As we’ve helped our clients grow their digital marketing, we’ve seen many cases of data being corrupted, shipwrecked, or just lost at sea. But while the disasters can vary widely, we’ve found that just about every data-related frustration stems from one or more of these terrors.

Competing systems of record

As marketing tools and platforms have proliferated, they haven’t just increased data by addition, they’ve multiplied it, often by covering the same actions in slightly different ways. These are just some of the data sources your department might use:

  • Site analytics such as Google Analytics and Search Console, third-party analytical tools, including SEO tools
  • Paid search tools such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads, plus third-party paid search measuring and optimizing tools
  • Marketing automation platforms such as Marketo and InfusionSoft
  • Email marketing tools such as MailChimp or Pardot
  • CRMs such as Salesforce or Oracle

An addiction to vanity metrics

Some metrics have a real impact on increasing revenue, efficiency, ROI, and ROAS. Vanity metrics, however, don’t. They might sound good on the surface, but at best they distract from more important metrics, and at worst they distort actual performance and hide deeper problems. Vanity metrics can include ad impressions, social followers, aggregate document downloads—anything that can be counted but doesn’t really count.

No clear owner

Data silos are formed when individuals don’t share their knowledge or coordinate their activities around that data so it’s managed consistently. This data sea monster might be lurking if any of these questions make you nervous:

  • Who has access to your company’s analytics platform(s)?
  • Who knows the logins for all your digital tools?
  • Do these people all talk to each other regularly?
  • Is there one person who knows how to use your email marketing platform (and has to leave highly detailed instructions whenever they go out of town)?
  • What do you do if one or more of these people leave the company?

Not understanding systems used

Every data system behaves differently: it tracks things differently, reports events differently, defines metrics differently, even exports into spreadsheets differently. Everyone who’s involved with data must understand these functions of every system your department uses. Most importantly, they should all know what it takes to break each system, what its limits are, and how to use it most efficiently.

A non-data-driven culture

Data has its own set of languages and customs, which can vary greatly from company to company. However, the languages and customs must be consistent within the company, so everyone who handles marketing data understands what it means, and data is talked about regularly—not just the numbers, but their strategic importance as well. A data-driven culture drives greater understanding, better decision-making, and higher returns.

Just plain bad data

Sometimes, the problem is within the data itself. Bad data could arise from any number of circumstances:

  • Incomplete data caused by gaps in tracking
  • “Dirty” data that isn’t validated or can’t be validated
  • Duplicate data from multiple platforms with no way of identifying or separating duplicates
  • Missing data from not historically tracking important metrics

If any of these sea monsters are lurking within your company, you shouldn’t trust your data, at least not in its current state. But don’t worry; next week, we’ll show you how to defeat these monsters and get clean, trustworthy data.