What Does It Mean to "Track" Your Marketing Data?

It’s a truism in Marketing in 2018 that “everything is trackable.” Ask the average marketer if he tracks his campaigns, and he’s likely to pull a face or respond with an eye-roll. Duh! So basic.

Scratch below the surface though, and the story gets complicated. Ask the same marketer if he has a sense for what percentage of his organization’s ad spend goes either untracked or sub-optimally tracked because of data quality challenges, and his look may turn to confusion. If he works at a large organization he’s almost certainly heard stories about campaigns whose results misfired, and he may know of consistent, nagging pockets of questionable data… It’s likely he can’t answer the second question with confidence. It’s possible no one in his organization can. Is this company really tracking their marketing data?

Data Failure – the Opposite of Tracking

When you start digging into questionable tracking data, you’ll find that almost everyone is dealing with similar challenges — though you’ll probably find that the scale varies widely, within the same organization, over time. The most basic kind of failure is often due to inconsistent training and/or the implementation of new processes. These failures can be large, resulting in a total data blackout for some discrete period, but they can also fairly be considered “growing pains.” While they account for the bulk of data failures, they are usually temporary.

There are also chronic data failures that plague organizations: people who inconsistently append tracking codes or campaign identifiers to their URLs, or a server that is always going down. These account for less of the total data failure, but are likely to be corrosive over time as they call accuracy of the full data picture into question.

At many organizations, the main challenge isn’t massive lapses, but partial data failure. It’s not that things are going untracked, it’s that they are tracked sloppily. It’s no longer people not tagging their ads, it’s that they’re using the same tag for every file. Or maybe they never fill out a particular field of information. The field might be important, but it gets overlooked when a busy team member doesn’t understand what it’s asking for. Worse, people may fill the field out but in three different ways…one person uses a capital, one lower-case, and two or three have a misspelling. These problems — often hidden, discovered after the fact — make the question, “Are you tracking your marketing data?” a tough one to answer honestly. Well yes, you are, BUT…

Integration? What integration?

Even supposing you’re able to conquer each of these data failures separately and for every team, many organizations face two additional problems that are issues of data integration. Teams frequently have trouble tracking data accurately across time (setting things up so that newer data can be consistently compared to older data), and also face challenges integrating data generated by various platforms: DCM, AdWords, Facebook.
Imagine you’ve only partly solved the initial data failures I’ve described, or that some of your teams have established consistent processes and some haven’t, and then think about trying to make sense of these data integration problems.
Are you tracking your Marketing Data? Are you, really?

Everything is Trackable. Maybe.
Part of the problem with the conversation businesses are having about data is the superficial perception many executives have that in the digital age everything is trackable. When they get pinned down, most people don’t have any real idea of what that means. The disconnect between knowing that things are trackable and how it actually gets done is substantial.

This superficial understanding that everything is trackable, and the way it muddies conversations about data, is worsened when vendors in the marketplace claim to be able to do very fine granular attribution and full optimization for your marketing spend. What are they basing that optimization on? The low-quality data going in? The best attribution and optimization tools on the market aren’t going to save you if the data going into the tool is flawed.

Applying tracking codes and ensuring they are tracked correctly is a huge hurdle for most businesses, and it forces them into all kinds of contortions. They have to create new, exogenous processes, outside those that the teams trafficking the advertisements are accustomed to working within. No one should be surprised by the result.

At Claravine, we think there’s a better way. Executives need to stop thinking of data analysis as the thing that happens after the campaign is over, and start creating marketing campaigns that have interpretable data as their intended result, from the outset. That means creating a system that does as much as possible to eliminate human error. It means establishing processes that are easy to follow and consistent for every team. It means thinking about the challenges of data integration in the planning phase, not post-launch. And it means being able to assess, before a campaign ever goes live, whether accurate data is being collected from your tracking codes.

In 10 or 20 years we’ll have solved these problems, and we won’t be talking about marketing data analytics anymore, we’ll just be talking about business. After all, the purpose of analytics is to know our customers better, so we can serve them better. That should be everyone’s goal. Let Claravine help.