If you're an analyst, it's easy to believe that everything you know about a subject is widely shared general knowledge. But then you do some research and discover that you inhabit a different world sometimes. That's what I discovered recently when I examined some data from a research project I did on marketing.
There are many ways to research marketing, but I chose to try to understand the role of analytics in the marketing process—how a judicious use of data and analytics can improve marketing funnel activities. I found that, at least for this population, it's still early days.
My findings confirm that many marketers are collecting more data than ever and reporting on it, which is good. What's not as good is that most of the people I studied are doing just that, reporting. It leaves me with the understanding that marketers are monitoring the marketing process more than they are managing it. For example, they collect data on leads and costs and report leads per program, cost per lead or per program, and maybe even cost per revenue dollar. All of this is great, and it should bring a smile to the CFO's face.
But what I didn't see a lot of—about 30% of respondents said they did this—was data capturing within the process, instead of exclusively at the end. This needs some explanation.
If you report on leads per program, the metric comes at the end of the program. You can get an interim report, but it won't tell you very much—only that you're not done yet. But say you want to know how long it takes for a typical deal to go from raw input to a marketing qualified lead or even a sales qualified lead. Then you're assessing funnel velocity. To do this you will need to track time in the funnel. And while you're at it, why not also track time in each discrete marketing phase?
If you simply track or timestamp some milestones in the funnel process, you have the ability to see into that process and understand where things accelerate or where the pipe gets gummed up. It's worth knowing, too. And for no extra cost, you can also discover the outliers. Outliers are the deals that take too long and might need a push, as well as the super fast leads that demand sales' attention because they have the look and feel of money.
And if you're an analyzer and not just a report writer, it will be a little easier to discover what kind of marketing programs are best for surfacing particular kinds of leads. Say you need a few more dollars in the pipeline before the end of the quarter. You know that some marketing programs are better at surfacing leads that tend to close quicker. Which ones are they? It would be great to identify all of that—and you can.
Alas, more than 90% of respondents said they use CRM for marketing. But a CRM report writer is not the same as an analytics tool designed to do the slicing, dicing, and drilling down that's rapidly becoming a marketing necessity. This also implies a need for capturing historic data or the value of something over time. If you overwrite old data, you won't be able to do this when you capture new data.
As I say, in my study, less than one third of marketers surveyed said they did all of this. Most were tracking the number of leads overall, leads per program, and similar cost metrics. There's nothing wrong with that. But keep in mind: If you want a full seat at the boardroom table, the argot is closed and won not by how much you spend. And if reports of gross numbers merely say you've been doing your job but that revenue isn't where it should be, it must be sales' fault. Don't fall into this trap.
Marketing has an opportunity to be part of the revenue discussion; however, it will take a bit more investment in people, processes, and technology before we all get there. But I think the finish line is in plain sight.