I don’t know about you, but I’m inundated with data. Data from my thermostat, from my bank account, from my kids’ pediatrician; the nutrition label on the bag of animal crackers I just ate (thanks to said kids), my electric car, I even get data on how much data I use from my internet service provider.

I get so much data in a given day that I can end up overwhelmed. And really – I’m not sure about you – but I only like metrics I can act on. What does it mean that my son lands in the 85% for head size? And how many leaves earned on my thermostat equals more money in my bank account? What do I do with this data – and how does it determine the decisions I’m making for the future?

These same questions are fully applicable to the pipeline analytics I do on a weekly basis. How can I take the data – numbers, funnel stages, duration – and deliver it in an actionable way to my executives? What does my funnel changing in the past mean for my future? I need to deliver actionable analytics that tell a story and craft the decisions we are making for future marketing spend.

One of my favorite tricks to doing this is making sure I have the right reports to start with. And I rely on Salesforce.com reports. But if you’ve dabbled in SFDC long enough, you know the challenge that seems to arise in terms of funnel reporting is the whole lead/contact object issue. To curtail this:

  1. Create a single campaign in SFDC that syncs to your lifecycle program in your marketing automation platform.
  2. Add any custom fields (think lead source, datestamp fields for stage movement, anything you think you might need) to the Campaign Member Object.
  3. Create these fields as formula fields, pulling data from the lead or contact, so that you have one central place to look and create your reports from.

Now you’re just a few Campaign Member reports away from some fantastic insights into your funnel. But a few slick dashboards alone won’t give your team what they need to drive revenue-making decisions. Context becomes key, so just as you have to spend time creating the right reports, you also must spend time digesting, poking and investigating what the data is saying.

When preparing reports for your execs, make sure you’re answering these questions:

  • What has changed? (Think numbers, percentages, amounts.)
  • Why has it changed? (Think big event, data remediation, change in spend.)
  • What can we do to make more/better/different/ changes going forward?

Measuring pipeline analytics is a delicate balance of knowing the data, understanding what has influenced the data and being able to speak to what it means going forward. Presenting pipeline analytics in a pretty funnel isn’t enough. You need to find ways to inspire action with your data to take your pipeline analytics to the next level, and help prevent your reports from falling in the clutter that is data-overload. Stop spewing data and percentages, and start motivating and forecasting the future.