How to set up a marketing tracking system that truly works

In talking to marketing leaders about their goals and challenges, I’ve noticed a common theme. No matter how different the people or how varied their industries, they all have the same gripes about data. 

Do any of the following complaints sound familiar?

“Our tracking pixels tend to fall off, so we often lose days’ worth of valuable data.”

“Each of our marketing channels uses a different data nomenclature, so it’s nearly impossible to stitch together campaigns.”

“When we consolidate our metadata, there's not enough granularity for us to identify actionable information.”

“Our analysts have to spend way too much time cleaning data before they can glean insights.”

The consensus seems to be that data tracking, while definitely worth doing, is hard to do well. So how can you set up an effective system?

Start at the source

Unless you're doing it all yourself, different individuals in your organization are likely responsible for your various marketing channels. You need to provide a framework to ensure that all your marketers are using the same source of truth. Here are my suggestions:

Standardize nomenclature and define your hierarchy

You need checks and balances to ensure that all data is entered correctly—and to ensure that incorrectly entered data will be rejected. To establish checks and balances, set up a single data governance model that’s common to all users.

Most marketers use spreadsheets to record and manage tracking data from each of their respective channels. If you set up a Source worksheet that lists your channel categories and the attributes within them, and then you set up a Reference worksheet that brings those attributes together with a delineating character (e.g. an underscore), you can create file names concatenated from the Source list to ensure clean naming. 

Collect data at a single source 

This is tricky. You can leverage an ad server as your single source of truth, but since some partners won't allow for third-party tracking, you may have to set up your own process for data collection. 

Some attribution tools offer their own pixels that you can implement across channels, but channels like OTT advertising (for media streaming) don’t support pixels.

You’ll need to weigh all these options when collecting your data. 

Consolidate and aggregate

At this point, you've defined and verified your process for data collection, and you’ve gathered campaign data from multiple sources. Now you’re ready to look at the inputs you’ve gathered from all those channels, run your analysis, and get a single view of the campaign’s effectiveness. 

Turning insights into results

By doing the up-front work of collecting and consolidating data with a common nomenclature and hierarchy, you'll save your data scientists time and make it easier for them to glean insights that apply across all your marketing tactics. You’ll also be able to create and execute on new strategies and tactics faster to improve campaign results.

Share your insights on data tracking

If you’ve faced challenges with data tracking and want to share advice about what’s worked for your organization, I’d love to hear from you.