Straight out of the gate, I’m going to admit to you that I’m a data nerd. I live and breathe data all day, every day. Like my 8-meal-a-day food regimen, it keeps me fueled! Fortunately for me, my passion, experience and skills have provided me the opportunity to be exposed to the best marketers in the industry as I work with them on their analytics efforts.
Every day, I see and hear that marketing and sales organizations are just scratching the surface of analytics using Excel, pivot tables, and lots of manual data pulls to refresh their reports. They’re ready for a better way! Less time consuming, more efficiency, better accuracy — all of these requests lead me to write this blog on the benefits of storing your data for your reporting needs.
So, why should anyone spend the time, money and effort to take their marketing data out of their various SaaS and on-premise databases just to put it in another spot? You might be surprised to find that there are many compelling reasons.
The great thing about storing your data in a database or warehouse is that it is all in one central location. Your marketing automation data, CRM data, and even social media data can all be stored in the same place. This allows for a comprehensive view of all your data and creates “one version of the truth”, which is an absolutely critical component for accurate reporting and analysis.
2. Data Blending
Centralization of data allows you to blend different data sources in your analysis, increasing the power of your reporting. For example, you may want to blend marketing data with social media data to see how active your leads are on Twitter. While you can do this without a centralized warehouse, you’ll see much improved performance and reliability when the data is centralized.
As a corollary to centralization, storing your data in one location allows for maximum flexibility. Need to blend two data sources? No problem. Want to do some ad-hoc querying? Check. Need to create a custom data object or modify a pre-existing one? Thanks to your database, you can do all of the above and more.
Storing marketing data outside of the original system that generated or captured it allows you to automate lots of processes that otherwise wouldn’t be available. You can keep data refreshed so it is always up to date, on the schedule that best fits your needs. This helps enormously down the road with analyzing your data. For example, when you open up a report, you can be confident that the data it reflects is already updated, rather than having to go through potentially time-consuming manual processes to update it.
Whichever tool or platform you use to analyze your data, you’ll notice a significant performance improvement in trying to do so from a database than directly from your data source. Databases are usually much faster for querying and analysis, and contain all the data you’ve specified rather than just a portion of it.
6. Data Quality
When you store your marketing data in a database, you can set up all kinds of checks and balances to ensure the quality of your data. This includes, but is not limited to, checking records against other sources based on rules you define, importing criteria, updating queries, and other processes you can set up to improve the quality, and therefore reliability, of your data.
7. Permanence and History
Storing marketing data in a database or warehouse makes it permanent so that you can control and manage it, report on it, and use it for other business purposes. Many original data sources are not permanent in the sense that not all the data is available at once, or is expunged after a period of time. For example, Twitter only exposes the last 10 days of tweets. Unless you migrate that data to a database or some other permanent source on a regular basis, you’ll have no visibility into how many tweets you had last month (and perhaps more importantly, what was being said in them).
8. Redundancy and Security
Redundancy is an important feature of most software systems, and is created when you have a separate version of your data. In case something happens to your underlying data source, you want to be sure that you still have access to all your historical data so you don’t lose visibility into the past. For example, your SFDC instance gets corrupted, or you upgrade to new marketing automation software. Similar to the above, storing your data separately actually increases security. It may sound counterintuitive. How can an extra copy of my data floating around be more secure? But having that copy could be priceless if something were to happen to your original data. Most databases today have very strong security features, over which you have a lot of control, which makes them more secure than ever.
Last, but certainly not least, storing your data in a warehouse or database allows for maximum accessibility to a wide range of third-party tools and software. Virtually every business intelligence or analytics platform (including our own) can connect to a variety of databases and warehouses, whereas it is often not possible to connect to native data sources, or there is limited capability to do so.
The upfront investment of time and resources to store your sales and marketing data is worth it. It opens up a world of possibilities for your analysts (equipped with reporting and analysis tools) to start using the data in ways you couldn’t dream of.
In my next post, I’ll discuss some ways that you and your analysts can leverage your newly stored data for even better analytics and reporting.