology landscape. It seems there are ever-increasing numbers of social media, content marketing, influence marketing, SEO, and performance and analytics platforms cropping up at every turn. (As of 2015 alone, there are over 2,000 marketing tools – which is nearly double that of the previous year!) With all of these tools comes an abundance of data that, if used properly, can provide insights into your target market, allowing you to hone and craft your message and strengthen campaigns. The problem, however, is that there is now too much data to manage effectively, leaving many bogged down in the grind of determining what’s relevant, what’s underperforming, and what’s ultimately driving conversions.
Enter the do-it-yourself data aggregation tools. The idea of these tools is to empower sophisticated, data-savvy users to connect to common data sources and automatically link them to tools like Excel or Tableau. The power of this type of solution is in its ability to build an automatic data bridge to these data sources that eliminate the copy and pasting functions that marketing has become accustomed to doing.
The idea of these solutions is right on. Moving resources out of copying and pasting data to delivering automated reports is one critical step to delivering a successful analytics strategy today. While these solutions move us closer to solving the data problem, there are some real limitations you need to be aware of:
- These tools are “do-it-yourself” so by their nature they require utilizing existing resources to strategize, manage and troubleshoot these processes.
- Most data aggregation solutions require your internal resources to understand how to write programming code. While these tools allow you to build a data bridge to common marketing sources, programming experience, beyond a normal marketing user, is required to blend the data source for aggregated views that allow you to see all your sources in one report.
- Data connection APIs are constantly changing which can directly impact production reports. For example, Google Adwords changes its API every three months and Google Webmaster API just went away all together. Internal resources simply aren’t equipped to figure out how to shoehorn changed metrics into existing reporting.
- Not all data sources are available in a do-it-yourself solution. Think about attempting to access traditional media data, or an endless number of spreadsheets from publishers, when no API exists.
- Want to apply your own business rules, naming conventions or special calculations? Since these tools don’t store your data (the just connect to it), they can’t account for basic data needs such as data hygiene, data business rules, and data modeling.
While these tools will not solve the entire problem that marketing faces, there is a place for these types of tools for specific organizations that have basic marketing data needs and have the technical resources available to leverage them. However, they do have fundamental data management challenges that organizations considering this type of solution need to understand.
A better alternative is to choose a solution that does the data aggregation work for you, and then provides you a flexible way to access the data. Let someone else manage the APIs, determine your baseline set of dimensions and metrics and build the exact aggregated views you need so you can completely stop manipulating data and focus on building insightful reporting and analysis.