As I was researching stats for a new blog post, I was astonished to find that there was no sign of a buyer’s guide to help marketing leaders and business managers choose a marketing analytics tool. Sure, there are tons of listicles of great marketing tools to review, compare or add to your marketing toolbox. But those lists fail to help you decide which features you need to efficiently measure the performance of your marketing strategies.
So, I figured I’d jump in.
Consider this post your Buyer’s Checklist. It walks you through the six critical components that your marketing analytics tool needs to have in order to help you and your teams make effective, data-driven decisions. They are:
- Extensive data connections to build actionable KPIs
- Automated data refreshes and alerts to react faster
- Interactive data visualizations to reveal key insights
- Mobile dashboards to stay on top of your KPIs at all times
- Sharing and collaboration features to align everyone on a single source of the truth
- Data security and compliance (GDPR, CCPA)
The Marketing Analytics Tool Buyer’s Checklist
1. Extensive data connections — To build actionable KPIs
This should be your starting point. Since you want to analyze your marketing data, your analytics tool must have connectors to all of your marketing systems so it can pull data from them, too.
If the tools in your shortlist have connectors to social media, email marketing, Google Ads, Google Analytics, and e-commerce platforms, that’s a good start. However, that’s not what I meant by “extensive” data connections. In order to make informed decisions, you need to blend your marketing data with your sales data and even your financial data.
Let me explain.
If you only look at your marketing data, you will be limited by the number of KPIs you’ll be able to build, and you won’t have all of the information you’d need to accurately measure the performance of your campaigns, and ultimately, improve them.
For example, does it really help your business to know that your social media content campaign has increased your engagement rate by 70%? That’s a great stat, but what action can you take based on that result? It’s not clear. We call that a vanity metric.
Wouldn’t it be more helpful to measure the impact of social media engagement on your sales pipeline and your revenue? By calculating your cost per lead, or better yet, your return on marketing investment, you can see if you have targeted the right audience and the right market with your campaign.
That information can help you shape and sharpen your marketing strategy. Now, that’s an actionable metric. Your marketing analytics tool should also offer connectors to your CRM and, ideally, your financial system, so you can compare your marketing spending against budget.
2. Automated data refreshes and alerts — To react faster
Connecting your data is the first step, but, by itself, it isn’t enough to make your team completely data-driven. Your marketing analytics tool should also offer you two critical automation features: data refreshes and alerts.
How useful are your KPIs—even if they’re actionable—if they don’t show the latest data available? And you can’t ask your team to update the data manually, can you? We all know that manual data management can lead to data versioning issues, bad data entries, and formula errors, and I’m not even mentioning the poor use of their time. If your team is still using spreadsheets to update their reporting, you need to change that!
If you’re still not convinced, you can read this article from Steve Olenski, a reputable marketing specialist, on the importance of embracing data management platforms (DMP).
Your marketing analytics tool should be doing the hard work for you of pulling the data and automatically updating it in your dashboards.
Automated alerts also play an important role in helping your marketing team steer their activities. They need to know the good news and the bad news right away. They can’t wait for their weekly meeting, for example, to realize that five days ago their search ad conversions dropped because they reached their daily budget. If they had been alerted, that would have been fixed right away.
On the other hand, if your ad conversions exceed your goal, your team should still be alerted. It might be a great time to increase the bids and get even more conversions. The alerts are also a great way to communicate your marketing results with your team and organization.
3. Interactive data visualizations — To reveal key insights
Let’s say your prospective marketing analytics tool does have all the connectors and the automation tools that you need. Still, that’s not enough to be a good fit.
It also needs to provide a data visualization engine to make sense of the data. Using graphics in dashboards will help your team grasp important information quickly, at a glance. And, if you add interactivity and flexibility into the mix, the visualizations will make an even bigger impact on your team’s decision-making.
Take this dashboard as an example. It calculates the costs and revenue of paid campaigns on Google Search, Display Networks, and YouTube.
What’s great about this dashboard is that you can change the variables and parameters to calculate your marketing campaigns’ ROI. By moving the “Avg Customer Lifespan” and “Lead Conversion Rate” sliders, you can automatically see the ROI indicator change.
An interactive dashboard gives you much more valuable insights than a static dashboard or written report can because it allows you to explore your data in a fluid and intuitive way.
Learn how to build this dashboard in the webinar “Marketing Analytics & Calculating ROI”
4. Mobile dashboards — To stay on top of your KPIs at all times
Mobile dashboards are often overlooked, but it is important to include them in your marketing analytics tool review checklist.
If your marketing team gets an alert saying that something’s wrong with their campaign, website traffic, or conversions, they need to access their KPIs and the data immediately so they can understand where the deviation occurred. But they might not happen to be in front of their computers or the office TV displaying the live dashboards. That is why having a mobile app with all their dashboards becomes necessary.
But having the swift ability to put out fires isn’t the only benefit of mobile dashboard apps. They also give your team and leaders the freedom to be able to check their performance metrics with live data from anywhere, even while they travel.
5. Sharing and collaboration features — To align everyone on a single source of the truth
This may sound obvious, but your dashboards and data need to be shared with all of your stakeholders in order to be useful. Having a single source of truth helps you improve data quality, and security but also reach higher organizational performance. You might think that all marketing analytics tools offer easy solutions to share and collaborate on dashboards, but not all of them do. It has to do with the tools’ infrastructure.
For example, cloud-based reporting solutions tend to offer more flexible ways to share dashboards via live links, while on-premises software solutions require dashboard users to install the app on their desktops. So if you go with an on-premises solution, make sure it can be supported by all operating systems—Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Among sharing and collaborating features that a tool offers, be sure to insist on these essentials:
- Automated dashboard distribution so you can set rules to automatically send dashboards with up-to-date data to specific users or teams,
- Sharing options, such as deciding if all users need a license to see the data,
- Dashboard export formats that include PDF, PPT, PNG/JPG, and tabulated reports,
- Data export capabilities that allow your users to export the data to play with it or review it,
- Parameter-based visibility so you can create a single dashboard and only make the data visible to the right users.
6. Data Security and Compliance (GDPR, CCPA)
Last but not least is data security. The security and safety of your data and your customers’ data need to be at the center of your software vendors’ software design. Don’t hesitate to ask about server locations, their hosting providers, and what kind of security protocols they offer to prevent unauthorized access to your company data.
If you’re doing business in Europe, be sure to ask the vendors if they abide by local regulations such as GDPR. If you have customers in California, ask about conformance with CCPA, or HIPAA if you work in the healthcare industry.
Questions to Ask During Your Marketing Analytics Tool Demo
One extremely useful resource to help you determine if the tool you’re reviewing really does have everything you need is a checklist of all the questions you might ask during a product demo. Here you go:
Your marketing team should have an analytics tool in their toolbox, but as a marketing leader or business manager, you need to make sure you choose the best one for them.
It should connect to marketing tools, sure, but also to your sales and financial software, which will give you a more accurate picture and a better understanding of how your team is performing.
The ideal marketing analytics tool also offers powerful automation features to update your dashboards and keep you alerted on your critical data. You want to be able to create custom and interactive dashboards and share them easily with everyone who needs them. A mobile app is also a must for those team members who are always on the go. Finally, make sure the vendor is compliant with all local or industry regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, or HIPAA in Healthcare.
ClicData is a data management and reporting platform that allows you to achieve all that. Hundreds of business managers have chosen ClicData to empower their teams to make better decisions on a daily basis.