The future of marketing analytics—a holistic perspective

The future of marketing analytics—a holistic perspective
By David Yussen
David Yussen
Director Analytics
Dec 3, 2021
5 MIN. READ
There isn’t a single marketing solution for every business, but powerful reporting can bridge knowledge gaps, inform goal success, and deliver measurable returns for your business. 

In a previous post, "The future of marketing analytics—driven by strategy," we reviewed the explosive growth of marketing analytics software, the inherent challenges those tools face, and the critical need for marketers to look beyond software to achieve overall business objectives.

But analytics and media measurement are not the only cross-sections of the domain experiencing explosive growth. Data visualization and reporting tools have also seen tremendous development over the past decade—thanks to software as a service (SaaS) and in-house applications. Examples of such platforms include Google Data Studio, Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, Salesforce, and Adobe—all of which power both off-the-shelf and custom dashboards. Further, there are dozens of niche tools designed specifically for tracking public relations, social listening, and reputation management.

Amid all that growth, is there a simpler way to map decision needs to solutions? Effective insight starts with strategic planning, capabilities such as A/B test design, and forward-facing measurement frameworks. Marketing mix models and multi-touch attribution software have expanded the accessibility of advanced analysis, and standard performance metrics and KPI reporting have become table stakes for agencies and industry alike. These reports provide marketers with tactical results for their campaigns. For example, impressions to clicks to conversion, “cost per” metrics, and return on ad spend (ROAS) for campaigns and media channels. But it’s important to keep in mind that those metrics are based largely on last-click behavior tracking. They credit results to whichever digital impression recorded the latest interaction with your customer without providing a holistic view of marketing success.

What marketers miss with standard dashboards alone

Increasingly, analysts are developing customized dashboards with Data Studio, Power BI, or Tableau to keep a pulse on real-time performance. That has brought to light a common challenge for senior-level business leaders; a persistent knowledge gap between tactic-level results and executive-level reporting. Leaders have strong resources for well-developed scorecards—which they have relied on for decades—but marketing, digital, communication, and brand/PR teams can’t bridge that knowledge gap. Because of that oversight, important questions often go unanswered. For example, if marketing drove incremental ROAS, where was it most effective, and why? How does your brand equity and earned media influence paid media? What is the right balance of brand investment and promotional media?

If business leaders don’t believe the data on marketing contribution or incremental ROAS, how can brand marketers tie customer engagement with specific programs to the overall advancement of the business? The right tools need the support of cultural change—workforces need to embrace both the inferences and insights of data-driven strategy without abandonment when statistical models fall short or when the environment in which they were built dramatically changes.

Strategic reporting solutions should provide a holistic view

Just as the importance of taking a strategic view of marketing effectiveness and measurement that goes beyond software has been elevated, so has data visualization and addressing the aforementioned knowledge gap.

The right consulting partner can act as a guide on your brand’s journey toward building a framework for holistic measurement. But starting with a foundational understanding of several basic truths is crucial to any successful effort to address your organization's challenges and the fact that your challenges may not be solved by technology, advanced analytics, unified measurement, or market/customer research alone.

A strong measurement approach should be custom designed to fit your organizational needs and business objectives. It may include appropriate qualitative KPIs around your brand and customer sentiment. It’s important to have a clear understanding of engagement across your CRM/loyalty lifecycle. That will provide insight into your audiences and who engages with your messaging, and in which part of the funnel you are operating optimally. It may also include insight into the types of users who truly listen and respond to your campaigns. Overall, it should help you make smarter business decisions, and go beyond budget allocation or intra-channel media optimization.

The best solution is the one that fits your strategy

There isn’t a single solution that will bridge the knowledge gap of operational and executive marketing reporting, as each company’s plan and situation differ in a variety of ways, and the role and intent of marketing can also vary substantially across industries. For instance, the goal of a brand campaign for a newer program could be to drive trial and subscription with a focus on value exchange, while a campaign for a well-established brand may aim to build positive sentiment and deeper customer connections. But in both of these scenarios—and those in-between—CRM can be effectively employed throughout the customer journey.

A strong dashboard that is purpose-built will help contextualize customer behavior and lead to actionable insights. Those insights can then be tied back to marketing activities and specific business objectives. That will establish an inextricable connection between successful marketing results and the actions of your customers and stakeholders, while avoiding reliance on over-simplified metrics such as response rate.

The right agency partner should share your vision and set a path forward

Strong consultants ask a lot of questions. They seek to understand the why, behind the what. When marketing analysts are stymied by the challenges of data collection and harmonization, strong consultants should consider an expansive, strategic view that starts with foundational business questions that inform the process at every point. That is true whether planning a digital analytics program, optimizing a media plan, or mining earned media for organic social insight.

Consulting partners should have a deep understanding of and ability to leverage established measurement tools. Further, they should support, serve, and lead with tools for creating clear measurement frameworks, configuring data collection, integration, and automation.  The most powerful reporting will bridge the knowledge gap with information that not only tells you what happened, but how well you met strategic goals, the benefit to your customers, and, ultimately, deliver measurable return for your business.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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  1. David Yussen, Director Analytics

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