A Marketer’s Guide to Picking the Perfect Analytics Tool

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Stop me if this sounds familiar. You log in to your analytics program and poke around. The data is interesting. The charts are multicolored. And yet, at the end of looking around, you still don’t know how to improve your marketing as a result.

Been there? If you’re stuck with “data, data everywhere” and not a drop to act upon, it might be because your analytics program doesn’t fit well with your business model. It’s not that there’s a right or a wrong type of analytics, but every company is different. And customer behavior changes from product to product. To figure out what type of analytics you need, it’s best to go back to the start and think about what makes your company unique, then find an analytics tool that matches those needs.

I’ve listed out a few questions below to get you started, as well as some questions you may want to ask any analytics provider (including HubSpot!) before making a purchase.

How long is your sales cycle?

The longer your sales cycle, the more complex the relationship with your leads becomes. If your leads are doing the majority of their research online over multiple weeks or even months, it’s important to have an analytics program that can give you a complete history of those customer interactions. You should focus on a solution that is strong in customer-centric and multi-channel data — customer-centric analytics ties activity data to the individual visitor who took that action, rather than aggregating data in an anonymous way. If your purchase process is more immediate, however, such qualities aren’t as critical.

Questions to ask a potential provider:

  • Does your analytics tool take a customer-centric or an aggregative data approach?
  • Am I able to see the activities of individual leads, like with this customer-centric view?

customer centric view

What’s a higher priority — a solution that’s robust, or easy to use?

Before investing in an analytics solution, assess your internal skills and resources. If you have a staff member with a background in analytics, you might do well with a robust enterprise-level tool that gives him or her the ability to create customizable reporting. If not, it’s best to prioritize something that is easy to use. Most analytics solutions fall somewhere in the middle of the ‘easy’ and ‘powerful’ spectrum. And with analytics, the Goldilocks rule applies — too little data and too much data can both be bad. The best fit will give you the level of data sophistication you need without being impossible to use and interpret.  

Questions to ask a potential provider:

  • Would you advise we have someone on staff whose main responsibility is to manage this tool?
  • How long does it take to implement this analytics tool?
  • How much customization do users typically do?

How sophisticated is your marketing mix?

Every channel you add to your marketing mix increases the sophistication of your strategy and adds an additional layer of complexity to your analytics. Think about your own marketing mix for a moment: Is your marketing centralized in one or two channels, or does it spread across social, email, mobile, advertising and search? Does each channel have its own isolated campaign, or do your campaigns run across multiple channels? List all of the channels and platforms that you use most. Take note of ones that frequently overlap (email and social, for example). If your marketing mix leans toward the complex side, then multichannel marketing analytics should be of high importance to you.

Questions to ask a potential provider:

  • Would I be able to see a single view of my leads interactions with my company regardless of which marketing channel it happened on?
  • Would I be able to see how each of my channels relate to each other?
  • How is mobile traffic tracked? 

What kind of ongoing relationship do you have with customers?

Considering the sales cycle is one step to getting the most out of your analytics, but you should also consider your customer relationship after the point of sale. Do you run the type of business that benefits from repeat purchases or upgrades? Or do you target one-time purchasers? Is customer retention a concern? If ongoing customer engagement and churn are a factor in your business, make sure that your analytics tool enables you to analyze customer activity in addition to prospect and lead activity. Look for an analytics solution that can integrate with your help-desk, CRM, and other post-purchase channels.

Questions to ask a potential provider:

  • Does your analytics tool integrate with CRM systems? What does that integration look like?
  • Can I track help-desk requests and other post-purchase interactions with this tool?
  • How do I analyze existing customer behavior?

How important is demonstrating a return on investment?

I know, I know, this is one of those “well, duh” questions. Most marketers want to know if the dollars they are putting into marketing campaigns are resulting in customers. I’m including it because it’s important to think about where ROI data fits into your priorities. Not every analytics solution can integrate with CRM systems where purchase history is stored. If ROI data is essential to bettering your marketing, it’s worth spending more to get a solution that can provide you with that outcome data. HubSpot and other analytics providers call this closed-loop-marketing. It’s the data that bridges the gap between marketing campaigns and the moment when sales converts a lead into a customer.

Questions to ask a potential provider:

  • Can I see how many customers a campaign generated?
  • What CRM integrations do you have?

Analytics exist to answer those nagging marketing questions: Is my marketing working? What’s important to my potential customers? How do I know I’m investing in the right things? Prioritize the questions that have become the biggest barriers to advancing your business and you’ll have a good foundation for figuring out what type of an analytics you need.

What questions do you ask when researching an analytics solution?

Image credit: [F]oxymoron

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