The Definitive Guide to Modern Marketing Analytics & BI
Director of Content Marketing, Sigma
Modern marketing teams are expected to have a magical mix of skills and abilities. You must produce fresh ideas that will attract new prospects and guide them along the buyer’s journey. You must track and measure the performance of your campaigns. You must be able to defend spend and fight for budget.
On top of all this, your company counts on you to spot opportunities in your existing market and make smart recommendations for launching into new markets or targeting new personas. These responsibilities require data-driven insights that ensure you’re basing decisions on fact, not guesswork.
Analyzing data from multiple sources to track, measure, and see the impact of changing variables is nearly impossible for marketers using traditional BI tools or spreadsheets. With traditional tools, unless you have SQL skills, you’re stuck waiting on the data team for insights. And spreadsheets only take you so far (creating organizational and compliance headaches in the process!).
Fortunately, modern analytics and BI tools are built to handle the needs of today’s marketers. In this guide, we’ll explore the benefits of using marketing analytics and the challenges modern marketers face. We’ll also share three modern marketing BI use cases that can help you become more data-driven.
Why modern analytics is a game-changer for marketing teams
The types of insights you can glean from modern analytics will significantly improve your performance. Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect when working with a modern marketing analytics and BI tool.
Get a 360-degree view of your customers
See a unified view of all the interactions a customer has had with your company — starting with engagement on your website and social channels, through conversations with your team members via chat or phone. This full picture will give you a better understanding of each customer’s needs and desires and the path they took to conversion.
Know who your best customers are and target others like them
Get an at-a-glance view of which customers contribute the highest percentage of revenue, which have been customers the longest, and which are evangelists for your brand. Quickly identify the characteristics your best customers have in common so you can target others with shared characteristics.
Measure, optimize, and forecast activities such as lead volume and conversions
With the data coming out of your software, platforms, and devices, you can measure campaign performance and analyze options to optimize performance across each of your marketing channels. You can also more accurately forecast lead volume and conversion rates, as well as ensure you’re getting the greatest returns for the lowest investments out of every touchpoint.
Understand and personalize the customer journey and experience
With the information you gain in the 360, you can then create a more personalized customer journey. You’ll be better able to send the right message at the right time to increase conversion rates. And you’ll build stronger customer relationships.
Increase customer loyalty & retention
The relationship you’ll build based on your solid understanding of your customers’ needs and desires has business benefits. You’ll experience improved customer loyalty and retention.
Up-sell and cross-sell your product or service to the right customers at the right time
Thanks to that 360, you’ll also be better able to successfully time cross-sell or up-sell messages to maximize revenue. You won’t risk unsubscribes from customers frustrated with irrelevant messages.
Becoming a data-driven marketer is easier said than done
All those benefits sound great. There’s a reason every marketing team is talking about wanting to be more data-driven. But becoming truly data-driven is easier to wish for than to achieve. Especially if you’re relying on traditional analytics and BI tools or spreadsheets. Why is this? Here are five reasons.
BI teams are too busy to process your requests promptly
In today’s world, everyone needs data-driven insights, not just the marketing team. Sales leaders, finance teams, and operations people are sending a flurry of emails to your BI experts asking for dashboards and ad hoc reports. According to some estimates, data analysts spend up to 50% of their time fulfilling ad-hoc requests on top of all their other responsibilities. And the requests just keep piling up. No one needs to tell you that trying to pressure your data team into moving faster doesn’t work. Yet it’s vital that you quickly get the insights you need.
Static, high-level dashboards generate more questions than answers
When you do get a dashboard from the BI team, it will likely create more questions that need answering. Dashboards built in traditional analytics and BI tools are static, so you can’t dig into the data underneath them. To find answers, you must go back to the BI team, further exacerbating the vicious back-and-forth cycle.
Marketing data is siloed
If your company isn’t using a cloud data warehouse, your marketing data lives across dozens of systems, SaaS applications, products, websites, social media platforms, and ad platforms. You have a mishmash of spreadsheets and reports coming out of each of these, and you’re always on a mission to combine them so you can see the bigger picture. If your company uses a cloud data warehouse, but you’re not hooked up to it with a modern marketing analytics tool, that centralized data doesn’t do you much good since you can’t easily work with it. Which leads to our next point….
You’ve reached the limits of the spreadsheet
Marketers who are desperate for insights, knowing their performance depends on their ability to make data-driven decisions, typically rely on data dumps to spreadsheets. Importing data from your software, platforms, and devices into spreadsheets may have worked ok in the past. But as your marketing grows, you run up against the challenge of trying to wrangle numerous spreadsheets containing various massive data sets. And you can’t keep them updated fast enough to ensure you’re using data that’s still relevant. Not to mention the compliance nightmare you create by putting sensitive data into Excel or Google spreadsheets.
Collaboration between BI teams and marketing teams is insufficient
At the end of the day, you’re a marketing professional, not a BI expert. If you’re using a cloud data warehouse to centralize and secure marketing and customer data, you need your data team to source reliable data and ensure it’s curated for you. And they need your input to know what kinds of data reside in which platforms and applications and what datasets are most valuable. Traditional BI offers limited functionality for collaboration, so you’re stuck emailing back and forth or jumping on Zoom calls.
How to overcome marketing analytics hurdles
To get the insights you need for smart decision-making, you need to be able to access reliable data from disparate sources easily and run real-time analyses on your own. And you shouldn’t have to learn SQL skills and convince the data team to let you loose in the data warehouse. Let’s dive into exactly how you can overcome the challenges we’ve just described.
Take a modern (cloud-native) approach to analytics and BI
First, you need a flexible, scalable, powerful data warehouse that will store and quickly process the data you need, when you need it. On-prem data warehouses can’t scale easily (meaning that not all data gets to go into the warehouse), and they depend on a data expert to process data and load it before business users can analyze it. Modern cloud data warehouses like Snowflake affordably store and quickly process data (including the semi-structured data that your apps and devices are generating) using innovative technologies. The result is that you can easily find reliable data that’s relevant to your questions, and you can immediately get it in a usable form.
Next, you need a marketing BI solution built for the cloud data warehouse, not a traditional BI tool retrofitted to work with it. Why is this important? First, traditional tools rely on extracts or ping the warehouse periodically and store data within the application itself — this means that data isn’t real-time. Additionally, dashboards and reports don’t automatically refresh in many traditional tools, so your information is probably out of date when you’re looking at it. You need a solution that connects directly to your cloud data warehouse and automatically refreshes your dashboards.
Use a tool built for everyone, not just data experts
Most analytics and BI tools, even those labeled “self-service,” require deep knowledge of coding and SQL to get meaningful insights. To free yourself from reliance on the data team for information beyond what’s available in standard high-level reports, you need a tool that you can use yourself. You need the ability to drill down into dashboards to explore the underlying (real-time) data that’s causing the trends you’ve identified. Ideally, your tool’s interface will function like others you’re familiar with, such as a spreadsheet. For example, using Sigma, marketing teams can manipulate data in a spreadsheet, and the tool generates the necessary corresponding SQL in the background.
Move beyond the spreadsheet
Spreadsheets work fine until a team gets to a certain level. If you have aggressive targets to hit or if your growth milestones are ambitious, you must have access to real-time insights. Otherwise, you risk making big mistakes that are difficult to mitigate later on. Using spreadsheets is an inherently slow process because it requires so much manual work. And if you have a lot of data to analyze, spreadsheets aren’t an option because they choke on large data sets. If you’re limiting yourself to an extracted snapshot, you aren’t getting a full picture. Additionally, as we mentioned above, data in spreadsheets is out of reach for compliance oversight, making it vulnerable to getting into the wrong hands.
Pitch a more collaborative, community-driven approach
To become truly data-driven, your company needs a collaborative approach that encourages people across departments to contribute their perspectives. After all, team members in marketing, sales, and customer service each have a unique view of the customer. Working together, they can operate from a more holistic understanding. Beyond this, with a modern marketing BI tool, you can involve your partners and customers in data conversations — or work with them to share data and/or dashboards.
Learn more about the benefits of a collaborative approach to analytics. Check out 6 Benefits of a Collaborative Approach to Analytics and BI.
What you can do with a modern analytics tool
Here’s a look at some of the most common use cases modern marketers rely on to drive revenue and customer acquisition and retention.
- Customer 360 — Combine all of a customer’s interactions with your company, starting with engagement on your website and social channels, through conversations with your team members via chat or phone. Use this view to create a more personalized customer journey and inform the best time to cross-sell and up-sell.
- Cohort/Segment — Based on cost-to-acquire, highest lifetime value, and other key metrics, determine which cohort or market segment to focus resources and attention on.
- Marketing Spend ROI — Analyze marketing channels (email, direct, web/social, smart TV, etc.) and campaigns to reallocate spend from low- to high-performing channels. Improve ROI, and drive more revenue.
Imagine the impact of implementing just one of these use cases without having to wrangle unruly spreadsheets or wait on your BI team! Marketing teams using modern analytics and BI boost their value to their organizations, and marketing leaders become essential contributors to decision-making.
Sigma makes my data-driven decisions more accurate and timely. And at a personal level, being able to converse with my data makes my job more fun.
Marketing Manager, Volta
How one marketer took analytics into her own hands
If envisioning the use cases for marketing analytics and BI has your wheels turning, you may find it helpful to look at a story of marketing analytics in action.
Volta Charging operates the most extensive free electric car-charging network in the United States. They make money by selling ad space on the digital screens of their charging stations. To make a convincing pitch, they rely on customer data. This data shows Volta charging stations’ usage and performance and the habits of the people charging their cars. The team also uses data about the companies sponsoring and running ads on the stations.
Mia Oppelstrup, Volta’s Marketing Manager, needed to probe all the company’s various data warehouses to gain insights from that data. But, as she put it, “There was no practical way to take all the material in the mine and sift, sort, categorize, visualize, and explore what was there.” Instead, she had to rely on the data team.
She said, “The most basic data questions required me to ask our head software engineer for answers. I’d get curious about something, and he would have to write me a SQL query in the database. Things like checking customer usage by a geographic area over time for X partner, which would then need to be sliced and diced five different ways.” This process was frustrating for everyone involved.
Using Sigma’s solution and a cloud data warehouse, Oppelstrup was free to find the answers she needed, on her own. She explains, “With Sigma, it’s like I can now have a conversation with my data. I can muse, for instance, about whether charging usage per hour is different for stations near a grocery store or a gym. Or if the content of ads on the digital boards translates into higher foot traffic for the sponsoring retailers.”
She could determine if data supported various hypotheses, such as whether electric vehicle drivers are more likely to patronize shops near a charging station. With the insights she gained, Volta’s marketing campaigns and sales pitches were more effective.
To hear the full story, read the interview with Oppelstrup.
Boost your value with marketing analytics and BI
With your marketing data at your fingertips in an easy-to-analyze format, you can move faster and make better decisions. Ultimately, you can improve your performance and boost the value you provide to your company. At the same time, your job will become easier since you’ll no longer be operating in the dark or waste time manually crunching numbers in a plethora of spreadsheets.