Do You REALLY Need That Dataset? How to Spring-Clean Your Marketing Data

Scott Gillespie Alight Insights

It’s the time of year when a lot of us are spring cleaning our homes, but this is also a good opportunity for marketers to take a closer look at the marketing data they’ve got on hand and review how they’re using it. You may find that some of your datasets could be dropped with no impact on your reporting and insights.

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to data aggregation, especially when you’re just starting up your analytics program. You’ll probably be tempted to collect every single piece of marketing data available because you aren’t sure what you’ll actually need. Better to have and not need than the other way around, right? 

As time goes on, though, you’ll probably notice that you don’t really need all that data. In fact, too many datasets can be a problem if it takes you forever to track down the one dataset you’re looking for. And just imagine what it’s going to feel like for any new analysts who join your team and are then forced to comb through an endless list of datasets. 

Depending on what solution you use and the sheer volume of data involved, storage capacity could be an issue, too. 

That’s why it’s good to take some time, at least once a year, and evaluate all the datasets that you’re currently gathering. 

3 Questions to Ask About Your Marketing Data

You should ask yourself:

  • Is this dataset being used in any active marketing dashboards or analysis? This is one of the first signs that a dataset might be ready for the chopping block. Data is only valuable if you can actually use it to better understand and optimize your marketing and business performance.
  • If so, is anyone using that dashboard or report? If someone isn’t regularly consulting a dashboard, it might be a problem of education — your team either doesn’t know the dashboard exists or doesn’t know how to use it. Or maybe it’s time for it to go!
  • If nobody’s using this dataset now, is there a plan to use it in the future? Maybe you’re not leveraging that data right now, but do you have a plan for putting it to work later? You really should have a plan.

Once you identify datasets that could be cut, review the list with your larger team, to make sure you aren’t eliminating something they really depend on. 

Also, Keep In Mind … 
  • You don’t have to completely remove a dataset. You can also hold on to it, but purge some of the older data that it may contain. Maybe you’ve got a Facebook dataset that stretches back to 2014, but you only need the last three years’ worth of data to perform the necessary year-over-year comparisons. We can and do help clients remove older data in situations like this. 
  • And be sure to document what your datasets contain and how they’re being used. In ChannelMix, Alight’s marketing intelligence platform, users can attach notes to each dataset so that other people on their team have an easy way to learn its purpose and history. If you’re feeding your data into a tool like Tableau, you can also add notes telling what datasets are used in that report and how they’re being used. Failing that, you could also create a Google Sheet or Google Doc to serve as a persistent record of your datasets. 

So, at least once a year, remember to carefully review your datasets. Make sure each one has a strategic reason for existing. Do this, and you’ll make your marketing data ecosystem easier to navigate, which will make your team more efficient (and happier) in the long run.

Ready for the Next Step? 

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