an you easily see, understand and share how your marketing strategy is performing at any given point in time?
At Half Past Nine we love demonstrating the value of robust data, and there's truly no substitute for capturing complete and accurate data. All aspects of your marketing activity need to be consistently tracked.
However, you also need to interpret and communicate data in order to truly leverage its full power. This is what allows responsive and insightful decision making - and that's the whole point!
If you haven’t read our articles on capturing marketing data and ensuring ongoing data integrity, it's a good place to start. The first step is a streamlined data setup that’s ready and prepped to be imported into your reporting tools.
- Marketing Data Analytics: How To Build Your Source Of Truth
- Marketing Data Analytics: Can You Trust Your Source Of Truth?
- 8 Marketing Data Issues That Might Be Holding You Back (And How To Fix Them)
- Switching To First-Party Data: It’s Time To Stop ‘Renting’ And Start Owning Customer Data
Otherwise, let’s get into how to use data visualization to turbocharge your marketing results and budget efficiency, with the goal of fueling business growth.
Skip to What You Need:
- What Is Data Visualization, And How To Use It
- Four Tips For Impactful Data Visualization
- Data Visualization Tools
What Is Data Visualization, And How To Use It
Data visualization is the presentation of data in a visual format, turning raw data into insights that can be easily interpreted. If you’re doing it well, it makes it easy to see marketing performance at a snapshot in real-time (or near enough).
You can use it to track how well marketing tactics are working by presenting data in a more visually aesthetic and digestible format, and present a story with a plot line based on actions taken and results that followed.
Data visualization and dashboards can also help create transparency and cohesion across departments, using bite-sized snippets of high-level information that can be easily communicated and understood.
Use marketing data visualization to:
- Tell a clear story about customer behavior and the results of your marketing efforts.
- Optimize live campaigns in real-time.
- See how marketing spending converts to revenue results.
- Quickly and easily understand how live campaigns are performing against your benchmarks as they progress.
- Exploit market opportunities.
- Identify trends and create benchmarks.
- Identify areas for improvement, optimization or divestment.
- Demonstrate what you’re doing to add value for the business and drive revenue.
There are a range of ways you can make your data more visual and easy to quickly understand. That includes:
- Dashboards, which are a collection of related charts
- Stand-alone charts
First, select the data that is most relevant for the question you want to answer. Then, choose the best-fit means of presentation to make the data’s meaning clear to see. Learn more about data categories and graph types.
Ideally, others within your business should be able to see what data is saying without much explanation required, if any.
A quick point on closed-loop reporting. If you’re a B2B business, you’re less likely to be using ecommerce platforms or point-of-sale tools that automatically record sales conversions for you. In which case, you’ll use a method called closed-loop reporting. It brings together marketing analytics with sales reporting using a CRM system.
This style of relationship-based reporting provides visibility about where leads came from and what happened to those sales leads as they progressed through the sales pipeline. Each sales lead has to be manually recorded by an account manager, whether it’s when the lead fell out of the pipeline and why, or the value of a final sale. The data is used to calculate final ROI for the various lead generating channels.
CRM platforms like Salesforce support this type of reporting well, with built-in visualization tools for the sales pipeline data and resulting marketing ROI.
Four Tips For Impactful Data Visualization
Based on our experience and what we see our SME clients typically struggling with, here are our top four pointers.
1. Invest In Clean Data That Can Be Fed Into Visualization Tools
The better prepared your data and the more integrity it has, the more quickly and effectively you’ll be able to work with it.
If your data suffers from inconsistent formatting, missing fields, poor integrity or other similar problems, it may be harder or not possible to run it through a data viz tool. It’s easy to mistake visualization errors for a limitation of the program when it’s actually an issue with the imported data.
It’s worth going back to basics to get your data capture processes and data governance processes corrected before trying to proceed with visualization.
2. Use the Right Technology for Your Business
When businesses go down the old-fashioned route of traditional spreadsheets or manually created PowerPoint reports, the complexities of today’s marketing landscapes and the volume of data sets involved make it a cumbersome and time consuming task.
Teams struggle to report results close to real-time in order to make responsive decisions. Marketing is just like a performance car with many moving parts and it’s important to get immediate feedback on how your campaign acceleration (or braking) is affecting your 'speed'.
That’s why automating the reporting process is worth investing in, removing the delay with manual reporting. And there are many great tools out there to help you achieve that.
You’ll need to select compatible tools that are a good fit for your business depending on what data capture tools you already have in place, the level of cross-platform reporting and visualization complexity you require, the human resource you have available, and of course, your budget.
We’ll give you a break down of some of the best known and most popular data visualization software solutions shortly.
3. Invest In the Required Skill Sets To Match Your Technology
Your data capture and reporting tools are essentially redundant without the know-how to use them. It takes skill to see the wood from the trees in order to pull the right levers.
The more knowledge and ability available to pull and interpret data, the more value you’ll get in return. Many SME companies underinvest in the both the disciplined data capture processes required, and the analytical prowess to fully leverage the data tools they have.
If you can afford an in-house data engineer, or if you can outsource to a data analytics consultant, that’s ideal. However, you could also invest in training the best-placed member of staff you already have.
4. Keep Your Dashboards and Graphics Tightly Focused
Any digital marketing operation is going to have many data points that are continually being gathered. Try to present too much data and it can get overwhelming, detracting from the most important messages.
Be sure to create visualizations that are representative of what is most important for your marketing and business goals, or to whom you are communicating.
Visualizations should clearly answer specific and pertinent questions about marketing activity, customer behavior, and performance against KPIs. Stick to core ‘North Star’ KPIs that are actionable and lead the way objectively. They include the Marketing Efficiency Ratio (MER), Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), and spend metrics such as Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). Check out some of the essential advertising KPIs you should be tracking.
You can build more than one dashboard, which should help you avoid the temptation of cramming too much into one report. Start with a top level KPI dashboard, and you can build additional dashboards to focus in on specific marketing activities or channels. Break up data reports into clear groupings such as:
- Funnel placement
- Behavior / cohorts
- Audience segments
Data Visualization Tools
Let’s have a quick look at some of the best known and popular providers. However, definitely don’t stop here in terms of your research!
I'll break down the available data visualization tech stack into 3 sections:
- Data connectors - Creating your 'data pipeline', these tools allow transportation of data from one database into another, sometimes filtering and transforming data in the process so it’s ready to analyze.
- Data aggregators, or warehouses - These ‘big data’ tools store data from multiple sources, creating ‘data lakes’ where large volumes of structured and unstructured data can be stored.
- Data visualizers - These are the tools that provide you with the colorful visualization and dashboard presentation functionality, using data directly connected from its source, or from a data lake within an aggregator.
A few providers sit across more than one area, offering combined functionality, which is important to consider when choosing the right tool for your business.
SuperMetrics picks up all the marketing data you need and brings it to your go-to reporting, analytics, or storage platform - whether that’s a BI tool, a spreadsheet, a data visualization tool, a data lake, or a data warehouse. With automation functionality, once you’ve built your report or dashboard, you can eliminate manual work by scheduling data transfers to automate your marketing reporting. Try a free trial.
Stitch rapidly moves data from 130+ sources into a data warehouse so you can get to answers faster, with no coding required. It can deliver your data to data lakes, warehouses, and storage platforms. Stitch will also replicate all available historical data from your database and SaaS tools for free. They boast that no code or engineering resources are required, and once set up, it syncs with new data automatically for automated reporting. You can get a free trial with unlimited data.
Funnel delivers data from over 500 marketing and advertising platforms, and additional sources upon request. It collects, cleans and maps all of your marketing data, which can save you hundreds of hours. Connect data to any destination, including BI tools, Data Warehouse, Google Data Studios or Sheets. A free trial is available, and their package offers unlimited data sources and automated job scheduling.
Databox is a dashboard visualization tool that also acts as a connector. Connect your data via any of their 70+ integrations, to data stored in Google Sheets or a SQL database, via API or Zapier. Their 70+ integrations come loaded with thousands of default metrics, as well as hundreds of pre-configured data blocks and 200+ pre-built reports that can be setup in minutes. Data can be refreshed hourly. Try a free account with 3 dashboards, users and data sources to experiment with.
BigQuery is a Google Cloud tool delivering a scalable and cost-effective data warehouse. Automatically move data from hundreds of popular business SaaS applications into BigQuery for free with their Data Transfer Service. Load and transform data at any scale from hybrid and multi-cloud applications. New customers get $300 in free credits to spend on Google Cloud during the first 90 days. All customers get 10 GB storage and up to 1 TB queries/month, completely free of charge. It also offers visualization reporting functionality using dashboards.
Snowflake sits at the cutting edge of data management, boasting the ability to eliminate data silos with the functionality to run your data workloads from a single platform. Their Data Cloud is a single location to unify your data warehouses, data lakes, and other siloed data, so your organization can comply with data privacy regulations such as CCPA and GDPR. It offers connectors for popular BI and Analytics tools. You’ll get automatic updates, and no scheduled downtime for data that’s always available. Try a free 30-day trial first.
Databox's intuitive visualization functionality is designed to let anyone build custom dashboards from multiple data sources.Their DIY Dashboard Designer pulls in metrics, facilitates visualization of KPIs in a variety of ways, with data drag-n-drop functionality, no code or design skills necessary, and personalized branding for your business. They also provide 200+ dashboard templates which can be customized however you want inside the Dashboard Designer. Their white label add-on also allows you to completely rebrand Databox as your own software.
Data Studio is a Google product, designed for use with its other products such as Google Analytics, Google Ads and YouTube. It pulls in compatible data quickly and easily, and has customize-able presentation that’s simple to use and can be tailored to your own branding. However, you’ll find that it’s not suited to pulling in data from non-Google or traditional database sources, and you can only view and share the data online with URL links. Plus, to automate data prep, you’ll probably need developer support. But, it’s free.
Power BI is a Microsoft product that can integrate across the entire Microsoft Power Platform, including Office 365, Dynamics 365, Azure Data Lake Storage, as well as 100+ other apps. It can provide automated data refresh every half hour, mobile app access, published reports and embedded APIs. Create and share interactive data visualizations across global data centers, including national clouds to meet your compliance and regulation needs.
Tableau is another popular web-based product that allows you to pull in data from multiple sources with native connectors to most marketing data sources. Drag and drop functionality makes it easy to create colorful and appealing visualizations. Tableau offers touch functionality for mobile and tablet users, and huge datasets can be analyzed on a laptop, offline or in-memory. It’s also smart at detecting data errors, making it easier to prepare datasets, and you can automate regular report updates. With competitive pricing, it’s one of the market leaders. A free trial is available.
To Sum Up
Don’t just stop at capturing your data, or struggling with laborious and intermittent reporting after the fact. Assess how your financial and people resources can be used to introduce more automation to your marketing reporting.
With multiple data sources pulled into one tool that provides visual reports in snapshot dashboard format, you’ll experience the true value of your data. Enjoy easier decision making based on real and timely insights for more lucrative results.
At Half Past Nine, we’re on a mission to help SME businesses tap into the power of their un-mined data. We also want you to experience the joy of how effortless, instant and insightful your reporting can be. It really is game changing stuff!
If you think you might need some support managing and reporting your marketing data, please do just get in touch. We’re always delighted to have a conversation about how we can help.