The Data Story: Reporting for B2B Marketers

The Data Story: Reporting for B2B Marketers

There is more to marketing reporting than viewing dashboards. Asking the right questions is just as important as showing the right numbers.

Data is everywhere in the modern enterprise. From customer contact information through product purchase history to website analytics, the typical marketing department has more data than they know what to do with. End to end tracking and 360 degree customer profiles mean that every stage of the buyer's journey is recorded in infinite detail. Yet, marketers consistently state that reporting is one of their biggest challenges.

Many marketing leaders aren't getting the insight they need to make decisions. Data driven marketing simply isn't possible because there are no metrics available to guide decision-making. Instead, campaigns and content are recycled and reused based on anecdotal feedback from the field rather than any objective analysis of return on investment.

Revenue First

In a corporate environment where every dollar counts, this is a serious problem that limits the contribution marketers can make to the business. The board isn't interested in bleeding edge design or well written content. They want to see the impact of marketing on revenue. Strong engagement metrics are all well and good, but if it doesn't lead to sales, then that's not interesting.

All too often, marketers are stuck with disparate reporting across a wide range of data silos, each telling a different story. LinkedIn will tell you how many clicks you get on your social campaigns, marketing automation will report on the number of leads captured on the website, and CRM will show the value of opportunities sourced by marketing. However, nothing is linking these separate stories together into a coherent narrative on the influence of paid social on opportunity win rates or deal sizes.

Detail, Detail, Detail

It is these stories that the boardroom cares about. Clicks don't matter to the CEO, nor ultimately do lead volumes. It's brand perception, sales pipeline and business efficiency that management wants to hear about. That's true for the CMO too. It's their job to interpret the outcomes of each program and channel, turning them into outcomes understood by the wider business. The detail concerning individual activities simply doesn't matter to anyone in the c-suite.

Email clicks, website visits and white paper downloads really aren't interesting to the typical CEO. They're all valuable measures of engagement but mean very little outside the context of a campaign. It's the aggregate revenue from all campaigns which is important to the business.

However, email metrics and website analytics do have their place. It's just not in the boardroom. Those kinds of detailed results do matter very much to field marketing, and to campaign managers. They're essential for planning the next campaign. Robust activity reporting is crucial in identifying successes that can be incorporated into future campaigns, as well as failures to avoid.

Questions, not Answers

There is a lot which can be learned from past campaign results. The difficulty is in asking the right questions. Website analytics can be used to discover which content is working, where leads are coming from and where the drop-off points are in the customer journey. So long as you configure Google Analytics correctly, the data to answer all these questions is readily available. You just need to present it in a format that makes sense to the wider marketing team.

The job of a data analyst is to organise all the relevant data in a user-friendly format that allows for proper interrogation of the data. However, data analysts can only do that if they know the questions that the end user will be asking about the data being shown. Context matters, and different audiences will be asking very different questions. A good dashboard should always be configured to the needs of the audience consuming it. That way, it can be tailored to the right level of detail and the specific areas of interest.

Putting every metric onto one single view is tempting, but that rarely works in practice. You don't even need to put all the reports into one location, so long as there is clear guidance about where each set of metrics can be found. Separate out the metrics by audience so that senior executives aren't bamboozled by detailed campaign information they don't understand. This also ensures more junior staff are focused on the metrics that matter for their day-to-day. It's easy to get lost, chasing irrelevant metrics in an area of the business that will only marginally impact future campaign results.

Finally, interactivity is important too. Filters, drill-downs and dynamics views are all essential in a good dashboard. Anyone viewing a report will always have follow-up questions. Allow the end user to tweak and interrogate the presented reports so those questions can be answered. It saves time for everyone in the end.

Banner Photo by Scott Graham / Unsplash

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.