How to stop drowning in a waterfall of data and extract more value

Drowning in data

Marketers and agencies alike are drowning in a waterfall of data.

This data comes from multiple sources and is used in varying ways.

Significant data sits under the remit of agencies as an input to and measure of their areas of responsibility.  The way in which this data is used and reported back to marketers often contributes to the waterfall of data marketers feel they are receiving and often lacks the depth of insights and value that it could convey.

It is key that marketers and agencies look at the inputs, timings and processes used as there are multiple opportunities to refocus on what matters and pull out further insights both for marketing and other areas of the business.

Below are 5 ways to stop drowning in data while drawing further from the richness of information available:

1. Ensure your agencies are aligned on performance metrics

Reporting is key for agencies to demonstrate the results of their activity and the optimisations/learnings/next steps to be taken. The result of this can often be that multiple reports are being prepared and presented sometimes to the same and other times to different parts of the marketing department. There may be media reports, website reports, PR reports, social reports, brand tracking reports and more. In addition to this agencies may all input a few key metrics into a consolidated summary report.

There is often a need for particular disciplines to go into more detail with their marketing contact than what is supplied for a summarised report for senior management.

However, it is key to stop and review what performance metrics are being reported on. Are these as aligned as they could be? Are agencies aware of each others KPIs and the relationship between what they are doing? Do these KPIs correspond to business objectives?

The benefit of consolidating performance metrics is ensuring that agencies are all working towards the common key KPIS. It also helps reduce any duplication of reporting or unnecessary reporting. All of which helps marketers stop drowning in a waterfall of data and saves time for all parties involved.

2. Use the appropriate technology and process to report and manage reporting

There are a multitude of technology platforms now available which can be used for reporting. These allow for multiple data sources to be consolidated, allow multiple people to access and provide visualisation of results.

The benefits of these platforms is that they allow real time access to data, consolidate multiple data sources and create significant time savings in pulling data. This is key to free up your agencies time as reporting time has grown exponentially alongside the growth of digital.

However, while it can be tempting to plug and play it is important to not takeaway the human element as this is critical for pulling insights from data and having actionable next steps identified.

It is also key to have the appropriate processes, time frames and training in place. Areas to look at include:

  • How often should insights and actions be added? For example you might have a 24/7 dashboard available but insights and actions are added on a weekly basis.
  • How do multiple agencies input to this dashboard? Are there any commercial/competitive sensitivities between agencies which will impact on the insights they share?
  • Who is accessing the dashboard? Do they have the knowledge/training to interpret and pull out the necessary results? 

3. Align your reporting frequency to your internal reporting requirements

What level of data do you need daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly? A lot of reporting is provided at set intervals the reason for which may never have been discussed. I.e. the agency reports for all clients monthly so that’s what you receive. Outside this there are often mad scrambles for reports and results for key management meetings. This is where the data and reports have more value yet may not have been given the focus and attention that it required to draw out the best insights.

The key factors to consider when determining reporting frequency (and level of data required) are:

  • Internal reporting requirements
    • Key internal management meetings
    • Key decision periods eg sales, budget setting (often aligned to key meetings)
  • Data availability/validity
    • Certain media metrics have set timings of when they are available eg ratings
    • A certain amount of data and time may be needed/recommended before drawing insights
  • Optimisation requirements
    • Optimisations are often a mix of automatic optimisations and larger changes that require human intervention. It is key to agree with your agency what changes require approval and if approval is needed at what interval this is needed

4. Encourage/remunerate agencies to spend time pulling insights

For most agencies their client reporting and tracking time has grown exponentially alongside the growth of digital and data. With the plethora of platforms that data comes from and the growth of walled gardens such as Google and Facebook, pulling client reports has become a bigger and bigger task.

Dashboard and data management tools are certainly a significant time saver. However, with or without these there is still a significant amount of work required to ensure the data is set up and tracking correctly, review results and prepare reports for presentation.

Within the time poor agency environment reports are often prepared by relatively junior staff and prepared to deadline. The impact is that the person preparing the report has little or no time to really ponder and look at what insights the data is showing, if they do they may not have the depth of experience to pull out a deeper layer of insight.

The opportunity is to encourage and if necessary remunerate agencies for drawing out insights relevant for that particular campaign and for the business as a whole.

5. Allow time to collectively review and action results

Marketing reports are often available via an online dashboard, emailed over and/or presented as part of a WIP. There is rarely much time given to truly discuss insights and next steps.

This is a missed opportunity. Adding this human element to this component of marketing data allows you to extract more value by drawing out insights for both marketing and other areas of the business and taking definitive action. Zena Churchill has pointed out that a lack of training and confidence stops marketers from using data to its full extent but by bringing a wide angle lens perspective marketers can use the breadth of their knowledge to bring other information to the table to provide the larger context

Marketers and agency staff alike are time poor. So the frequency of this and people involved needs to be appropriate. It is certainly an approach that can be tested to see whether the value attained is worth the investment in time.

At an agency level the opportunity is to share and workshop results internally at appropriate intervals. This ensues other areas of the agency are drawing from the depth of data and insights available internally. At an inter- agency level there is opportunity to workshop results to take the insights and recommended actions to the next level before presenting to a client. At an agency – client level the opportunity is to draw in other client contacts outside marketing to add a further breadth and depth of perspective.

This time to focus on what the results actually mean and how the insight generated can be used becomes a key input to the marketing team. To quote Professor Gary Lilien from his interview in Marketing Magazine “ the ideal marketer of the future” will be “The one who is quite comfortable with intuition, and also is comfortable in merging that intuition with the analytics in order to make better decisions”

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