We’re about to give you a sneak peek behind the scenes of how marketing departments are implementing data analytics, across industries and across business stages.
Here at Improvado, we’ve got the inside scoop.
That’s because, as a marketing middleware company, we help hundreds of marketing teams collect data from their marketing platforms and build automated reports and dashboards in their favorite visualization tools.
Do not underestimate the importance of prioritizing marketing analytics. Doing it correctly will help you get ahead and win more customers. It allows you to forecast outcomes, make smarter decisions and increase profits—all factors that give you a serious leg up on the competition.
As a business progresses from the Founding Stage of 1-10 employees, to the Growth Stage of 150-500+ employees, the thought process around marketing analytics should evolve as a company matures.
As a middleware company, we get to see marketing analytics implementations first hand. Our customers run the gamut from mid-sized B2C brands to global B2B enterprises, so we understand how analytics can impact businesses at every stage. In this article, I’ll explain how companies should be leveraging marketing analytics in each stage of their company’s growth for maximum results.
How to Upgrade Your Marketing Analytics as Your Business Scales
I see a lot of companies trying to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing analytics, but it’s really something that evolves over time. Instead of trying to do everything at once, use these specific strategies depending on the growth stage of your business.
What you need now: Google Analytics
The earliest stage of any business is the launching phase. This is when your company is just getting off the ground, your first product or service offering has hit the market, and you’re starting to generate valuable data. This tends to be a pretty hectic stage, because the team is small, usually 1-10 people, time is limited, and your to-do list is endless.
Even though you don’t have a wealth of data at this point, it’s important to start tracking analytics around your product. At the end of the day, your product metrics are what will help you create an offering that generates sustainable revenue and a loyal customer base.
In the founding stage, setting up Google Analytics is critical. It’s free and easy to set up and will allow you to track basic website metrics so you can see how many people are visiting your website and where they’re coming from.
What you need now: UTM tracking
The next stage is considered the startup phase. The company usually has between 10-20 employees. Analytics are becoming more crucial at this point, because you’re starting to think critically about scaling—and you need data to make that happen. If you’ve hired an in-house marketer to manage and execute your strategy, keep in mind that they’ll need access to data to do their job.
I recommend having your new marketing hire own Google Analytics, create custom conversions, and check the data regularly. They should also start using UTM parameters for every new link they create for paid ads. UTM parameters allow you to more accurately track where your traffic came from. It is especially important as you start to run paid ads because it will help you attribute which channels are working and where you need to spend more money.
However, if you do B2B marketing, then Google Analytics will not be enough insights for you. That is because you may have multiple contacts and decision makers from the same company visiting your site. The best thing to do in this case is to import all data from all events on your website, into your CRM. At some point, you will be bringing so much data inside your CRM that you will outgrow it. This is when you may decide to own the data yourself and store it inside a data warehouse.
What you need now: A data warehouse, an ETL tool, a BI tool and you need to hire an Analytics Lead.
Okay, here’s where marketing analytics gets more serious. It is an important and exciting period of your growth. The expanding phase is when your business is starting to really take off. Chances are, you’ve built a solid team of 20 or more employees, and you’ve raised a successful round of funding. By this point, you have a plethora of data that is begging to be analyzed and put to good use.
Your team is spending far too much time collecting data and building manual reports and quite frankly, they’re probably making a lot of mistakes due to the reality of human error. It’s also a strain on your team's happiness. You probably also have more budget to put towards data and analytics software.
In this stage, you’ll want to set up your data infrastructure. You have too much data to just look at Google Analytics or your CRM in a silo. You need one single source of truth for all your data and you need all your data to funnel there seamlessly. You also need someone to own data full-time. It is that important.
- You need a data warehouse: For data warehouses, look into Google BigQuery Snowflake and Redshift (I prefer to work with Google BigQuery). Here’s a review of the best data warehouses.
- You need an ETL tool: For ETL tools, look into Improvado. Here’s a review of Improvado. What’s great about Improvado is that they will host your data warehouse for you and be sure all your data is inside it properly.
- What not to do:
- Do not, and I repeat, do NOT build your own ETL pipelines. This will waste so many hours of engineering time, and you will regret it because it is not a core competency of your IT team’s skill set. It requires a lot of support and knowledge of details and edge cases. Buy off-the-shelf from Improvado and have your data APIs connected within a matter of seconds. Improvado extracts the data and helps you prepare it for analytics.
- Do not use an all-in-one marketing tool like Datorama. The reason why is because you will not own the data and you will not be able to easily export it from Datorama. This creates problems if you’re trying to connect your data to Tableau or any other visualization tool.
- You need a BI tool: For BI tools, look into Tableau, Looker and PowerBI. Here’s a comparison of some BI tools.
- You need an Analytics Lead: You can’t afford to have your marketing team spending 10-20 hours per week working with data. They need to be thinking strategically and optimizing ads based on clean data and reporting. You a full time analytics hire to own data within your business. And while you will likely need a full-on analytics team in the future, you must at least have one Analytics hire onboarded right now.
What you need now: Forecasting and attribution
The middle-phase is challenging because your analytics are becoming more in-depth, and you need to start clearly showing how marketing is contributing to the bottom line. When you have all your data together you can implement attribution models on the fly and experiment with it.
I also want to note that mid-stage companies should be using their data to forecast challenges. Begin selectively tackling some forecasting challenges. Forecasting is harder than just running counts and sums, but there are a couple of key areas where it makes sense to begin diving in. These models will probably not be extremely sophisticated, but they’ll be a big improvement over the random Excel workbook that someone in Finance hacked together.
If you’re an ecommerce company, work on creating an inventory demand model. If you’re a subscription-based company, think about building a forecasting model to predict customer retention and churn. Spend time and energy on figuring out your marketing attribution. This is a whole blog post on its own, but suffice it to say that you simply can’t trust this critical business question to a third party.
What you need now: QA & documentation
The growth stage is the end goal for every company. From an analytics perspective, this is the point where you’re focusing on creating processes that scale with the business. You probably have somewhere between 150 and 500 employees by now, including analysts who oversee your company’s data and analytics strategy. As you expand your team, you need to create processes that allow employees to work with data more efficiently.
Data Quality Assurance (QA) testing is going to be important at this stage. You’re generating a huge amount of data, so you need to make sure your data is clean, accurate and formatted correctly. You need to know what to test, where to test, and how much to test. Data testing can be a complicated process, especially when you’re working with massive data sets, so using an automated system will make your life easier.
Marketers also need to use this time to double down on documenting their data. Documenting is how you’ll conceptualize your data, so you can review it down the line and understand what it’s about, how it was collected, how you analyzed it, and so on. Having this information allows you to revisit and reuse the data for forecasting, cataloguing, etc.
If you’re not already using marketing analytics, now is certainly the time to start. Whether you’re an early stage startup, or a 500-person organization, you will be left in the dust without a clear road map for evolving your marketing analytics.
For more tips on mastering your marketing analytics, check out our guide to using marketing analytics in 2020.