How to find ‘where you are now’…

As consultants in the online marketing sector, there is a common scenario that we see again and again.
We meet the online marketing team typically when a product has just launched or there is a sales drive on and the question of “where are we?” (how are sales looking right now, this minute) or “why are sales down?” is asked. But rather than get an immediate answer, someone on the team ends up having to take a day or two to figure out “where they are”, by which time it’s all just too little, too late.
So, why don’t all marketers have the answer at their fingertips? It is, after all, a pretty simple question – and a pretty important one, too.
What it usually comes down to is not having the necessary analytics and standardised, robust reporting tools in place – ones that the whole business can understand. Now, I’m a data kind of guy so of course I’m going to say that, but it’s true. And it really isn’t the headache people often imagine.
To make analytics work, you need to look at what matters before the sale. For example, for a sales operation it’s your inbound marketing channels; for a conversion team, it’s the sales and order pages. Now choose the right analytics tool. This is dictated to by what matters to you, so don’t just default to Webtrends or Google analytics. Take a look at tag management programmes, social media monitoring tools, ad serving data. And if your business has many different angles, then you will need to go through the process of requirements gathering and right sizing. But don’t be scared of it – it often focuses the business.
Now onto the reporting. What usually happens is that everyone is looking at different data – from senior management to the marketing team to the Web development team. And let’s not get started on how different all of that looks to what the agency is looking at. So, make it simple, Define common metrics throughout the business that are in line with industry practice and make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
When you have both of these in place – two good things will happen: you’ll be able to answer the “where are we?” question and the rest of your business can enter the dialogue about that question – which means reasonable discussions about budget, what development projects matter, more problems solved and happy staff. And, crucially, it means better planning for future projects, so a better future return on investment. Job done.

Serge Milbank is co-founder of digital marketing consultants Stream:20

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