If you run online marketing campaigns for your organization, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the benefits of investing in automation to streamline reporting and drive more effective decision-making. According to statistics outlined in a study by Marketo and Ascend2, 52% of marketers surveyed declared that applying artificial intelligence to analytics and reporting was considered the most valuable use of automation.
There is a crop of business leaders today, though, who still regard automated reporting as an option, not a real necessity. In this blog post, we dive into some of the tangible costs that using repetitive manual reporting processes could have on your business operations.
Arguably the largest hidden cost of repetitive manual reporting is your loss of a major competitive advantage. Manual reporting is so slow that it’s necessary to delay decision-making that can improve your sales and marketing performance. Collecting data from different sources, compiling them into complex spreadsheets, and manually evaluating them can lead to significant errors in interpretation. This means decision-makers have less confidence in results, which can also lead to missed opportunities.
Businesses that analyze performance manually usually do so monthly or quarterly. However, in today’s competitive landscape, it’s critical that you make changes in real-time. There’s no way to calculate the full cost of delaying decisions until you replace it with automation. Once you do, it’s easy to see that your business was missing out on potential sales and revenue by doing things the slow way.
In the worst cases, marketing managers are pushed to make major decisions before data analysis is even ready. They have to move forward with their best guess as to the right course to take, which could lead to even more losses. Missing the competitive advantage isn’t just about lacking productivity. As described above, automation technologies can also help you gain more accurate and valuable insights in comparison to what you could discover on your own.
Just know that if your business doesn’t invest in automated reporting, your competitors will. They will take advantage of improved productivity and more accurate insights to secure more sales and revenue that you’ll continue to miss out on.
Regardless of how careful you are, there will undoubtedly be human errors when reporting is carried out manually. It’s easy to hit the wrong key, copy the wrong data field, or misinterpret information in data reporting. You can also run into issues when different people work with your reporting data simultaneously. Without clear, company-wide definitions for each data field, you’re likely to run into discrepancies when everyone creates their own methodologies.
Ultimately, the real cost of human error is two-fold. One: undetected errors lead to inaccurate data and reports. And two: detected errors require ongoing time and resources to fix. While it may not be necessary to automate all data management, leveraging automation for your reports can minimize preventable mistakes. Automated tools essentially empower you to compile and analyze your data while reducing inaccuracies safely. Top-of-the-line tools have functionalities in place to prevent errors within the automation process itself, one example of which is anomaly detection features that automatically pause bids and flag data if performance starts to deviate significantly from projections.
Many businesses today hold out on adopting automation, but all that leads to is increased labor costs. Why would a CMO pay for several employees to manually execute a task when one person could do it with the assistance of automation? It doesn’t make sense.
Having a group of people work on the same assignment simply takes longer, and as a result of human error, they are also likely to spend additional time going back and fixing mistakes. When automation is employed, marketing organizations can accomplish the task with a higher degree of accuracy in a shorter period of time, which frees up employees to work on other, more critical projects.
Manual reporting allows you to build custom reports that focus on the insights that matter most to your business. With automation, however, you can do all that and more. Many automated data management and consolidation technologies use artificial intelligence to help users derive enhanced actionable insights from their data sets. Centro’s intelligent automation platform, Basis, leverages machine learning to discover correlations between different data points that can expose performance insights that would have otherwise gone undetected with manual reporting.
Automation also enables you to process and analyze significantly more data than you could with manual reporting alone. Look at advertising, for example. The competitive bidding landscape changes every day. Businesses can adjust their bids to take advantage of these changes, but only if they can analyze all the relevant data daily. Not even a team of the best data scientists are up to that task. With the help of AI-driven automation, however, you can do that. You’ll be empowered to surface timely insights and make appropriate changes to your campaigns that will drive improved performance.
The exercise of pulling together reports manually undoubtedly absorbs countless hours and resources. You have to gather data from various sources, verify it, conduct your analyses, build your charts and reports, etc. Depending on the size of your business and how much data you have to process, this could take employees several hours minimum. The universal reporting and analytics platform within Basis is one such solution that does all this work automatically, empowering marketers to consolidate their disparate data sources in one central location and completely eliminating the time it takes to stitch together disconnected performance reports.
By taking advantage of automation on this scale, employees become liberated from repetitive tasks and can instead focus on more complex initiatives where they can use their expertise to truly move the needle.
Thanks to the EU’s GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and other regulations coming into play, it’s become incredibly important for businesses to keep their consumer audience data safe. There are now strict rules about what kind of consumer data you can collect, how you store it, who can access it, and what it is used for, etc. Failing to comply with these regulations can lead to legal prosecution and massive fines.
This creates a big problem for businesses that regularly handle their data manually. Lack of knowledge and simple mistakes can lead businesses to break the law or compromise the security of their data. If this happens with your business, you’re legally obligated to notify your customers about the breach. That won’t look good for PR. Today, the majority of automation tools designed for data management strictly follow data privacy compliance laws. Managing your data within their system helps keep it safe and minimizes your liability.
In companies who still report manually, there’s usually one specific person who manages the data spreadsheet on behalf of the team. They define all the labels, create all the formulas, and run the analyses. What happens when this person is on paid time off or moves on? Who feels confident enough to go into the spreadsheet and pick up where this person left off?
When you automate data reporting, you’re not relying too heavily on your data expert to keep the ship afloat. Many different team members can easily work with the system to get the insights they need without having to put their hands on the raw data. This makes things easier for your team as a whole and eliminates the potential for major data issues caused by human error.
Manual data reporting equals numerous repetitive tasks. We’ve established that. You have to collect all the data, verify it, analyze it, create reports, and distribute results, etc. Often you have several people working on a single project at once. That makes it very difficult to keep track of who’s working on what, and what’s complete. This can also lead to duplication of effort — if nobody knows who’s working on which reports, it’s common for individual teams to create identical reports of their own.
When you work with one tool to automate data reporting like Basis, this issue goes away entirely. The reports are made automatically, and everyone knows exactly where to find them.
The above list illustrates just a few of the many hidden costs of using manual reporting in lieu of automation. Most of these costs are interrelated and compound each other to have a significant negative impact on your business. What’s more, leaders have no way to realize these losses unless they try out automation first.
Automating even some aspects of your marketing strategy comes with numerous benefits, namely improved productivity, better insights, more confidence in results, enhanced workflows, more leads, more sales, and increased revenue. With better, faster insights, you can make quick changes to your marketing campaigns to achieve these goals.
When you invest in advanced technologies like those offered by Centro, it’s also possible to automate changes to your advertising campaigns based on these insights. The more you can take advantage of AI-driven technologies to streamline your marketing process, the greater benefits you’ll start to see.