Have you ever seen the DIKW Pyramid? It’s a hierarchy that helps visualize the stages that data points go through to becoming actionable: data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. As you climb each level of the pyramid, you distill data further and further until you have insight you can use to guide strategy and decisions.

DIKW Pyramid-Data Information Knowledge Wisdom

Just Having Marketing Data Isn’t the Goal

Transforming data to wisdom is a concept that I have been obsessed with throughout my career as I see company after company commit three deadly sins associated with marketing metrics:
 
  1. Ignore data completely and just wing it.
  2. Gather tons of data—most of which goes completely unused.
  3. Stockpile tons of data and compile it into beautiful reports that have little or no bearing on what anyone does.
 
Hopefully, your organization doesn’t fall into any of these three categories. But if you, too, are frustrated with the state of your visibility into marketing, sales, and overall company performance, its entirely within your power to drive the needed change.


4 Steps to Marketing Performance Insight

As a marketing leader, you have the ability to drive the evolution of your company’s performance insight program. It just requires a little collaboration, some elbow grease, and your force of will to get you and your cross-functional partners the information you all need to drive growth and success.
 
If you’re just getting started, run through these four steps and watch both the company performance and eyebrows rise. And if you feel like you have a decent start to your reporting but more work is needed, use these steps as milestones to move forward.
 
  1. Start with the RIGHT goals and then determine the milestones to measure to get there.

    You can’t get to where you’re going if you don’t KNOW where you’re going. This step is where you lay the groundwork for the structure and context your data will need to become actionable. Collaborate with you executive and sales teams to understand what their goals are and what they want to see on a consistent basis to help measure progress toward that goal.

    The executive team will likely be primarily concerned with top line revenue as well as targets around customers such as net promotor score and retention. They’ll want to see metrics like cost Demand Cost Per Revenue and forecast pipeline.

    Sales will have quota goals and will want to understand the health of the pipeline at each stage as well as where leads that closed came from.

    You as the marketing leader want to keep your eye on all of the balls that the executive and sales teams are interested in, but also will likely have goals associated with database health, and tactical goals like number of social followers, click thorough rates, open rates, conversion rates, etc.

    All of these needs should be discussed within the team so you can determine what data points you will need to produce to provide the insight needed. Which leads us to…
     
  2. Audit your data.

    Once you know what you need to know, sit down with your marketing and sales operations gurus and start mapping out the specific data points you will need, where they live (or if they are even being gathered at this point), and how you can bring them all together. You may need some new fields in your MAS or CRM systems, some fields may exist but are not being populated, others might be good to go.

    No operations team to help you? There are very good consulting organizations that can help you get where you need to go. They’re worth the investment in most cases.

    Work with operations or your consultant to make the needed adjustments or marketing tech stack additions to get the needed information. Keep in mind the integration capabilities between the systems you have, or want to add, as having data is great, but having to compile manual reports constantly get old fast. Or in other words…
     
  3. Convert your data to useful information and knowledge through automated presentation.

    Great! We understand what everyone needs to see and we have the data, lets build some pretty reports! Well sure, but lets keep in mind one important truth—static reports, charts, graphs, etc. are typically outdated and of limited use about five minutes after they are produced. The dynamic nature of business today REQUIRES real time reporting which means dashboards, which means automation.

    Mind you that you will likely need at least three dashboards—one for the executive team, one for sales, and one for the entire marketing team. Some organizations also find it helpful to have sales leadership and marketing leadership dashboards to present more “output” type metrics (cost per lead, cost per MQL, etc.) that the rest of the sales and marketing teams don’t necessarily need to see. However, in most cases its good to empower the entire team to see what the leadership sees. It builds trust and can spark innovative thinking within the team you never knew was there. 
     
  4. Collaborate on the findings.

    You have now scaled your way to the “knowledge” level of the pyramid, but to summit you need to create the shared-understanding this knowledge brings to you and co-workers, and leverage it to take optimal action.

    Use the knowledge you have compiled during your standing meeting with sales and the leadership to build a complete picture of performance, what you can see is working, what you can see is not, and what to keep an eye on. Keep meeting notes for things that will be addressed before the next gathering and what to check in on.

    This collaboration becomes your path to the summit as you take your action items back to the teams and start chipping away at them. Keep an eye on the dashboards over the weeks and months and you will quickly realize that you are on the top of the pyramid and have firmly planted your flag.
 

Data Is the Foundation That Supports Your Career

In a 2017 study, Hubspot found the second biggest challenge marketing leaders face is proving the ROI of marketing activities (right behind generating traffic and leads of course). For those who can distill data into meaningful information, the proof they need is readily available. Many marketing professional’s careers have been made by driving reporting and metrics initiatives within organizations.
 
Regardless of whether you have a decent reporting structure in place or nothing at all, taking ownership and improving the insights your organization has into sales and marketing performance can only improve your bonus chances, and your status within the company.
 
Good hunting.