Once in awhile, a marketer tells me that reporting is “nice to have,” but not required. Or she’ll say that her MAP and CRM reports and spreadsheets are enough.

Frankly, I’m baffled by this. How can you plan without using your past results to help you assess your channels and campaigns?

Let’s take opportunities as an example. CRMs are built to report on the state of leads, contacts, and opportunities at any given moment. They don’t include a lot of history, despite the tracking settings you can turn on, and they certainly don’t let you easily view the paths to opportunity that the leads and contacts on accounts took. Frequently, they don’t even show which individuals are associated with an account, unless you have a strict sales process and a rigorous sales team (and wouldn’t you rather they spent their time pursuing opportunities than doing data entry, anyway?). The upshot is that you can see the touches for a specific opportunity, if the right contacts are attached, but you can’t see what’s working overall. Which channels are most likely to influence opportunities at which stages of the funnel? Which specific content is performing best across opportunities? Where are you getting the most bang for your buck?

MAPs show campaign results in aggregate, and some of them even let you look at a single opportunity to see where the touches were. But again, they don’t always show leads that aren’t attached to the opportunity and they don’t show what happens across opportunities — they only let you drill down one-by-one. If you’re scaling, no one is going to have time to drill into each opportunity and then do analysis on effective channels and content. By the time you get the  results of that intensive analysis — if you even get it at all — the situation may have changed drastically.

For demand gen, there are a lot of questions you’ll ask on a regular basis:

  • Content creation takes time — What will you focus on in the future if you only have anecdotal evidence of what’s worked in the past or have to analyze opportunities individually?
  • You have to sign up for a lot of events long before they start — How do you know which ones to renew if you don’t know the results from the last ones?
  • Syndication programs and advertising have a faster turn-around — How will you determine which ones to continue if you don’t know which ones are driving MQLs and opportunities?

I’ve been at BrightFunnel less than 3 months. In that time, I’ve started new programs for inbound and outbound, worked with Sales on ABM, and worked with the team to create new content. I’ve also created my BrightFunnel dashboard.

Now that I have programs in place, I want to compare them to the company’s earlier programs. Are we gaining traction? New MQLs? New opportunities? Does it even matter that Marketing is working on new initiatives, or would the company be just as well off without us?

There’s only one way for me to know, and that’s through reports that provide me with real-time, aggregated data, showing me results across channels, campaigns, and time.

To start, my dashboard includes tiles displaying new MQLs created and from which sources (we’re creating more, quarter-on-quarter). I also have information about which first touch channels and campaigns are most effective in bringing us new leads and new MQLs. And I’m tracking which channels and campaigns are influencing existing leads — because I’d better know quickly if my new nurture programs are effective or not.

If I didn’t have my reports, I might make the assumption that I was doing the right things, but I wouldn’t actually know. I wouldn’t be able to instantly see which channels are affecting my top, mid, and late funnel. I wouldn’t know how many MQLs in our target accounts my syndication programs are bringing in unless I created endless separate reports. Now I see that in a single dashboard tile as soon as I log into BrightFunnel, as well as how I’m doing compared to last quarter.

I have the benefit of having a cutting-edge marketing reporting platform at my fingertips. But what do companies without one do? It’s already November. Do you want to guess what you should do for next year’s planning? Or do you want to know what works, and do more of that while leaving underperforming programs behind in 2016?

I was contacted the other day by a vendor who was eager to have us sign up to sponsor their event early next year. While on that call, I was able to look up the campaign in about 3 clicks, see what we spent on the event last year, see the pipeline and revenue results from the event this year, compare to other events, and make an assessment of whether or not we want to return next year.

That’s the immediacy and insight I’m looking for.