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What is a single source of truth (and why should marketers care)?

Working in marketing, it’s likely you’ll have heard people talking about having a single source of truth over their data. In fact, one recent survey revealed some 61% of marketing departments aim to...

Working in marketing, it’s likely you’ll have heard people talking about having a single source of truth over their data. In fact, one recent survey revealed some 61% of marketing departments aim to implement a single source of truth in the next 12 months. But what is a single source of truth, and why is having one so important to marketers?

 

What is a single source of truth?

A single source of truth is the concept of creating a single coherent dataset from all your data in one single location.

As a business grows, the data that informs different departments or teams often comes from multiple sources. Because of this, these datasets often become siloed - that is, stored in different places and not connected with each other. On top of that, the data within different datasets is often formatted very differently from other datasets meaning they cannot be easily compared.

This makes it harder for teams across the organization to access critical information they may need or to even know of its existence. This same problem also exists within departments, including marketing -— where campaigns are being run across a wide range of platforms/media.

Creating a single source of truth means ensuring that all your data, from whatever source, ends up in a single location, and is harmonized so that all the data can be reviewed together in aggregate (in other words, comparing apples to apples).

This not only means that the data becomes much more useful (because it can be reviewed, analyzed, and compared) it also means that everyone within an organization can have access to the same data.

 


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What is a single source of truth in marketing?

In marketing analytics, a single source of truth refers to the consolidation of any data related to a company’s marketing activities into a single location accessible by multiple teams or individuals. This might mean performance data, advertising data, audience data, location data, or indeed any sort of data that marketers might deem useful to know in order to improve their overall marketing performance.

At its most very basic, a marketing single source of truth can be a spreadsheet however, this quickly becomes tedious to manage and shortly after unfeasible as data sources start to scale. More analytically mature marketing departments often upgrade to more sophisticated tools such as data warehouses and other advanced platforms that can automatically integrate and consolidate their data so it is ready for analysis.

 

Why is a single source of truth important for marketers?

More often than not, marketing data comes from multiple different sources meaning that it needs to all be combined in one place so that it can be easily compared. For instance, a marketer looking at an ad campaign across, say, both Google and Facebook, will need to collect data from both platforms and then combine them in order to see a single source of truth regarding how that campaign performed.

By bringing all their data into one place, marketing teams can gain a holistic view of how well their marketing activities are performing and, in doing so, reveal new insights that can help them improve performance.
In addition, having a single source of truth makes it much easier for markers to understand and access the data and, in turn, the faster and greater their ability to catch trends in the market and stay ahead. At the same time, by combining marketing data with that of other departments, say, sales, marketing teams can better understand their impact on revenue and other companywide KPIs.

 


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Example #1 Cross-channel marketing campaigns

One key use case for how a single source of truth can benefit marketers has to do with a challenge marketing teams are often all too familiar with—how to determine the performance of a cross-channel marketing campaign.

If you run a marketing campaign on Google Ads, for example, it is relatively simple to review how well that campaign has performed by looking directly at the Google Ads data. However, if you run a marketing campaign across both Google Ads and Facebook Ads, it becomes much more difficult to understand how the overall campaign has performed across both channels.

By building a single source of truth for your cross-channel campaign, however, marketers can combine the data from both Google Ads and Facebook Ads to provide a holistic view of their entire campaign performance.

 

Example #2 Demonstrating the value of marketing to revenue

With the above example in mind, when measuring performance using just ad platform data, markets are largely limited to metrics such as click-through rates and impressions. But, while this is useful data, it doesn’t provide any insight into how marketing campaigns have impacted sales.

Nonetheless, by combining both marketing campaign data with sales data into a single source of truth, marketers can start building a more complete picture of the impact of their campaigns on the rest of the business.

While you can get conversion data from individual platforms, the issue with this data is that it is not deduplicated against other channels. This means that sales reported via the ad platforms in total will add up to more sales than the sales is actually reporting.

To counter this, with a single source of truth, marketers can go one step further and begin running analytics on top of all their collected data using methods such as multi-touch attribution (warning: see this post on third-party cookies first) or marketing mix modeling to understand how different campaigns are adding incremental value to sales.

 

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Author: Claire Tak

Claire Tak is an editor, content strategist, and writer with a specialty for marketing and technology. Her marketing experience spans from working at San Francisco-based startups like Blend, Credit Sesame, and Upstart. Her work has been published in FOX Business, Bloomberg, and Forbes.

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