According to B2B Marketing and Marketscan, only 32% of marketers pursue a data-first strategy, and less than half of marketers feel prepared for a data-driven marketing future. So it’s no surprise that a question I hear often is: “How do we gain insight into the effectiveness of our marketing efforts?”

Many companies aren’t able to report on marketing and sales efforts due to data and process issues. It’s like trying to put the pretty siding on your house before the foundation is built. The end result is reporting that doesn’t make sense–or does it?

Most likely, there’s an underlying problem that’s preventing those reports from providing positive intelligence. In reality, the reports and dashboards might function great, but bad processes and bad data will result in inaccurate reporting.

I’m a baseball fan so I’ll use a baseball analogy to break down the problem. How do we know that Ted Williams is one of the best hitters that ever lived? (Williams is the last player to hit over a .400 batting average, batting .406 in 1941.) Baseball’s efforts are measured in a consistent fashion and recorded properly.

What if there was no process for the scorekeeper to record statistics? What if one scorekeeper considered errors to be hits? What if the scorekeeper called in sick and didn’t record the stats of the game? All of these inconsistent processes and data issues would result in inaccurate measurement–just like what many businesses experience.

Let’s dive into the root causes of three common reporting challenges and how you can get back on track:

Challenge #1: Bad Data Equals Inaccurate Results

Many times, companies are trying to report on results when no data exists or the data is poor. For example, let’s say you want to break out all of your revenue by country to gain insights on which geography is producing the most revenue or generating the most leads. If you don’t capture the lead’s country or you’re using inconsistent values like United States, USA, and Lisa (yes, we’ve seen data like this), your reports won’t provide you with the metrics you need.

Before your reports can produce positive insights, you must improve the underlying data behind them to get the vision you need. Data management is a big picture initiative but here are a few tips to get started.

  • Pick ten important fields (Lead Source, Country, Industry, etc.) that your organization leverages and perform an audit.
  • Assess your data quality by running field-specific reports to understand the gaps that exist. Is data blank? Which data is incorrect?
  • Normalize the data that matters. For example, if your “Country” field has values of USA and US, adjust that data to a single value like US.
  • Fill in the blanks. Don’t have the data you need? Consider appending the data with a data services partner.

Challenge #2: Lack of Process

To understand how their efforts translate into revenue, B2B marketers need to perform closed-loop analysis across the customer lifecycle. How many new names turn into qualified leads? How many qualified leads then turn into customers? How many customers continue to buy additional products and services? These questions are important, but the answers require massive process consistency in both sales and marketing. Unfortunately, some companies don’t have the processes in place that will drive the insights.

For example, if marketing generated 100 trade show leads, yet sales never contacted them because they were stuck in the system, there would be no way to gain vision into those funnel metrics. Or, maybe a sales rep created a duplicate record for a new deal when the original record had all the marketing intelligence. The end result would be that marketing activity would not be tied to the deal’s success, and marketing wouldn’t get any of the revenue attribution.

Process definition and change management are some of the most difficult initiatives a company can tackle, but they’re critical for ensuring your reporting is accurate. As a next step, begin working on processes that can set the foundation for long-term reporting success.

  • Document every piece of your lead flow process. Which forms do leads come in from? How do list imports affect data? How do you account for leads generated from your CRM? You will be surprised by how many gaps you’ll uncover.
  • Develop a lead lifecycle process that both sales and marketing can agree on (and follow).
  • Define roles within your marketing organization to ensure consistent process is followed. For example, define who sets up trade shows in your marketing automation platform and who imports the data. Too many cooks in the kitchen can cause process inconsistencies.

Challenge #3: Measuring Successes Instead of Efficiencies Gained

When you first get started on your advanced reporting journey, set expectations that process and data issues will arise. Consider shifting your thinking to efficiencies gained rather than successes measured. For example, we recently engaged with a client to provide better vision into their marketing and sales successes. Instead of finding the successes, we collectively identified $250,0000 worth of efficiencies that the client could gain with several process enhancements and technical adjustments. This change in mindset put the company on a path for long-term success and set benchmarks for future comparison.

Identify process and data gaps in order to improve your insights for the long-term. Ask yourself:

  • Is sales following the proper process for moving leads through the system?
  • Are marketing qualified leads thrown over to sales without anyone following up?
  • Is the marketing team following a process for attributing successes to programs?
  • What data is considered good and bad?

Your reports don’t suck–it’s the data and processes underneath that need improvement. This is not an overnight process so the sooner you start, the better your long-term vision will be.

What other reporting issues have you come across and how did you fix them? Share your insight in the comments below!

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