Marketing Data Management: How Agencies Are Cleaning Up Their Data Mess

Matt Hertig Alight Insights, Analytics for Marketers

analytics upgradeAdvertising and marketing agencies know what gets their clients excited: beautiful creative, well-executed media plans and the occasional campaign that goes viral.

Agencies spend countless hours training, brainstorming and following every trend to ensure the product delivered to the client is on the cutting edge of marketing … well, except for one critical piece, that is.

Analytics is still living in the dark ages, using antiquated tools and delegated to interns to manage. It’s time for an analytics upgrade!

Drowning in Data

Analytics is about more than generating activity reports. While it can feel good to tell the client about how much we spent and how many media impressions, clicks or conversions we received, it isn’t actionable or forward-looking.

The days of downloading last week’s or last month’s data, cramming it into Excel and building a few charts and graphs to put into PowerPoint are over. That process is not only outdated, it isn’t scalable or sustainable. Nor does it provide the backbone needed to be able to dig deep into the data for optimization recommendations.

Upgrading your analytics is more than just buying a fancy new reporting tool or hiring a data scientist. It’s about fixing the underlying data problem. With more than 3,500 marketing technology solutions available to marketers, the simple act of gathering and preparing data for analysis is no longer simple. Even the best reporting tool or the most talented data scientist won’t be able to realize their true potential if the underlying data is a mess or takes weeks to assemble.

How One Agency Solved Its Data Mess

How are agencies cleaning up their data and reviving their analytics programs? Well, one agency has a hospital network as a client. The agency’s only analyst was spending 80 hours a month just downloading and organizing data from source systems (Google Analytics, Google AdWords and Twitter Ads, to name a few) for all the hospitals in the network. This left little time for reporting for other clients and no time at all for meaningful analysis and insights.

Realizing this was not beneficial for either the agency or the client, they implemented a marketing data management platform (our solution, ChannelMix) to automatically extract, clean and aggregate media performance data from all their systems and tools. They then added a data visualization tool (Tableau) to deliver client reporting in an online environment.

Not only is the data-gathering pain eliminated, those 80 hours are now spent optimizing the campaigns instead of just reporting on them. Due to the increased value to the clients, the team has grown to five analysts and has become a profit center for the agency.

Data First, Then Reporting

It’s so easy for agencies to get stuck doing all this data work manually. Most marketers were not properly trained in data management, so they have no idea how to build APIs and data warehouses or apply meaningful business rules across clients. They do know how to work Excel and PowerPoint, so those tools become the default answer to the reporting problem they face every week, month, quarter.

Marketing performance data is very messy; no two systems report on the same metric the same way. An “impression” in one system is a “view” in another. Same with “cost’ and “spend.” Every new tool made available to us just causes more data challenges. It is nearly impossible to manage this complex ecosystem in an Excel file that lives on someone’s desktop.

Let go of the “binky” we call Excel and upgrade to a true data management platform that will get you out of the data-gathering game. Once your online and offline media data is connected, cleaned and updating nightly, you can add any data visualization or dashboarding tool you like to build sophisticated reporting that updates automatically. All you have to do is start analyzing the data and begin looking for those critical insights for campaign optimization.

Upgrade from Reporting to Analysis

As clients become more knowledgeable around analytics, their demand for more sophisticated reporting increases. While data may never be as sexy as an amazing campaign that has gone viral, delivering unequaled value to clients in the form of proactive, insightful analysis can become a long-lasting addiction. Plus, no client really wants to pay for some poor sap copying and pasting data into Excel.

Are you ready to take the next step to upgrade your analytics? Grab your media and account service team, pick a client and jot down all their data sources and the data points you need from each. From there, you can decide if your agency should develop an in-house team to build and manage the data or if you prefer to outsource to a marketing data management platform. Once your platform is up and running, you will finally move from time-consuming manual activity reporting to automated dashboards with meaningful recommendations.

Matt Hertig is the chief executive officer, chief technology officer and co-founder of Alight Analytics, an independent marketing analytics firm founded in 2007 in Kansas City, Missouri. Under his leadership, Alight developed the world’s first marketing data management platform, ChannelMix, establishing Alight Analytics at the cutting edge of multichannel marketing data aggregation.

Prior to founding Alight Analytics, Matt built an extensive background in CRM, database marketing, web strategy and business intelligence by serving as an executive leading multimillion-dollar database marketing systems and multichannel marketing strategies at companies such as AMC Theatres, American Century Investments and Payless ShoeSource.