Is Data-Driven Decision-Making (3D) at the Heart of Your Marketing Organization?

This dissonance between the realities of reporting and the expectation of P&L accountability led my colleague Justin Yopp and I to develop a straightforward process to transform the marketing department at The Pedowitz Group into a data-driven, decision-making organization.

In last month’s blog post we discussed the first of the five core marketing processes essential to effective and efficient marketing operations — the lead management process. This was a great lead-in (no pun intended) for this month’s post on the reporting and analytics processes. Most firms, when they first dip their toes into the results reporting waters, look to report on their funnel results which depend entirely on having a functioning lead management process.

But, before we start, let’s agree on two definitions.

  • Activities Reports: opens, clicks, visits, CTRs, visitors, duration, bounce, deliverability, etc.
  • Results Reports: New leads, MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, renewals, new customers, bookings, Revenue, CLV

We are here to discuss the processes around producing regular, accurate, useful results reports that enable an organization to make better marketing decisions and evolve into a data-driven decision making organization.

As a CMO, I don’t have much time for activities reports; I need to understand how my department is impacting revenue on a regular basis.

Our learned colleagues at Gartner tell us that 76 percent of marketing organizations are accountable, or share accountability, for a P&L. But Aberdeen tells us that in reality only 19 percent of marketers have comprehensive tracking and reporting practices in place. Wow! There can only be one outcome if this significant gap between expectation of accountability and reality of reporting is not quickly eliminated — CEOs will be calling in United Airlines to accommodate marketing executives.

6 Steps to Build a Results Reporting Function in Marketing Operations

This dissonance between the realities of reporting and the expectation of P&L accountability led my colleague Justin Yopp and I to develop a straightforward process to transform the marketing department at The Pedowitz Group into a data-driven, decision-making organization.

Justin shared that “far too often, we see firms rush out and buy the latest in reporting software as if it were a panacea for all their reporting ailments.” We also see CMOs pursuing vanity metrics – metrics that “prove” the value of marketing instead of empowering better decisions for better performance. If you take nothing else away from this blog, please avoid being fascinated by the latest shiny software object, and do not focus on producing vanity metrics first.

Here is the process we developed for creating a results reporting function.

Recognizing the need for data-driven decision making.
Recognizing the need for data-driven decision making.

Step 1. Decide what you want to measure.

This is not as straight forward as you might imagine. You need to engage with the marketing team, determine their key performance indicators (KPIs), and find out what decisions they want to inform with these metrics. Are they trying to become more efficient, more effective, and redirect resources and budget? Are you going to measure marketing influence, and is there an attribution model for that?

Now prioritize these metrics and KPIs based on impact to the business. Notice we did NOT discuss how to measure them; where to measure them; and broader data, process and system requirements. That comes later!

Step 2. Determine what reports you will need to measure the KPIs and metrics you selected.

With the metrics and KPI requirements in hand, determine what set of reports are required to effectively provide that data. What are the parameters and dimensions that define these reports? In what systems will the reports be generated?

Step 3: Identify the data, processes, and systems that you need to create the reports.

Are the fields present and collecting data currently in the systems you wish to run the reports in? Are new integrations or file transfers required? Do your teams currently update the data in a reliable way? What data import processes need to be redesigned to support these reports? Will your existing technology stack support the reporting you need for effective decision-making? Will you use Excel, a marketing automation platform, a CRM, or some combination of all of these to produce the reports?

Step 4: Commission someone to build the reports.

Don’t send the initial reports to a wide audience because it is highly likely you will uncover unknown data issues and process issues. Also, there is a risk that the reports won’t conform to a widely held view of how things are, and you need to be pretty sure the data and the reports are spot on before you start that battle. You don’t want to lose reporting credibility just as you are getting started.

Step 5: Determine how to interpret the reports to generate meaningful insights.

Reports alone will not provide the answers and insights necessary to make better decisions. You need these reports visualized and contextualized to facilitate analysis. What dimensions should be used to slice the data into something meaningful? What time series should be used to present the data to unveil trends — week over week, month over month, quarter over quarter? Which metrics and KPIs should be presented together? In this step you’re doing the critical work of making your data consumable.

Step 6: Drive the change to becoming a data-driven decision making organization.

Start the cadence of daily, weekly and monthly reporting. Push your teams to provide data evidence to support their claims and decisions. Model this same behavior yourself. Also, be prepared to adapt the reports to what the teams really wanted in order to make decisions (there’s nothing like seeing the report you asked for to help you really understand what you wanted). This regular distribution and consumption of the reports is critical to truly embedding data-driven-decision making into your marketing organization.

Executive Leadership and Support for the Change

Getting teams to the point of analyzing the data and making data-based decisions on a daily basis will not happen just organically. Leadership has to lead in this practice and drive it down into the organization. Provide the training and resources necessary to bring the team up to speed. And allow time for the organization to acclimate to these new expectations.

It is a satisfying experience to attend a marketing status meeting and hear the broader team excitedly talking about changing their immediate plans based on last week’s or last month’s significant shift in a trendline.

Components of Your Results Reporting Process

  • Metrics/KPI requirements — What decisions do they want to make based on the data?
    • What is the right frequency for updating those decisions?
    • What is the context for the data to support a good decision (comparison data?)
  • Data Sources: what data is needed to support those decisions and metrics?
  • Reporting technology: Where are the reports run? Do these systems support the output desired, subscription and distribution, have access to all the data required? Does your data architecture support running the reports you want in specific systems or was reporting a forgotten afterthought?
  • Roles: Who owns, maintains and modifies the reports? Don’t assume that the report author is the same person who is familiar with the data — the data czar. Also the person who interprets the report might be yet a third person — a marketing business analyst. All 3 roles may need to be in the room when an important data-driven decision is being made.
  • Standards: If your report creation is centralized it may not be as big an issue, but if you are global, and want to be able to roll up marketing reports from each of the regions, you have to drive standards for data collection, report building, naming, and presentation. The same business rules (think filters on the data) need to be applied and visible on the printed reports so people know they are comparing apples to apples.
  • Media: What media will you use for delivering which reports? Are they online, emailed, PDF, Excel, Business Intelligence (BI) system, or MAP/CRM?
  • Distribution: How can individuals subscribe and unsubscribe. How can you secure confidential reports? Restrict access and printing?
  • Archival: Many firms don’t have a BI system and as a result some reports, which are snapshots of the results at an instant in time, are the only record of the data at that instant. Ie the same report cannot be re-run a month later, showing the exact results at that prior time for comparison to the current run. As a result there may be a need to archive all “runs” of a report, for comparison purposes in the future. How is this done without a BI? Build your own SQL database or use Excel? Obviously this can be laborious so it deserves attention and planning to keep it manageable.

Guiding Principles for Data-Driven Decision (3D) making

Data-driven decision making requires a set of guiding principles to be effective.

  • The driving purpose of reporting is to enable data-driven-decisions.
  • Do not succumb to ego/vanity reporting.
  • Create reports that empower better decisions at the lowest levels – democratize decision making.
  • Engender an inquisitive and investigative nature in your organization.
  • Leave room for exploration and discovery of patterns.

The 4 foundation pillars of Data-Driven Decision MakingNext Steps

You are probably already getting results reports. So ask yourself:

  • Which of my teams are using these reports, how often, to make better decisions?
  • What decisions are the reports informing?
  • Are they vanity reports or reports for helping improve marketing performance?

If the reports aren’t driving any decisions or monitoring the health of a process, toss them and go to step 1 above! Audit all the reports in this way. Stop creating reports that no one uses for making decisions or confirming normal operation. My colleague Justin Yopp, who originated many of the ideas in this post also coined the phrase “Become a 3D marketing organization” – meaning Data-Driven Decision making. Are you a 3D organization? How did you do it? What were the biggest hurdles? Here are several examples of marketing dashboards that illustrate 3D thinking.

In step three above, we observed that the data and systems had to support our desired reports. This is a perfect segue to the next post on our Revenue Marketing Journey. Next month we will discuss the various parts to a data operations function within marketing operations and the associated processes.

Please feel free to share your experiences becoming a 3D marketing organization and other insights on the above topics in the comments section below or email me at

6 Key AdWords Reports to Use for Your Small Business

Advertising your small business in Google AdWords is easy to get started. But spending your budget efficiently to connect with the most likely potential customers? That’s an entirely different matter, and it means understanding the available AdWords reports.

Advertising your small business in Google AdWords is easy to get started. But spending your budget efficiently to connect with the most likely potential customers? That’s an entirely different matter, and it means understanding the available AdWords reports.

What are reports, and why are they so helpful? As you advertise with AdWords, data generated by your campaigns, ad groups and ads is collected and saved — and we’re talking huge amounts of data, ranging from which keyword phrases trigger your ads to which devices your visitors are using. This continually growing mountain of data is way too immense to be useful as a whole. You need a way to use this data and identify important trends or cautionary red flags.

That’s where AdWords reports come in. Determining which reports are most worthwhile can seem overwhelming. Read on for six key AdWords reports that you should start using for your small business.

Report 1: Campaign Performance Report

Before you start digging into specific sets of data, it’s good to step back and take a broad-level view of your campaigns. Do this by running a Campaign Performance report, which includes all the default stats you’ll normally find at the campaign level in AdWords. These stats include clicks, click-through rate (CTR), average ad positions, conversions, conversion rates, cost per conversion and conversion value. Pay especially close attention to campaigns with low costs per conversion — find out what makes them successful and apply that knowledge to new and existing campaigns.

Also, you can customize the date ranges of Campaign Performance reports going back weeks, months or years. You’ll cover the most ground with Campaign Performance reports that cover more recent timeframes, but occasional reports across larger timeframes could open your eyes to important trends you otherwise might have missed.

Report 2: Search Terms Report

Want to know how people are finding your ads? You should, and that’s why the Search terms report is helpful. This report reveals the actual search queries people type (or speak) into Google that cause your ads to appear.

Adding relevant, high-performing search terms to your keyword lists usually results in more traffic at lower CPCs. Conversely, adding irrelevant search terms to your negative keyword lists will boost CTRs, reduce CPCs and likely lower your costs per conversion.

Report 3: Placement Report

The Placement Report reveals how your ads perform across Google’s massive Display Network, which is generally a good source of less-expensive, high-volume traffic. However, people who click ads on the Display Network often aren’t as buyer-oriented as those who shop on the Search Network. As a result, Display Network traffic often doesn’t convert as well as Search Network traffic. Also, performance can vary greatly between Display Network websites. The Placement Report provides data from specific Display Network websites so you don’t have to guess which ones are worthwhile. Use managed placements to target your ads toward top-performing Display Network websites, then reduce your bids for low-performing websites or block them from showing your ads.

When reviewing this report, just remember that Display Network trends usually don’t mirror Search Network trends. With that in mind, you’re better off focusing on conversion data rather than superficial metrics such as costs per click and CTR.

Report 4: Audience Demographics Report

Who is clicking your online ads, and which of those visitors are most likely to become paying customers? To start answering this question, check your audience demographics report data. Do this under the Display Network tab for Display ads or the Audiences tab for Search Network ads. This report breaks down your Search Network traffic by gender and age range. You can also see the parental status of Display traffic and household income for Video traffic.

If certain demographics outperform others, then you can target your campaigns specifically toward those audiences. You can also lower your bids for under-performing audiences.

Optimizing Your Bing Ads Campaign: The Basics

Bing’s search engine market share has grown to 21 percent. Google is still your best bet for reaching the largest number of customers, but to neglect your Bing Ads campaigns is a mistake. Fortunately, optimizing campaigns in Bing Ads is similar to the process of auditing your Google AdWords campaigns. Read on to learn more about the basics of optimizing in Bing Ads.

Optimize - Improving ResultsThere’s no denying that Google is the undisputed king of search engine advertising, and the potential reach of Microsoft’s search platform pales in comparison. However, Bing’s popularity is rising.

In late 2015, Comscore reported that Bing’s search engine market share had grown to 21 percent (Google accounts for 64 percent), probably because of Bing’s incorporation into Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Surface devices. Google is still your best bet for reaching the largest number of customers, but to neglect your Bing Ads campaigns is a mistake — one that grows bigger by the day.

Fortunately, optimizing campaigns in Bing Ads is similar to the process of auditing your Google AdWords campaigns. Some of the reports and user options are different, but the general tenants are the same. Read on to learn more about the basics of optimizing in Bing Ads.

Running Reports — Know Your Options

Just like the first step of cooking is to gather your ingredients, the first step of optimizing is to collect your data. Bing Ads provides the following reports with uniquely beneficial information:

  • Performance reports: Track the overall performance of your efforts at the account, campaign, ad group, ad and keyword levels. See important metrics such as your CTRs and impressions.
  • Change history reports: Want to revisit how you’ve changed your campaigns over time? Just run these reports to see your change history.
  • Targeting reports: See which audiences your campaigns are reaching.
  • Campaign analytics reports: Designed to aid conversions, these reports help you understand how visitors are interacting with your website’s landing page.
  • Billing and budget reports: Good for accounting, these reports offer the nuts-and-bolts of your campaign spending and billing over time.

It’s a good idea to regularly generate each type of report. Each report type can be customized to highlight the most relevant data for your needs, and you can also schedule automated reports that hit your email as attachments.

Pump Up Low Impressions

Is your campaign getting unusually low impressions? This could be happening for several reasons, most of which relate to your keywords. Open the keyword list for your underperforming ad group and look for keyword disapprovals and low keyword bids. Bing’s reviewers sometimes disapprove keywords based on landing page relevance or various compliance rules. And sometimes, you just need to bid more.

Negative keywords might also be hindering your ad’s visibility. Negative keywords can save you lots of money by filtering out visitors who wouldn’t be likely to convert on your landing page, but misusing negative keywords can have the opposite impact.

Or it could be that people who are seeing your ad just aren’t interested. Try changing up your ad copy, and run a targeting report to make sure you’re reaching the right audience.

Reverse Low Clickthrough Rates

If your ad is getting plenty of views but not many clicks — which you can see in your performance report — then you must make your ad more compelling. Define what makes your business special, include an irresistible offer and give a call to action (i.e. “Contact Us for a Free Estimate”). Compare your ad with competing ads for insights about what you’re missing. You can also experiment with dynamic text, which plugs the actual terms people search for directly into your ads.

Capturing Conversions

The whole point of online advertising is getting conversions on your landing page. If visitors are reaching your site but not taking your desired action — whether that’s making a purchase or filling out a contact form — then that’s a problem.

The Universal Event Tracking tool is Bing’s version of conversion tracking. This tool generates a pixel that you place in the code throughout your website — then, you can run a campaign analytics goals report to see how visitors move through your site. From this, you can get invaluable insights about who converts versus who bounces.

Bing Ads lets you include dynamic text in your destination URLs, sending visitors to landing pages that specifically target their needs. The findings in your campaign analytics goals report might also reveal keywords or ad copy variations that aren’t capturing the right audiences.

Prepare for Editorial Reviews

Bing Ads has several compliance regulations enforced through its editorial review process. The purpose of this process is to maintain a high degree of quality across the Bing Ads search network. You may see real-time alerts requiring you to change your ads and keywords as you optimize, or a recently revised campaign may be tagged with an editorial disapproval. Most disapprovals are easily correctable and not a cause for long-term concern. As an advertiser, though, you should periodically familiarize yourself with Bing Ads’ policies.


Optimizing Bing Ads campaigns can result in greater revenues and fewer losses — and in business, both outcomes are great for your bottom line. Resist pouring all your efforts into Google Adwords, and remember that Bing Ads is actually growing at a faster rate. Microsoft is committed to integrating Bing into its latest computing and smartphone products. You can capitalize on that by reaching a sizeable audience with economical costs per click, but only if you put in the effort.

Want more digital marketing tips? Click here to get the Internet Marketing Survival Guide.

Better Together: Pair Google Analytics With Google AdWords for Stronger Campaigns

If you have not yet linked your AdWords campaign with Google Analytics, you are missing out on some much deeper tracking possibilities that can ultimately help you build a stronger campaign. Here are a few things you can do with Google Analytics.

If you have had a Google AdWords campaign up and running for a while, you are probably already familiar with the various AdWords tracking tools. With a simple bit of code, you can track every conversion that takes place on a particular “thank you” or receipt page. You can also import offline conversions, which are a bit more complicated to set up, but very much worth the effort. If you have not yet linked your AdWords campaign with Google Analytics, however, you are missing out on some much deeper tracking possibilities that can ultimately help you build a stronger campaign. Here are a few things you can do with Google Analytics.

User Behavior Tracking
Google AdWords lets you track conversions. However, it doesn’t give you much insight about the visitors who did not convert. Learning more about their behavior on your site can help you identify areas that you can improve, ultimately increasing your conversion rate.

For example, Google Analytics will tell you how many pages the prospect visited, the amount of time they spent on your website, and whether or not they immediately bounced away. In other words, you can track the user behavior of your AdWords traffic to see what those prospects are doing.

Think of AdWords conversion tracking like a light switch. It’s either on or off. You either have conversions or don’t. And when you don’t, then excuse the pun, but you’re in the dark about why the AdWords visitors are not converting. This is why Google Analytics is such a great tool to add as you analyze your advertising performance.

E-commerce and Funnel Tracking
Google Analytics allows you to go deeper than Google AdWords conversion tracking does. If you sell products online, you can use Google Analytics’ e-commerce tracking to monitor specific information about product revenues, transaction details, and length of time from initial interest through completed sale.

Multichannel funnels in Google Analytics allow you to see each incremental step that buyers go through on their way to a completed sale. For example, your AdWords campaign may be driving 100 sales per month, but your AdWords reports do not tell you if those customers interacted with any other marketing campaign. By using the Multichannel funnels reports, you’ll see if organic search, referrals, email marketing, or another channel is playing an important role in your AdWords conversions.

Prospect Segmentation and Retargeting
Retargeting, or displaying your ads to prospects who have recently visited your site, is an important part of a solid Google AdWords strategy. Google Analytics can streamline this process for you by automatically segmenting your visitors and creating lists of people who are likely to buy. If you prefer to create your own segmented lists manually, Google Analytics helps you drill down to find your prospects’ demographics, location and online interests.

Split Testing Landing Pages
Success with AdWords advertising is not just about correctly setting up and optimizing your campaigns within Google AdWords. You must also properly setup and optimize your landing pages to maximize your sales. That means split testing your landing pages to find the best copy and layout for your target market.

Luckily, Google Analytics provides a simple and free tool called “Experiments” to split test your landing pages. By using Experiments within Google Analytics you can test two different landing pages to see which one converts more visitors into sales.

Layer New Dimensions onto Reports
The power of the Google Analytics and Google AdWords pairing is even more evident when you run reports within Google Analytics. For example, you can review ad performance for per ad placement on the page, mobile user behavior per keyword, and many other reports to learn more about your ads performance.

Of course, these techniques are just the tip of the iceberg. Both Google AdWords and Google Analytics provide strong, dynamic tools for monitoring your website and ad campaigns. When paired together, they allow you to sift through the data in whole new ways. Think outside the box, play around with the tools, and find your own preferred tracking combinations.