The No. 1 Threat Facing Marketers Today: Too Much Data

by James Parton
Director of European Marketing at Twilio


The incredible explosion in software tools available for today’s modern marketer has revolutionised the accountability of the marketing department. Now it is possible to measure virtually every step in the journey of prospect through to in life customer, and of course, online and social media chatter about your product and your brand.

The flip side of this coin is now that you can measure everything, you fall into the trap of reporting on dozens of metrics, just because you can. This is the No. 1 threat facing Marketers today.

Here’s how I break down the problem into four bite size chunks.


#1 – Understand what moves the needle for your business

It was Eric Ries, author of the bestseller The Lean Startup, that coined the term Vanity Metrics. As a Marketer, don’t measure things because they make you feel good about you and your team’s efforts, unless those things are having a material effect on your business.

For example does it really matter if page views on your website rose 10% over last month? Does it matter if you attended 4 trade shows in the last quarter and gathered 1,000 business cards? As standalone metrics, that just prompts a big “So what?” What you really need to understand is whether you are effectively converting those opportunities to perform meaningful actions like registering or purchasing.

Marketing efforts have to be hard wired to revenue outcomes for sales. Marketing dashboards should be tracking the funnel from inquiries, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, to the end outcome – deals won and lost and revenue generated. You can then reverse your analysis to identify patterns where your marketing tactics have been most impactful, and spot opportunities to adjust and improve.


#2 – Report insights, not just numbers

Anyone in your company can copy & paste numbers into a spreadsheet or monthly report. It’s insights the business wants and needs to make informed decisions. You have to have your finger on the pulse of the business. Avoid presenting correlation as causation. It goes without saying the marketing team should have an intimate relationship with your company’s customers to enrich the raw data with qualitative feedback and commentary. The goal for any marketing team is to progress from just presenting data back to their stakeholders – which can only ever describe what happened; to presenting insightful information – in others words why did it happen; to then reaching the position of being able to predict what will happen in the business – strengthening your stakeholders trust in your plans and investments.


#3 – Systems & Lexicon – getting to a single source of truth

Few companies have the luxury of starting with a blank sheet of paper. No doubt you have many systems and tools, most of which don’t talk to each other. Time is precious. If it takes you days to prepare your key metrics report, you have a problem. Inconsistent data is a killer, worse than having no data at all, as you have no trust in what you are reporting as fact.

Even if you have a world class marketing cloud and every system is purring and syncing, you still have to ensure you have internal alignment on what matters. Sales & Marketing have to be in harmony on the metrics that matter, the definitions used to describe them, and use the same dashboards to avoid any misalignment.

You have to have a single source of truth for the business – something that all internal teams point to as canon. If you have teams reporting on different numbers or arguing about the definition of key metrics, pause and fix it, otherwise you have a recipe for disaster.


#4 – The team & self awareness – knowing what you know

Modern data driven marketing teams need different skill sets to be successful. As a leader you have to understand the makeup of your team. Perhaps analysis and presentation of data does not come naturally to a marketer who was originally hired for their creative & experimental skills.

In other words, don’t just assume that presenting your team with the best data tools is setting them up for success. Take the time to ensure you are really equipping them to be successful. I would recommend using a tool like HBDI to understand the thinking preferences of your team members to improve self awareness and address knowledge gaps with training. If you have headcount and budget, you should hire people that have done this before to accelerate implementation and best practice.


Remember this does not happen overnight. Getting to full funnel reporting can take many months. Start now!

James is participating in ‘The No. 1 Threat Facing Marketers Today: Too Much Data’ panel discussion to explore this topic in more detail. Catch the panel on Day 1 of the Dublin Tech Summit at 12:10pm.


James Parton
Director of European Marketing at Twilio

James Parton is Twilio’s Director of European Marketing, and brings over 20 years of experience working at the intersection of telecommunications and the web for BT, O2, Telefonica and now Silicon Valley high growth company, Twilio.