Five Ways Marketing Analytics Is Broken (and How to Fix It)


Are you tired of spinning your wheels trying to see whether your marketing is working?

The time and effort marketers spend on building their marketing analytics reporting instead of analyzing results is a widespread issue across agencies and brands. It’s a tough cycle to break, and most marketers aren’t sure where to begin.

Start with the following five key ways marketing analytics is broken, and go from reporting to analysis.

1. Shiny-Object Syndrome

A picture is worth 1,000 words only when it’s telling the right story. We love pretty things, and software providers are happy to sell the promise of a shiny new tool that will take all our marketing reporting pain away.

Though reporting tools are a critical component of delivering marketing analytics, using a reporting tool alone is like trying to paint without a canvas.

The one thing reporting tools, business intelligence tools, and data visualization tools have in common is the lack of a data management component. The software industry assumes your data is already perfect; for business and transactional data that may be the case, but we know that marketing and media data is a siloed, unmanaged, unorganized mess.

Accordingly, though it may not be pretty to look at, a marketing data management platform to store, clean, organize, and consolidate your marketing and media data is a must-have. With it, you have one place to access data and build reporting from to ensure consistency, accuracy and to enable reporting automation.

The reality is, reporting tools won’t solve your reporting problem. Clean, organized, data management will.

2. Data Prep… Again, and Again, and Again

Manually collecting data from all of your marketing and media sources has got to stop. By the time you finish hitting the export button in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MailChimp, Google Analytics, and DoubleClick, your data is at least a day old and yesterday’s news.

The worst part is that even after all of that work, the data isn’t in a consolidated, clean, analysis-ready format. Then you still need to remember to make adjustments for every instance that someone used “bag sale” instead of “big sale” for your campaign tracking parameter. Oh, and then repeat this process every week, month, quarter.

Sounds exhausting, right?

Here’s the gamechanger: This entire process can and should be automated.

You’re incredibly talented and have a million things you can and should be working on instead. Make systems do the hard work for you. Many popular tools, like DOMO and Supermetrics have APIs that extract your data automatically. Which brings up the question, Why are YOU still doing it manually? And for those that don’t offer automation, ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes can be built to suck in data to a central location using scheduled reports.

The moral of the story? Automate your media data collection, stop manual data pulls, and watch the difference marketing automation makes on your business.

3. Failing to Hire, Train, and Retain the Right Marketing Analysts

“Wanted: Data Analyst. Responsibilities include hitting an export button, cutting, pasting. Ideal candidate good with mouse.” That is not the job description anyone wants to write, let alone the job to apply for. It is important to focus on hiring people with the right skillset, training them well, and then not wasting their entire work lives on mind-numbing tasks such as manual data pulling. That will only lead to high turnover rates and corporate brain drain. Not exactly bragworthy company culture, right?

There is a fundamental difference between simply reporting information and performing high-level analysis of the information. The latter is where your team needs to be focused. You don’t need coders, you don’t need copy-pasters, and you certainly don’t need data scientists. You need marketing analysts who understand media data, who can run a user-friendly BI tool, and—most important—who can tell a story with the data. Because storytelling is everything.

Invest in a supported platform, such as ChannelMix to manage your data, and a solid reporting tool like Tableau Software to sit on top of it, and let your analysts do what they do best: analyze, recommend and tell performance stories.

4. No Single Source of Truth

Ever had the accuracy of your report questioned? Ever had to reconcile publisher-served media data? When data is living in spreadsheets saved on random desktops, it can’t tell the full story, which leads to inaccuracies; and, ultimately, consumers of the data start to lose faith in the numbers.

If you are going to understand how all of your media channels are working together, your data needs to be combined and consolidated in a single location, accessible by all departments, partners, and agencies. Grab your IT team or invest in a marketing data management platform to pull all your data together and store it in a data warehouse. That way, everyone can work from the same, consolidated data set and report success using the same underlying metrics, and you can spend time on analysis, not defending your data.

5. Not Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

It happens all the time: Multiple media tactics take credit for the exact same conversion. In our world of media pixels, view-through conversions, and Web analytics tools, it is difficult to properly assign attribution back to the tactic.

Tools like Google Analytics are making full-funnel attribution analysis easier by collecting each step in the customer journey, but that is just a piece of the picture. For true attribution, you need to be able to collect not only each tactic’s contribution to conversion from a tool like Google Analytics but also the impressions, costs, and view-through conversions from all media source systems into a single view.

Want to get really crazy? Integrate all offline media and in-store sales as well. To tie all these media tactics together across channels, your campaign tracking parameters and campaign naming conventions need to be consistent and follow a standardized structure. Then you can use any reporting and modeling tools you want to show attribution, develop media mix calculators, and see how each source plays its part in the customer decision journey.

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Success in marketing analytics comes down to removing the barriers that keep talented people from spending their time on high-value analysis and insights.

By focusing on fixing the underlying data problem instead of buying fancy reporting tools, automating the collection and storage of media data, and developing consistent campaign tracking recommendations, you can fix your marketing analytics problem and turn marketing from an expense into a valuable investment.

This article first appeared in

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About Author

Matt Hertig

Matt Hertig is a co-founder and the chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Alight Analytics, an independent marketing analytics firm founded in 2007 in Kansas City, Missouri.

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