Marketers are using an ever-growing list of tools, which each produces a huge amount of data. Being able to analyze all this data under one view is a hugely valuable resource.
However, the number one tool to report on marketing activities is a spreadsheet. I am sure that most marketers agree when I say that having your valuable data in spreadsheets is perfect. And right so for a number of reasons.
Not only are there far better reasons for most use cases, most of the sheets are scattered with errors.
In this blog post, we’re going to be looking at the drawbacks of using spreadsheets for your marketing and sales data, as well as why data integration and dashboarding software represents a far better option.
That said, spreadsheets can be great: They’re practical, structured, and can process a wide variety of data. Whether you’re in admin, finance or sales, it’s quite likely spreadsheets are a part of your day-to-day. And that’s great - if you’re working by yourself or in a very small team, with only small amounts of data.
For the rest of you, spreadsheets may be slowly turning into a thing of the past. Especially for those of you in marketing. We certainly believe so, which is why we have put together a list of reasons why you should really stop using spreadsheets.
Reason #1: Close to 90% of spreadsheets contain errors
Let’s talk about this: Almost 90% (yes, 90, nine-zero!) of spreadsheets are said to have errors. Even if you’re an experienced user, there’s no guarantee you’ll make it with no mistakes from beginning to end. As more data comes in, the list of formulas you use grows longer, and so does your entire spreadsheet. And we all know how a minor mistake in row 38 out of 286 can lead to an avalanche of errors in the end.
Formatting, too, can cause problems. Programs like Excel offer so many options that, in more complex spreadsheets, you can easily attribute the wrong format to the wrong cell or row, leading you to eventually making the wrong conclusions.
Reason #2: In marketing, spreadsheets aren’t as function-specific as you need them
Like we said, spreadsheets can be great. But if you’re in marketing and you get piles and piles of new data every day, spreadsheets are simply not good enough anymore. For one, they can rarely tend to all of your market-specific needs.
Spreadsheets are designed to perform various tasks - and in that, they do not specialize in any one particular function. Yet in marketing, specific is exactly what you need. You need to have data that is relevant, up-to-date and focused on the very details of what your customers desire.
Reason #3: Spreadsheets don’t support real-time updates
Collecting data in real-time is perhaps the biggest advantage any marketing or advertising agency could have nowadays. Knowing what your customers want at any given second is not just necessary, it’s a must.
Now, think about achieving that with an ongoing stream of data and… a spreadsheet. You can’t. It’s physically impossible. In order to update a spreadsheet, you need to do it manually, and manual data collection is simply not feasible for a business that is driven by data, day in and day out. Bottom line? Find yourself a tool that allows you to automatically gather your most-relevant data. Hint: We know a thing or two.
Reason #4: Quite likely, you already have a spreadsheet for everything. So, how about a centralized storage?
Imagine the following scenario: You’re looking for a specific set of data. You’re in a hurry, you’ve already looked through a number of spreadsheets, but you still haven’t found it. You’re worried about missing your deadline. You hope to find the data in the next file you open. It’s labeled: marketing_reporting_v2.1_approved_finalfinal2.xlsx.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. We send and receive spreadsheets back and forth, so finding the one we need at the right time is not always that easy. Having all of your data stored in one place is, thus, quite the revelation. A centralized storage can help you in putting a structure to your most-relevant data.
Reason #5: Keeping track of changes and to-do’s is tedious
The thing with spreadsheets is that, while different users can make their own changes, tracking them is often messy and tedious. After all, a spreadsheet is a single file that anyone with access to it can amend without even leaving a trace. That leads to questions about the ownership of the file: who is responsible for it, who made what edit, and what is there that still needs to be done.
Especially for marketing companies where there is an ongoing exchange of ideas and collaboration, spreadsheets are often not the right tool. Or at least a tool that is becoming more and more outdated.
Reason #6: Spreadsheets can cause security risks
Because spreadsheets give access to more or less everybody on a team, instead of only to specific users, sensitive information may end up in the hands of people that are not entitled to see it. This is a major disadvantage, especially in a time where marketing companies generate ever-growing amounts of data every day.
Reason #7: Visualization takes time and is not very satisfying
For anyone who works in marketing, being able to visualize relevant data is crucial. But how good are spreadsheet visualizations really? Not very. On the one hand, there’s the visualizations themselves. While you get your pie, line or bar chart, there’s no denying that they look quite plain and simple. Probably not the best choice for an important presentation.
On the other hand, it’s also about the insights that a spreadsheet graph can produce for you. Since it takes all of your data into account, it’s often the case that important bit of information remain hidden and/or not fully interpreted. For marketers in particular, whose job is to know their market and customers inside and out, anything less than precision is a no-go.
So, what are the alternatives?
We suggest you take a look at the marketing analytics platforms listed on G2 Crowd. It might make sense to invest in a data integration solution, particularly if you're dealing with multiple data sources. This will automatically harmonize all your data into a consistent and immediately workable format - saving you a lot of time and tedious work.
You can use clean data with dashboarding software. It's far easier to uncover powerful insights into your marketing and sales performance when you have a visual representation of the data. What's more, with the right solution in place, you no longer need to produce manual reports. Automation really can save you a lot of legwork!
So, are you still convinced of the value of spreadsheets for your business - or a bit less so now? Feel free to write your thoughts in comments below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.