July 13, 2017
With the rise of data-driven marketing came the rise of data-driven marketing technology. Seriously, there's a ton of it. While access to data was once a common challenge for marketers, access to too much data is now what makes us grab that extra cup of coffee. So, with all of these different platforms delivering that sweet, sweet data, which ones do you actually use to report it???
Here are some of your top options:
Systems like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics are great for reporting – why you ask? First, they have integrations to many of the other data-producing systems your business relies on, such as an ERP, marketing automation platform, or commerce platform. But perhaps more importantly, this is the first place where you'll find your most important data - money! The fact that your CRM is where your sales team will log the amount of revenue you produce makes this a first-look platform for your most important numbers.
The drawback of CRMs is that while it has the most up-to-date numbers from your sales team, it doesn't always provide the best way to represent that data, especially if you like fancy charts and graphs and such. Systems like Salesforce can be very limiting in the dashboards they allow you to create, although they are getting better.
Also, not everyone who needs access to this data needs access to the CRM, and giving out additional licenses just to view a dashboard can get pretty pricey when licenses can cost $125 per user per month.
Your marketing automation platform (MAP), such as HubSpot or Marketo, can also be a good place to go for reporting, especially since it houses all of your marketing information and (hopefully) connects to your CRM to share data. In addition, some platforms such as Marketo and Eloqua have some powerful reporting features that will update in real time if they are connected to your other systems.
However, those tools can again be limiting in how they represent data, and many of the providers have expensive reporting add-ons that can drive up the cost of your martech stack.
And for you B2B marketers, most of these systems are designed to track individuals even though you really care about accounts. While the technology is starting to catch up to the ABM demand, the reporting tools often just aren't there yet.
Ah, good old Excel. The old standby.
The big advantage of Excel is that you have the ability to manipulate, graph, and chart your data however your heart desires. And with a little Excel magic in the form of a VLOOKUP, you can combine data from multiple sources. And with a pivot table – the greatest data analysis tool of all time in my humble opinion - your charts and graphs can have super-handy filters and date ranges that make it easy to analyze data from different angles.
I'm also going to assume your office already has Excel, so there is no additional cost to you!
The major drawback of Excel, and it's a big one, is that data will not be updated in real-time. That means that every time you want to update those gorgeous dashboards you created, you'll have to re-export your data and then redo your Excel magic to match your data source. It is also more difficult to share the data with those who need to see it, and you could end up passing around different versions of your data-rich Excel workbook. Nobody wants to bring that chaos upon themselves.
A business intelligence (BI) tool can be a data-driven marketer's most powerful ally, or their biggest nightmare. The big pros are that it will pull in data from multiple systems in real-time, create beautiful dashboards you won't have to recreate every time you get new data, and easily share those beautiful dashboards with the relevant stakeholders.
This all can come at a significant cost however. The most powerful systems with the flexibility you dream of can cost an average of $1,500 per year. Cheaper options are available but will not have the flexibility and usability that you crave.
Overall, finding the right system to do your reporting is just as important as the systems that are actually collecting the data. The perfect system will be completely integrated, will update in real-time, and give you the ability to create amazing, useful dashboards that you can easily share with the people who need to see it. You have the data, now how will you use it?
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