Why SFDC Add-On Tools are a Poor Solution for Marketing Reporting
By Emily W. Salus, Sr. Director, Demand Generation & Marketing Operations
One of the great features of Salesforce.com is that it has dashboards that a lot of Marketing automation platforms lack. One of the drawbacks is that Salesforce.com dashboards aren’t really made for Marketing reporting. First, there’s the problem of getting leads and contacts into the same report. Then there’s the problem that Salesforce.com was built, like the name says, for Sales. It’s not exactly focused on the needs of the marketer.
The solutions that try to get around this are the numerous add-on products that use Salesforce to track marketing activity, and use custom objects, campaigns, and other round-about ways to cobble together something for Marketing.
The truth is, neither of these options is particularly effective, but there are some important weaknesses among the add-on tools.
1. CRM Ownership
Add-on products frequently require changes to Salesforce.com in order to be functional. Most often, Marketing doesn’t actually own Salesforce.com. The result is that marketers have to request fields, objects, and other changes from whomever manages Sales Operations, wait for those to be built – never a high priority – and then see if they’re actually able to report what they want. As a friend of mine in operations, whose company uses one of these solutions, said, “Kill me now. They tried to solve one of our issues by creating yet another custom object and another custom report type!” It’s not a solution if the answer to every question is another custom object, which will only annoy (at best…) your Sales Ops team and slow down your SFDC instance. Too many custom objects will make your Salesforce harder to navigate, and disrupt agility across the board by making it more difficult to remediate data and move quickly as a team and a company.
2. Sales Processes
A lot of those same point solutions require changes to the sales process in order to do the tracking to create reports. For a lot of organizations, that’s a non-starter. Sales has its own methods, and changing those is hard in some organizations and impossible in others. The CEO of a consulting agency recently told me about a client they had: “The product they looked at needed the sales process to change. At a large multi-national, that just wasn’t ever going to be possible. They couldn’t even consider that solution for their reporting.
3. Data Bloat
These add-on products store the data in Salesforce.com. That’s a lot of data, considering all the multi-touches, number of leads, and the way Salesforce.com stores custom objects and campaign data. And storing data costs money. One organization recently told my colleague that fully half of all the data they paid for in Salesforce was simply to have marketing reporting through an add-on. Over time, that gets even more costly as more information is added.
4. Partial Visibility
While using one of these products, you only get a few of your touches in your Salesforce.com. You can’t add in data sources such as offline and web activity in an effective way and, in some cases, have to throttle back the sources you have. Because you’re storing so much data, you have to be selective about how many touches you store — first and last before conversion? Three? Five? What about after the opportunity is created? If you’re being selective, and you have a maximum, you’re not seeing the true path of the lead and you’re making business decisions based on a fraction of the true data, which is being collected, but — because of the throttling to save data space — not received.
Ever since I first implemented marketing automation, I’ve needed easy-to-get reports that didn’t require excess labor or reconfiguration, that were in a format I could share with my executives, from CEO to VP Finance to VP Marketing, and that were real-time. Reports and metrics we could use to make good decisions — quickly — about the marketing investments and campaigns that would create the most pipeline in the shortest amount of time. That’s not so much to ask for, is it? A dashboard that uses marketing data that Marketing controls, has on-demand reports, includes all the information from web, marketing automation, and sales, and doesn’t require changes to the CRM or the sales process?
Turns out it’s not a lot to ask if you ask the right people. Which is why I’ve now got my own BrightFunnel dashboards to report on Marketing’s effectiveness.