Guest Blogger Contribution by Molly Clarke, a Senior Marketing Manager at ZoomInfo.
Modern marketers live and breathe data. We’re constantly trying to prove the value of our efforts, test and scale campaigns, and measure results—all in an attempt to generate more revenue for our respective companies. But, what if we told you your beloved marketing reports might be doing more harm than good?
Before you click away, hear us out. We’re by no means saying to trash your marketing reports and start from scratch. But, we’re all human, and it’s easy to make mistakes—especially when it comes to marketing metrics.
Ready to learn more? Today we cover 13 common marketing report mistakes and the strategies you need to improve your efforts. Keep reading!
1. Your data is kept in different silos.
As marketers, we hear a lot about sales and marketing alignment—it’s become easy to brush off and think, “that’s not a problem at my company.” But, misalignment happens everywhere—whether you realize it or not.
Just because your sales and marketing teams get along, that doesn’t mean they’re truly aligned. How often do you see sales reports? Once a month? Quarterly? My guess is you don’t see them as often as you see marketing reports. But misaligned reporting, disparate metrics, and separate data sources are the biggest contributors to sales and marketing discord.
Think about it – how can you expect to be on the same page as your sales team if you don’t understand their metrics and have shared goals?
Fortunately, this is a relatively easy issue to fix. Here’s what we recommend:
- Strategize: Both teams must work together to develop a comprehensive strategy that maps out every stage of the sales funnel.
- Define: Determine the official criteria for a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). Be specific during this process. The more general your definitions are, the more room you leave for misinterpretation.
- Report and Communicate: Both your sales and marketing teams should use shared dashboards and reports. Meet often to discuss your findings and interpret results.
Once you consolidate your data sources and work with your sales counterparts to develop a reporting strategy, your reports will become exponentially more helpful. In fact, when marketing and sales teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates (source).
2. You focus too much on vanity metrics.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, vanity metrics are metrics that look good on paper—like registered users, followers, or raw pageviews—but offer very little in terms of actionable insights.
Aside from being ‘feel good’ numbers, marketers are often drawn to vanity metrics because they’re so readily available and easy to access. However, accessibility does not always translate to value. It’s important to remember that there is no substantial correlation or causation between these metrics and your high-level marketing objectives – like ROI and customer lifetime value. Ultimately, too heavy a focus on vanity metrics can paint an inaccurate and unreliable picture of your marketing efforts.
Let’s take Twitter for example. For most companies, the number of favorites earned on a single tweet doesn’t necessarily correlate to more sales. For instance: One month, your Twitter traffic generates $40,000 in sales for your company but you only received 400 favorites all month. And then the following month, Twitter generations only $100 in sales, but your tweets garnered 10,000 favorites. As you can see, reporting on favorites wouldn’t accurately depict the value of Twitter.
Continue to keep track of vanity metrics, but don’t rely on vanity metrics alone to tell you how your campaigns are doing.
3. Your data is unreliable.
60% of companies report having an overall data health that’s unreliable (source)—and that’s just the data within your B2B contact database. No matter what you’re reporting on and what tools you use, you must always consider the source of the data.
For example, if your marketing automation platform pulls data from your Google Analytics account, you need to make sure your Google Analytics data is accurate. This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s something that can go completely ignored for years.
Whether you’re new to a company or you’ve been working at the same place for years, it’s important to regularly assess your data collection methods. Run an audit on every program you use for reporting and make sure there are no glaring issues or inconsistencies. Most problems will be easy to spot, you just have to be on the lookout.
4. You consider all leads to be good leads.
We touched on this briefly in an earlier section, but we think it’s important enough to have its own section. Let’s get into it.
A marketer’s primary job is to generate leads. But—not all leads are created equal. Think about it, would you prefer 100 leads that never generate revenue or 10 leads that generate $50,000 in revenue? The answer is pretty obvious.
If you base your marketing reports on total leads rather than Sales Qualified Leads, you might be wasting your time. Instead, take a more granular approach. Determine the characteristics of a high-quality lead and tailor your campaigns to target more people who fit this profile. Rather than focusing on overall lead growth, focus on growing your SQLs.
5. Inconsistent technology use.
If you consistently change platforms and try out new tools, your reports provide little historical value. Think about it this way: If your manager asks how much a certain program has grown in the last five years, and over that period of time you’ve used five different tools for the task, your results won’t be comparable.
If you want to look back at your programs’ evolution over time, it’s important to be consistent with the tools you use. Sure, certain metrics won’t change from platform to platform. But, before you add a new tool to your marketing technology stack, make sure you understand how it will impact your reporting. Will the data from your old platform carry over? Do they collect the same metrics? Does the company offer any type of integration services?
6. Hand picking results.
We all want to look good and we all want it to seem like our campaigns generate results. But, if you cherry pick your results to paint a brighter picture of your marketing efforts, you’ll never grow as a department or company. Although it can be painful to admit our shortcomings, doing so generates new ideas, new strategies, and solutions.
Instead of glossing over bad results or numbers, use them as an opportunity to ask for help. That way, your campaigns improve and your numbers will be better next month. Everyone wins.
7. Skipping offline marketing.
In our digital era, most marketing happens online. But, we can’t discount any offline campaigns we run because they undoubtedly influence online campaigns. Whether you run radio ads or billboards, it’s important to note whether or not they have an impact on website traffic, call-in leads, or branded searches.
For example, a TV advertisement might not generate any direct revenue, and because it’s expensive, your boss wants to cancel the advertisement. But, after digging into your analytics you notice a significant spike in branded searches and website traffic that coincides with the commercial. Reporting on this allows you to make the case for brand awareness and even tie the campaign to revenue.
Taking this example one step further—you realize that you can better track your success if you direct viewers to a custom landing page. You make this adjustment and see that the TV advertisement contributed much more revenue than originally thought.
Scenarios like this one are the reason why it’s critical to track the impact of your offline marketing efforts.
8. Manual reporting and formatting.
Manual data entry and reporting not only leads to errors, but it also wastes a significant amount of time. If you’re relying on excel sheets and the copy and paste function on your computer, it’s time to take a step back and see if any of these processes can be automated.
While we aren’t suggesting that you automate everything, it’s important to automate the menial tasks that take up the most time. Not only will your reports be more accurate, but you’ll also have more time to implement and use the insights you discover to improve your marketing efforts.
9. Forgetting to make note of changes or errors.
As marketers we often test different strategies and make changes to existing strategies on the fly. If we don’t make note of our changes, our historical data means nothing. For example, if a tweak to a website form leads to a significant increase in SQLs, but no one makes note of the change, you’ll soon forget about it. This leads to holes in reporting and limits the actionable insights you can glean from your reports.
10. Not acting upon your reports.
If your reporting process stops the minute you hit ‘send,’ it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate. The whole point of reporting is to generate actionable insights to improve your campaigns and generate revenue. Although it’s easy to forget this, it’s important that you don’t.
When you send your monthly reports, formulate and distribute a corresponding list of action items. Then, the next time you send out reports, explain any developments or improvements you’ve seen because of those action items.
11. Confusing correlation with causation.
In marketing there are often many campaigns running at once. As such, there are often a million different changes and tweaks happening at any given moment. Therefore, it’s easy to confuse correlation with causation.
Here’s an example: Your company relies on organic traffic to generate the majority of its leads. You assume your website team and digital marketers are responsible for this. Then, you unfortunately have to make budget cuts—and because they don’t contribute a significant amount of leads—you scale back your email marketing and brand awareness efforts.
Almost immediately, your organic traffic and organic leads dry up. After digging into it, you realize the majority of your leads came from branded searches that likely stemmed from your email marketing and brand awareness efforts.
In this example your team assumed there was causation between SEO efforts and results. When, in reality there was correlation between other marketing channels that they had never considered.
The point here is this: Be sure you understand the relationship between your campaigns and your results. Figure out which campaigns have a direct impact on the leads and revenue you generate and figure out which are merely related.
12. You report too frequently.
The more metrics the better, right? Well, not always. If you pull reports every day, or even every week, you might be doing more harm than good. Think about it, if you’re constantly obsessing over numbers, it’s likely that you’re not giving your new strategies enough time to work.
If you make a change to your website on a Monday, and see no real impact to leads the next day, does that mean your change didn’t work? Of course not. Marketing is complicated and your various channels are often connected in ways that you don’t even realize. If you’re reporting too often and making changes just as frequently, you may not even understand how your efforts are impacting your overall strategy.
13. You don’t report at all.
Worse than reporting too frequently is not reporting at all. Although many departments understand the importance of B2B marketing metrics and data-driven decision making, we still come across the occasional team who doesn’t have a strategic reporting process.
Often, these teams assume they have a good understanding of their campaigns and the factors that influence their success. But, in our competitive marketplace, it’s no longer enough to base your marketing strategy on gut feelings and best guesses.
Although reporting can be complicated and time-intensive, it’s worth it. Reports guide campaigns, tell you where you’re messing up, and highlight areas of opportunity. If you’re not reporting on your efforts, you’re not performing at your best.
There you have it, 13 ways your marketing reports might be hurting your business! We hope you’re able to take some of this advice and apply to your own campaigns. Remember to always ask yourself: Are your marketing reports genuinely helpful, or are you just going through the motions? Take a step back and consider which metrics you truly need and which reports actually help you make better marketing decisions.
If a higher up is asking you to report on something, figure out why. Maybe there’s a better way to do it. Or maybe there’s a better metric to look at. Be proactive with your reporting and your bottom line will thank you.
Molly Clarke is a Senior Marketing Manager at Zoominfo where she writes for their B2B blog. ZoomInfo is a leading business information database that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability. In her free time Molly likes to write about topics related to marketing and business.