How to Start Reporting with Marketing Automation [Expert Interview]


Meet Isaac Payne.

Today’s expert joins us to talk about a very important topic that many marketers struggle with: reporting. As a Marketing Operations Specialist, Isaac has been building and analyzing Pardot campaigns and reporting since 2013, and is here to share his expertise!

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Alright, Isaac, let’s dive right in…

Reporting is such a crucial thing in modern marketing — vague goals like ‘raise awareness’ and ‘improve brand image’ really aren’t cutting it anymore. But I think it’s an area where a lot of marketers are still struggling, or aren’t really sure how to get started. Why do you think that is?

I think you’re right  — marketers are definitely concerned with seeing ROI from the tools they’re investing in and the marketing campaigns that they’re running; in fact, I think ROI reporting is one of the most sought-after features of not only marketing automation, but CRM too. But it’s definitely an area where marketers often struggle to get started, and I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

For one thing, every organization has different processes, different goals, different things they want to track, and different KPIs — and different levels of maturity on what they’re able to track. So it’s not the kind of thing you can really give blanket advice on; you aren’t going to be able to read an article, directly apply it, and suddenly find yourself effectively reporting on campaigns. You really need to think about what your business goals are, build your own strategy, and adjust from there.

Another major challenge is that there is so much data you can report on; it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. If you’re collecting all the data that you can but you’re unsure what data you should really be paying attention to and what’s really going to indicate success — well, it’s kind of like trying to complete a puzzle without having any idea what the picture is supposed to be. You may be able to get to that final picture, but the process will likely be extremely inefficient. Or it might not look like anything — you may just have a bunch of jumbled data on your hands — and that’s definitely not something you can deliver to your Marketing VP. At the end of the day, you need to be able to apply a framework to the data you’re collecting that allows you to derive meaning and context, and I think that’s something that a lot of marketers are still struggling with.

You mentioned KPIs — can you clarify what you mean by that?

Sure, KPIs are Key Performance Indicators. Think about it as two schools of reporting: strategic and tactical. Your strategic reporting is going to be your KPIs — numbers that answer the ‘what’ questions of marketing: ‘What is my revenue goal?’ ‘What is my conversion rate?’ The other side of that is tactical reporting, which allows marketers to deep dive and optimize the entire funnel. So, more focused on answering the ‘how’ questions of marketing — ‘how do I optimize my landing pages?’ or ‘How do I optimize my SEM ads?’

Can you give us some examples, and maybe talk about how you would use marketing automation to derive strategic and tactical reporting from your data?

Sure, so Pardot comes with a number of out-of-the-box reports that provide strategic reporting all the way through the funnel — from inquiry to closed-won deal. But let’s look more at the big picture. Let’s say that you’re halfway through the quarter, and the strategic data that you’re gathering — so, those KPIs — indicates that you do not have enough prospects at the very top of the funnel to hit your revenue goals. All of your budget is already allocated, so simply spending more is not possible.

This is where the tactical reporting comes in — how are you going to get more prospects and ultimately increase that revenue? One example I would suggest (and there are a number of ways to do this) is to think about the efficiency of your funnel. It’s not just about how many prospects you need to generate — it’s about asking yourself ’how can I increase conversion rates to move more of those prospects to closed won deals?’

So if you’re running into this issue, one thing you might consider is how you’re looking from a submission rate standpoint. Try analyzing your landing pages and forms to see what your submission rates are and why. Are there landing pages that are doing better than others? Is it because of the number of form fields? Calls to action? Graphics? (Side note: you can also use A/B testing to determine how these factors are impacting success). But if you can determine which factors are impacting landing page success, you can up these conversion rates, increase efficiency, and ultimately impact revenue without spending another dollar. That’s one thing that we really recommend our customers track, so they can replicate success across all programs.

Another thing that I’d recommend doing in this scenario is checking out reporting on paid search campaigns — going in and taking a look at which keywords are performing and which aren’t. There’s a good chance you’ll find that you’re spending your advertising dollars inefficiently. In this report type you can dive in and say, ‘okay these are the top-performing ads; let’s shift our budget from the less successful campaigns into these’ — and suddenly you’re creating more prospects without increasing budget.

So, those are some of the top things that I’d recommend keeping an eye on — go in and determine what your five top-performing landing pages are. What are your top-performing campaigns overall? This is information that you need to have tactically so you can answer that question of ‘how do I improve?’ — especially if you start to notice that you’re trending a little low on the strategic reporting side.

These sound like some great first steps to me! Any next steps you’d recommend?

Well, I’d say the real core benefit of marketing automation is being able to tie your marketing data to your sales data — to really understand the ROI of your campaigns and align marketing and sales on a data level.

If you’re working at a B2B company, there’s a good chance that your sales reps live and breathe in their CRM. So one of the things that we really strive to do as a marketing team here is ensure that our VP of Marketing can communicate effectively with sales leadership within the system of record that our sales leadership is going to be looking at, so we have very specific custom data points that we are syncing with our instance of Salesforce. This is a great way to align teams; it’s also a great way to look at trends across the funnel, month over month, and dive into that tactical level of reporting as well.

Great advice, Isaac. Alright, let’s shift over to a topic that’s slightly more fun (not that KPIs aren’t a blast) — any exciting summer plans?

Well, I just got a motorcycle. And I got my motorcycle license, so I’m legit.

That’s right! I believe I followed you to work this morning — I recognized the iconic Dreamforce backpack, 2013 edition.  

Yeah, might need a new riding backpack…

Nah, I think it’s a great way to make sure you get seen by traffic. Fashion and safety, in one backpack. Alright Isaac, thanks so much for your time and your reporting expertise. Readers, make sure to check back next week when we discuss ‘making your customers feel heard’ with Product Manager Kyle Coleman. Cheers!