How to promote confidence and trust in your marketing data

One of the greatest challenges companies face with increased access to technology is trust.  With a high level of access to many different kinds of business specific data, companies are feeling increased pressure to leverage this data to derive insights and make decisions.  That said the biggest obstacle in actually using this data to drive business decisions is the lack of trust in the data.  For marketers, distrust in the data is founded sometimes in the underlying sales process as this has a direct bearing on campaign performance data (disclaimer: I’m a sales person too).  In other cases distrust in the data is a function of the underlying data model in terms of the way the platform you use measures things like funnel analytics or campaign performance.  These are very specific issues, but the fact remains that without trust in your marketing and sales data you will not be able to drive any sort of confident business decision making.

At a higher level though there are other things that foster distrust in marketing data.  Today many marketers utilize complex Excel spreadsheets and control panels (due to lack of a better option) to derive the specific marketing data they are asked for.  Unfortunately, beyond the incredible amount of time and pain associated with this report generation, there is also the question of trust in the data.  After all, we had to get those data sets into our Excel spreadsheets and during the exports/imports there is always a chance the data becomes corrupted which threatens the integrity of the metrics and insights derived from this process.  When reporting in Excel we are also subject to a specific reporter’s logic, which is not always an organizationally understood or agreed upon reporting methodology.  Therefore, amongst the individuals I speak with on a daily basis more often than not these reports coming from Excel are utilized more as a point of reference or bearing, as opposed to a mechanism for confident decision making.

In other cases, I see marketers who report from third party applications or platforms such as business intelligence (BI) or marketing automation (MA) tools.  Unfortunately, because the majority of our funnel and campaign performance data comes from CRM systems like Salesforce, these external tools simply suck the data from Salesforce and then derive metrics in their own application with their own logic.  Now regardless of whether the reporting methodology is accurate, we are left with a very specific limitation – the “black box”!  Because this data is being taken from Salesforce into the BI or MA tool, we cannot see or access the underlying data that generates the report that is being looked at – making it incredibly difficult to foster any confidence in this information.  Therefore, this data is locked in…the “black box”.  In the case that a marketing group is presenting to an executive team and they call attention to a specific campaign’s conversion rate, without access to the underlying data there is no way to justify or prove that the conversion rate is actually correct.  And as a result without having confidence in those calculations, it is very difficult to use any insights derived from these reports to drive business decision making.

Finally, the last thing that I encounter that creates distrust in marketing data is the usage of multiple reporting platforms.  All too often, I encounter organizations whose marketing team reports from their marketing automation tool, while the sales team reports from Salesforce.  As a result of reporting from disparate systems the numbers that are delivered from the sales side and the marketing side never align or match up.  Regardless of whether or not one set of numbers is in fact accurate, without this alignment we are left with a lack of confidence and trust in both sets of data.  In order to improve alignment in these numbers and their respective departments, it is paramount that we have them report from the same platform with access to the same data so that their numbers always match one another.  This will give us that warm fuzzy feeling of confidence and trust in our data that we all need to drive business decisions.

So in summation (in the case that you’re still reading), in order to foster confidence and trust in the data, we need the following things:

1)     Awareness of how the underlying data model and sales process may be manipulating our marketing data’s accuracy.

2)     The ability to report from within the platform where the data is generated to ensure the integrity of that data is maintained.

3)     Access to the underlying data that generates these marketing reports in order to prove the accuracy of the data.

4)     Alignment between the sales and marketing data that we are delivering to our higher ups.

By accomplishing these things you will be able to foster confidence and trust in your data, that will not only allow you to prove marketing’s contribution and worth to your organization, but also provide you metrics that you can stand behind in order to justify your marketing spend, your increased budget request, etc.

Jay Jennison

About Jay Jennison

Jay works as a Corporate Accounts manager at Full Circle Insights and previously worked within the corporate sales division at Salesforce.com. He attended Duke University for his undergraduate and graduate degrees where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in History and Markets and Management and focused the subject of his Master’s thesis on developmental strategy for third-world economies.