Stay Afloat: How To Not Drown In Marketing Data

by Kelly Richardson
Republished from Forbes, December 27, 2018

The number of different marketing software products out there has exploded in recent years. Of course, for some, the massive number of options is a good problem to have, but it often causes analysis paralysis.

Apart from spending too much time obsessing over the right software, there’s another problem. In my experience, when you use three or more software products for your marketing needs, you end up with more data than you know what to do with.

For example, most clients who come to me use different software for email marketing, search engine optimization, social media and content management. And that’s not mentioning all other facets of the marketing world. Even switching between all these software platforms daily can be a hassle.

So, what can you do? Here are some tips I’ve applied to stay sane amidst all these data from marketing software I use in running my business.

1. Find the right software.

Tools like Cyfe, Domo and Looker offer an all-in-one dashboard where you can easily get data from several other software products. As an example of what’s possible, Cyfe can import real-time data from over 70 other platforms, displaying only the metrics that matter to you in customization dashboards. You can monitor several aspects of your marketing performance, including but not limited to: email list growth, social mentions and follower growth, search rankings, website content engagement and nurture funnel advancement, all in one place.

You can use one of the tools I describe above or do your research to choose a suitable one. If you’re a heavy tool user, switching between five or more software products at a time is a productivity killer, so you might do well to choose one platform that covers as many of your needs as possible and fill in the gaps with others.

In my experience, you can find tools that combine two or three marketing tasks you perform frequently for seamless operations. Apart from improving your productivity and causing less confusion, you will also likely save money.

Finding the right software also entails choosing tools made for your business’s size. If you use software meant for sites with maximum traffic of 100,000 on your site with 1,000,000-plus visitors, you’re doing yourself a disservice, and any data you get may be skewed. Additionally, some tools generate more accurate data than others on the same task.

Before purchasing software, I scour review sites, forums and use good ol’ Google to find the best tools for a marketing task I want to accomplish. With due diligence, you’re more likely to be happy with the decision you make, and you’re well on your way to avoiding data overload.

2. Use agile project management.

Before clients come to me, they often assume I know everything upfront about the strategy or plan I’ll follow to see their work to completion. Others think that after I create a strategy, everything will go to plan until completion of the project. Handling projects with such assumptions is called waterfall project management.

Yes, I have particular tools I always recommend to my clients, but nothing is set in stone — for many reasons. Some tools don’t go well together (i.e., may not be part of an integration with another tool), others may be out of a client’s budget, or clients may have their own preferences.

The best approach I’ve used is agile project management. In digital marketing, you won’t know everything upfront. Google is constantly making changes to its algorithm, attention spans are reportedly getting shorter and trends are set on a daily basis.

Going agile with your use of marketing data means collecting data for a particular period, say a month or two at most, using it to make decisions, applying those decisions and testing them. What you stick with depends on the results you get after your test run. I’ve seen cases where companies collect data over a long period and spend months trying to analyze it, but agile project management eliminates such drudgery. And when you’re truly agile, you can bounce ideas off different people, which helps you select the right metrics to track to avoid what I call “metric overload.”

This brings me to my next point.

3. Track the right metrics.

The deluge of software has made it difficult to discern the right metrics to track for different marketing activities. Software companies have their own peculiar names for some of the same concepts. To illustrate, search engine optimization software Moz measures website strength by using a domain authority score, while Ahrefs uses a domain rating score.

The metrics you track will differ based on your campaigns, but thinking about your goals will help you track the right ones. To a blogger making money from website ads, traffic is a useful metric, as the higher your site’s traffic, the higher the number of visitors clicking on ads. To an entrepreneur running an e-commerce store, metrics like average order value, customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value will matter more. For an agency owner like myself, the number of leads and my conversion rates are two important metrics I track closely.

I’ve found that once you define your goals, it’s easier to determine the most important metrics to track. And that removes confusion when you have more data than you need. Those metrics in themselves will influence your choice of software.

Don’t let technology ruin your business.

This era is the most technologically advanced the world has ever been. Lives and businesses have been improved and ruined by technology in equal measure. Realize that software cannot completely understand the inner workings of your business as well as you do, so set goals and track the right metrics. In the sea of technology, it can be your life preserver.

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