Generate More Impactful Marketing Insights With Self-Service Data Prep

How can you evolve your marketing dashboards to ensure business impact of marketing activity is crystal clear to your leadership team?

For years, finance departments faced similar reporting challenges, but today they use self-service data preparation tools that make getting at data stored in PDFs, spreadsheets, databases and other repositories, cleaning and manipulating it, and delivering it for analysis fast and easy. These data “prep” tools can work just as well for marketers, too, who are pulling reports from a variety of sources, blending information to create a bigger picture and analyzing results for their CMOs.

Existing reporting tools are incomplete

When you look at most of the dashboards marketed to marketers, we essentially are being sold tools that are incomplete. I’m sure you have seen promises like “drag-and-drop dashboards,” “build KPIs in seconds” and “thousands of built-in connectors” to any data source. But what do you really get? Basic metrics such as total leads, number of demos, impressions, downloads, clicks, views and shares.

These are all single datasets. They have no context, and more importantly, you cannot ask why these numbers are what they are or what impact they have on revenue. To demonstrate value, marketing dashboard metrics should be tied to revenue and program performance, but very few dashboards provide these out of the box.

This is a marketing analytics maturity model published by RJMetrics.

What is interesting is that in the first phase tactic-driven companies are forced to log into multiple sources or look at multiple dashboards to get insights. In the second phase, as marketers begin to be campaign-driven, they get stuck. And most stall because they are in “Excel hell” drowning in spreadsheets.

Marketers hate spreadsheets for a reason

Sales and marketing analysts/operations roles spend far too much time in spreadsheets (some recent reports are saying 12 hours a month on average). Up to 80% of their time can be just preparing the data, leaving only 20% for actual analysis. That is a huge amount of time wasted at a massive cost to the organization.

Why is marketing so dependent on spreadsheets? Well, for starters, the data is incomplete, messy or needs to be enriched in order for it to have meaning. Think about your own marketing data. You have a bunch of different systems and services you depend on, but then you also have:

  • Data that gets manually entered
  • Prospects keying in data on landing pages
  • Lists that you purchased
  • Scanned leads from events that need to be uploaded

So all that data goes into a spreadsheet. Depending on where the data originally came from, you also have:

  • Duplicates, blank cells, formatting issues and text vs. numeric values
  • Extra/rogue characters or multiple values in one column
  • Pivot tables and calculated fields (if you are leveraging an existing report)
  • VLOOKUPs, macros or multiple worksheets

And because so much manual work is done on the data – copying and pasting, re-keying, etc. – nearly 90% of all spreadsheets have errors.

The problem does not end with the data you have direct access to either. Other data that makes metrics more meaningful – such as customer information from tech support, subscription renewal data or expense reports – is typically locked down and must be requested it from IT. Then it has to be wrangled, manipulated and blended manually.

The bottom line is spreadsheets are not built to clean, transform or combine data, but inevitably it’s what they are used for.

What if you could do all of these tasks in a tool that had these functions preset for you? And not only are they point and click, but they can also be automated and repeated? Data preparation is basically a bridge between the data that marketers want to access and the visualization tools they want to populate for their CMO dashboards. It involves:

  • Getting data formatted just the right way for analysis
  • Enriching data, such as adding market segmentation data by size or industry to customer information
  • Combining, loading and automating the process

Marketers have to prove their contribution to revenue, and you cannot do that with out-of-the-box analytics. It is more valuable to analyze marketing data than to waste time cleaning and combining it. With self-service data preparation tools like Altair Monarch, all transformations and formatting changes are just a click away, and the possible insights are endless.