May 27 2021
Clare McKinley

Paralysis by Manual Analysis: A Silent Killer of Marketing


We’re living in the age of big dataso why does data so often feel more like a problem than a solution? If you’re a marketer struggling to reconcile your reporting responsibilities with the rest of your client work, you’re not alone. 

Read on to learn why reporting has become such a pain point for agencies, as well as what lies ahead for media planners looking to create more efficient and sustainable reporting workflows.

Why Data-Based Reporting Matters

Marketing reports are how media planners prove out the value of their partnerships with clients. They’re also an integral part of telling the story of who you are and what you can accomplish as a marketer or agency.

The numbers prove out the value of reporting: A McKinsey survey found that agencies who used data-based reporting intensively were 23 times more likely to acquire customers than non-intensive agency users, and that they were 19 times more profitable as well.

The Pain Points

Despite the value of reporting, marketers are running into two main problems when it comes to their day-to-day work:

  1. Reporting is taking too much time, and
  2. Reporting data isn’t being used to its full extent.

The “Why”

Media planners aren’t running into challenges with data because of their own professional inadequacies. Rather, these problems arise from the marketing landscape itself, and how the use of data has naturally developed within our industry. 

  1. Disjointed Data

    Media complexity has tripled in the past 20 years. Beginning in the 1990’s, the digital age triggered a proliferation of new channels to connect with consumers. Flash forward to today, and marketers are working out of a variety of different platforms to run their campaigns across search, social, programmatic, website, CTV, and more.

    Enter our first problem: With media planners working out of many different platforms to run their campaigns, they must also sift through each of those platforms to pull reports. At the same time, clients want cross-platform insights in order to holistically understand the impact of their ad spend.

  2. Lack of Infrastructure

    To deliver these insights to clients, media planners spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to wrangle their data into a cohesive story. This often signals the use of time-consuming, inefficient, and plain unpleasant manual processes.

    In a survey by CtrlShift, half of the campaign reports created by programmatic media buyers from November 2018 to January 2019 were done manually, according to 60% of their 93 respondents.

    Media buyers are relegated to these manual processes because the infrastructure to manage and analyze these large data sets is still being developed.

  3. Data Saturation

    Finally, marketers are hindered by data saturation. We’re now able to collect consumer data so effectively that the volume of data has become unwieldy. 

    This proliferation of data, coupled with the lack of infrastructure, has led to what some marketers call "infobesity:" The collection of so much data that it becomes inconsumable.

The Path Forward

Automated reporting is the inevitable future of campaign reporting. Many platforms have been created to solve for the pain point of manual reporting in marketing.

If automated reporting isn’t an option, marketers will need to find creative ways to make their reporting workflows more efficient. 

MarTech columnist Matt Umbro advises spending no more than 25% of your client's monthly billable hours on reporting. To make the most of that time, start with your client's goals. What problems are they trying to solve?

Pull your insights based on what will be most helpful in telling the story of how you're solving their problems—and don't feel like you need to make use of every data set available to you.

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