With the rise of the internet and consumer adoption growing, marketing suddenly had a lot more data at its fingertips. Finally, after decades of not being able to precisely say what marketing activities directly contributed to the bottom line, marketers could be more precise. Then along came social media and even more data. Fuel was tossed on this fire by Google with the introduction of Google Analytics and then along came a plethora of social media analytics tools. The data was flowing and marketing got drunk.

A whole language evolved around marketing analytics and the software tools seemed to appear out of thin air. From tracking to posting to segmenting and cohorts. Dashboards flew into the inboxes of the executive and graphs in presentations for board meetings and executive scrums were everywhere. Marketing it seemed, had finally managed to justify itself against sales. Except that wasn’t quite true. And it still isn’t.

It is well known today that advertising on search engines like Google and Bing still don’t produce near the results that organic, as in natural, search engine results deliver. eNewsletter open rates hover around the same as real-world direct marketing campaigns; between 1 and 2 percent. Sometimes they go higher and the marketing team declares righteous victory and so they should. For that campaign. Not all the campaigns.

What we’ve come to discover over the years is that the more data displayed on a dashboard and the more graphs and pie charts, the less likely it is that the marketing department is accurate in their reporting. Data can be sliced and diced many ways. Dashboards and reports that are smaller and more focused usually tend to show a more insightful picture of reality.

This is where we remind you that sales is tactical and marketing is strategic. Marketing is more about cultural trends and behaviours that play out over time. Sales is about relationships and being much more in the “now”.

Marketers, like sales teams, have a lot more data available at their fingertips than ever before. For sales however, much of that data is driven by the sales team and what they enter. For marketers, the data comes from multiple sources. That data can shift daily, even hourly. What was right this morning is not necessarily right tomorrow morning. And there are no industry standards on which and what data is the right kind. The arguments and debates over social media analytics are as hot and unresolved today as they were a decade ago. That should tell you something.

Yes, you can get to meaningful numbers. Here, the reality is “less is more.” To get truly meaningful insights into marketing activities, you need to be stricter and callous in the data you actually use and rely on. Each business will be different. If you’re using a template from another business it is wrong for your business. It was designed for their business, not yours.

This means spending time figuring what data is meaningful to your business based on your business model, marketing goals and objectives and strategy. Remember, less is more.

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