The year is in full swing, and you’re a marketing leader with a big task ahead. Whether you set the bar high last year, made some lofty promises during your end-of-year review, or received an executive mandate from leadership, you have big goals set that make your marketing analytics want to cry. How many more leads do you need? You want how many conversions?
The following months are certainly going to involve a lot of scrambling for you and your team. But before you dive into all the strategy and minutia of developing your staff, scaling your capacity to push out messages, and expanding your audience, there’s a far more fundamental piece of your marketing mix to analyze: your reporting structure.
It’s certainly not the most exciting part of marketing business, and as a marketing leader your initial instinct might be to focus on activities that might immediately help you move the needle. But what is the worth of all your efforts if you can’t accurately demonstrate your marketing ROI after all is said and done? If marketing is the estate you build for your brand, then reporting is the cornerstone of its foundation. Stability and reliability need to be paramount.
From the dot-com boom to the development of the internet into the essential utility it’s become today, interest in data for B2B brands has only continued to grow. As the tech behind data tracking began to grow, companies got into the habit of tracking and storing everything they could. In an initially data-scarce marketplace, this was a mentality that helped many brands flourish.
But today, brands’ ability to track just about anything has improved dramatically, and so this old-school mentality has become a burden. Indeed, despite no shortage of metrics, 43 percent of marketers still report having trouble demonstrating marketing ROI. That’s 43 percent of marketers with big goals and a primary obstacle to proving they’ve achieved them.
For many marketers, tracking begins with the channel. We look at what we do or are planning to do, see all the possible ways we could track related to that method, and then, in short order, we have about 30 more metrics in our Google Analytics than we truly need.
To simplify your marketing analytics, it’s best to start by envisioning the end goal of your efforts. Ask yourself: if this marketing effort worked, what value would it add to my brand? That fundamental question is the root of all other tracking and strategy questions—and it’s particularly powerful for B2B brands, where the value of brand equity isn’t always clear cut or easy to garner.
From there, it becomes much easier to focus on the metrics that actually matter for your overall goals. And knowing what specific metrics you want to track is the first step to identifying the platform that’s best designed to track them.
A common problem that content marketers run into at this stage is conversion attribution: if executive leadership wants you to drive direct sales/conversions, how can that be accomplished? The manner of approaching this problem will vary from brand to brand depending on exactly what a conversion entails, but the key underlying theme is that your leadership is interested in ROI, not just growth metrics without context. Where you are able to directly tie behavior and content to conversion, then you should absolutely do it. Where you can’t, you can still demonstrate the value of content in terms of saved ad spend or as a proportion of driven traffic to your page.
Think backward, focus on simplicity, and make sure everything ends in ROI. This is how to turn your tangled mess of marketing analytics into a simple, well-oiled machine.
There is one last piece of the puzzle with tracking that marketers often forget: people. Data is great, but it’s only as useful as the person aggregating, interpreting, and presenting it makes it out to be. Here are a few ways to best take advantage of the human factors in your equation:
Marketing directors are constantly bombarded with one-off questions and requests from executive leadership. This not only eats up time, but can also result in confusion if certain data is provided without create context or interpretation. To minimize this, consider creating visual dashboards that consistently report a handful of key metrics that stakeholders want to keep an eye on. Designing the board gives you control of how context is presented, while also eliminating many of the one-off requests that cut into your schedule. Google Data Studio, recently made free, is a great resource for this.
It’s important to trust your team. But sometimes, too much trust can damage your ability to completely comprehend your data. If your team often struggles with too many unused goals or discarded data views in Google Analytics, consider reducing editing and admin privileges among your staff so that all changes have to go through a handful of key project managers who are intent on protecting the clarity of your data.
One of the most valuable things about having a team is learning that there is a lot you miss as a marketing leader—no matter how much experience you have. One of the best ways to keep your analytics platforms healthy is to involve employees of your staff in the process of gathering and reporting on results. Not only can these professionals provide you with useful context about metrics related to their own work, but they can also offer fresh insight into areas for improvement.
When it comes to achieving long-term goals, marketing leaders are on the hook to keep their executives happy—and that often means delegating marketing activities. But taking the time to evaluate and iterate your reporting structure not only helps you pinpoint accurate data that helps prove ROI, but also opens up spaces for conversation and critique with your team members that can provide fertile ground for new brand growth.
Reporting isn’t about how much data you have, it’s about whether you have and use the right data. Simplify and keep your team in the loop where possible, and you’ll be surprised how much more easily those lofty goals you’ve been given come to pass.