Marketing Analytics Overview and Agency Hiring Guide

June 9, 2023

In today’s landscape, there is an expectation that marketing teams run a data-driven operation. The allocation of resources and variable marketing spend is evaluated based on the amount of pipeline, and ultimately revenue, it creates. Leaders are expected to optimize the marketing efforts and maximize return on investment, with the data to back up their decisions.

All of this results in a need for a solid marketing data set and the analytics expertise to help interpret and report on the data. Building the data foundations and analytical functions into your team is easier said than done, however. With data spread across countless tools and platforms, it can be difficult to find the signal amongst the noise (and to ensure that you’re getting the *right* signal).

In this blog post, we will cover the various components necessary to make marketing analytics successful, what to consider when hiring a marketing analytics agency, and if hiring a marketing analytics agency is right for your business.

What is Marketing Analytics?

On the surface, the concept of marketing analytics is simple - leveraging data for understanding of historical performance and making decisions of what to do moving forward. This framework applies whether looking at the overall marketing acquisition funnel, or digging into a specific channel or campaign. Actually building this out as a competency within the team and integrating analytics into how the team operates, however, is more difficult.

Below are the components of an effective marketing analytics operation. In terms of team structure and organization, some of these responsibilities may not always fall under the marketing analytics team. However, they are all required in order for marketing analytics to be successful, so it is important that they are effectively managed within some part of the organization.

Data Collection, Integration, and Reliability

As an industry, we constantly talk about data-driven decision making. All of that, however, is predicated on the data actually being collected, accurate, and available in the tools that we use on a day to day basis. Without that, there is nothing worth analyzing.

First, you need to ensure that you are collecting and storing data across the various platforms. You will want to consider the format that the data is collected in, if it is available in raw format (vs. simply summarized metrics), and if it can be tied together with your other marketing data. You will also want to be sure that the data you are collecting is accurate - it is not uncommon for errors to occur that result in inaccurate data.

After you’ve ensured that you are collecting the data, it needs to be available in the various tools that you are using. This includes analytics and BI tools, but also operational tools such as your marketing automation platform and CRM.

Performance Reporting and Analysis

Performance reporting is what most people think of when they think of marketing analytics. For a B2B SaaS company, this typically starts with funnel conversion metrics and then is built out to include reporting on channels, campaigns, customer segments, and ROI on spend. In addition to funnel conversions, marketing teams typically look at key metrics such as:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
  • Average Deal Size / Average Pipeline Deal Size
  • Revenue Attribution (via Marketing Attribution Models)

These reports may be directly in the CRM or marketing automation platform, or they may be built out in a business intelligence tool. Ideally, there is consistent reporting across all platforms.

Data Informed Planning

Having a team that is regularly reviewing performance reports and thinking about the impact of marketing efforts is a huge win. To take this even farther, however, the best marketing teams run data-informed planning cycles. Regardless of the goal setting framework (OKRs, etc.) and cadence that your team uses, there is an opportunity to use data in building and measuring the plan. At the highest level, the steps for a data informed planning cycle are:

  • Review Funnel Data for Biggest Opportunities for Impact
  • Determine Marketing Projects / Activities to Drive Impact
  • Measure Performance of Projects / Activities
  • Repeat! 

When the marketing plan for an upcoming quarter is built based on data, it is easy to get support from the CEO and the board. And when reviewing the quarter performance vs. the plan, it is simple to dissect variance.

Data Activation and Operational Analytics

With a strong analytics foundation in place, there is an opportunity to leverage the data to improve operations and marketing performance. You will see this referred to by different names throughout the industry, but in short, you want to ensure that you are using your data to actually create impact in addition to simply reporting and planning. Below are a few key ways you can put your data to work to improve marketing performance.

  • Automation to Personalize the Customer Journey: As marketers, we know that delivering a more personal experience that speaks to the specific pains, needs, or goals of a potential customer will increase conversion rates. Using the data that you collect (acquisition channel, landing page, website browsing, conversion point, etc.), you can segment customers to deliver more relevant mid-funnel messaging.
  • Context for Customer Engagement: Whether it is SDRs personalizing emails, support team members providing support during a prospect’s first days trialing the product, or AEs hopping onto a call with the prospect, surfacing relevant data about the prospect can make those interactions more effective.
  • Experimentation: Optimizing funnel performance typically starts with a hypothesis, which often combines historical performance information with context from the team about what could likely perform better. By surfacing the right data, you can build an experimentation practice - and it can start in a very lightweight manner!

Data Driven Culture

Ultimately, building a data-driven marketing organization with the various components listed above takes time, resources, and effort. It is typically accomplished across multiple quarters or years. But as you start on the journey, you will build a data-driven culture amongst the marketing team. While the perfect data will not always be available, the team will still have an approach to decision making that ensures the right allocation of resources.

Deciding to Invest in Marketing Analytics

The decision to invest in marketing analytics can feel weighty. The costs are often high, including infrastructure, tools, hiring (employees or an agency), and allocating resources of you and your team’s time. When staring down significant pipeline growth goals over coming quarters, and reviewing the resources you have available for productive marketing programs, an investment in marketing analytics is a difficult choice. But it is also worth asking if you can continue to operate the function without these analytics in place.

Below are a few questions to consider when determining if it is the right time to invest in analytics:

  • When you consider the marketing plan for the upcoming quarter, are the top priorities for your team to hit growth goals clear?
  • When KPIs such as MQLs or pipeline creation are behind or (hopefully!) ahead of plan, can you explain why?
  • Are you able to connect advertising spend through to revenue impact, or are you only viewing top of funnel conversion metrics?
  • Does the cost of marketing analytics as a percentage of the overall marketing budget have the likelihood of making the remaining percentage more effective? For example, if you spent 5% of the marketing budget on analytics, would the other 95% be better optimized for a greater ROI?

While not every company is at a place where marketing analytics is a worthwhile investment, for the majority of companies, it does not make sense to continue to spend into the function without these sort of capabilities in place.

Marketing Analytics Agency vs. Full Time Hire

If you are ready to step up your marketing analytics capabilities, you are likely trying to decide if the best way to achieve this is through an internal hire or hiring an agency. Below are indicators of whether an agency or an internal hire is better.

Below are reasons that many companies turn to agencies for marketing analytics rather than making an internal hire:

  • Wide Set of Required Skills: As noted in the section above, the elements of marketing analytics are more broad than simply analyzing the data itself. Modern marketing analytics practices require skills that draw from engineering practices, data pipelining, RevOps, marketing operations, data analysis, and marketing strategy. Unless many of these components are managed elsewhere in the company, a marketing analyst must manage them all to be fully effective. Finding this sort of hire (especially within budget) is often incredibly difficult!
  • Ability to Assess and Manage Employee Performance: Oftentimes, the leader within the marketing department who would hire and manage this role does not have the expertise to assess performance or provide support. It is worth asking yourself if the hiring manager will be able to effectively lead an employee.
  • Lack of Marketing Expertise Amongst Analysts: When hiring for marketing analytics, there is a bit of a tradeoff between someone who knows best-in-class approaches to analytics vs. someone with experience working in marketing. If you want to build a scalable, high performing analytics function within marketing, you may be forced to hire an analyst who is not very familiar with the marketing function. 
  • Desire to Blend Analytics with Operations: Today’s leading teams are tying analytics into operations for the marketing team and the GTM teams as a whole. While this has huge potential for impact, it also requires a skillset beyond that of many traditional marketing analysts.

Other times, an internal hire is the right decision. If the following are all true, you likely are better off hiring an internal employee:

  • Strong Existing Data Infrastructure: If your company already has strong existing data infrastructure (including GTM data), you are able to hire a marketing analyst who will be able to focus on analyzing the existing data.
  • Strong RevOps / GTMops Practice in Place: If you already have a RevOps leader who has accurate, consistent data available throughout the core SaaS tools that the GTM team uses, a marketing analyst will be able to focus on reporting and leverage this team for operational needs.
  • Marketing Leader with Technical Analytics Capabilities: Whether it is the CMO, VP of Demand Gen, or someone else in the marketing organization, if there is a marketing leader with the ability to assess performance and provide support, an internal hire may be the best course of action.

As the founder of a marketing analytics agency, I am obviously biased here. But I’ve also led marketing teams and faced the decision of staffing this function in the past. If you’d like to dig into this concept deeper, I’m always happy to chat - just reach out via our contact form and I’ll schedule some time!

How to Choose an Analytics Agency

If you have reached the point where you are ready to hire a marketing analytics agency, you’re probably trying to understand what questions to be asking to compare service providers. As with any hiring or purchasing process, this is somewhat dependent on your needs. However, there are many factors that should be considered. Below is a framework for determining the best analytics agency for your company:

  • Do they have relevant experience and expertise?
  • What services do they provide?
  • Are they able to support my end-to-end needs, including infrastructure, data integration, and operational support?
  • What other resource allocation and spend will be necessary for the agency to have maximum impact?
  • Are they a partner I can trust to help me hit my growth goals?

Each of these items are covered in greater detail below.

Experience and Expertise

This may seem obvious - you will want any agency or employee that you hire to have the relevant experience and expertise to do the job. When it comes to marketing analytics agencies, there are a few specifics that you will want to dig into.

  • Understanding of Customer Acquisition Funnel: Does the agency have experience and understanding of the drivers of your business, namely the customer acquisition funnel. There are significant differences in the analysis of B2C transactional sales, B2B PLG acquisition models, and B2B outbound enterprise sales. Make sure the agency understands how to evaluate your business performance.
  • Experience with Existing Tooling: Understanding the tooling that your marketing and sales team uses is essential to building a good analytics function. Not only does the agency need to know what data is collected by these tools (and how to ensure it is accurately configured for collection), but it also needs to know how to push data back to these tools to make your department effective.
  • History of Working with Similar Stage Companies: Marketing teams look very different at different size companies. Ensuring that the agency has a history of working with companies of similar size and growth scale will ensure that you don’t have misaligned expectations.

Much of this can be discovered through an agency’s website and the customers they have worked with in the past. As you begin discussions with finalists for your agency selection, be sure to ask questions about their expertise specific to businesses like yours.

Types of Services Offered by Analytics Agencies

As you evaluate agencies to work with, you will want to have an understanding of the services they provide to ensure that those match with your particular marketing analytics and operations needs. The categories below outline the various types of services that you may find from an agency. Many agencies will be able to provide support across multiple categories, with full service analytics agencies like Floodlight being able to support all of your needs.

The primary categories for analytics agency services are:

  • Analytics Strategy
  • Infrastructure and Integration
  • Historical Analysis
  • Reporting and Planning
  • Data Activation and Automation

Analytics Strategy

Agencies supporting analytics strategy will help you think through and understand how to build and improve upon your use of data within your company. These agencies may or may not support the implementation of the outlined strategies, but having a clear and aligned view of the analytics strategy is beneficial for all other analytics work that might be done.

Things that you may work on within analytics strategy include:

  • Definition of KPIs: What are the drivers of the business? Which primary and supporting metrics should be evaluated to ensure that we are achieving the objectives of the business?
  • Data Collection: Based on the KPIs and metrics that we want to be reporting on, what data do we need to be collecting? What are the best tools to collect this data? What format does the data need to be collected and stored in to ensure that we can use it as we intend?
  • Data-Driven Culture: How can you build a data-driven culture within your organization? Which processes, tools, and ceremonies will ensure that the rest of the team and company are making decisions based on data?

Infrastructure and Integration

Once you have the analytics strategy in place, you will need to ensure that you have the infrastructure and integrations in place to actually analyze the data in support of your strategy. While you may have outlined which data to collect, you need to ensure that it is accessible and can be tied together with data from other tools.

Services around infrastructure and integration that an agency may provide include:

  • Data Storage and Movement (ETL): Where do you centrally store and access all data for your company? Do you have the underlying data from your SaaS tools accessible, or is it siloed in the reports of those tools? 
  • Data Consistency and Reliability: How do you reconcile data across your various tools? Are you able to map people, companies, and other core entities across various tools? Is your data clean and reliable, or do you encounter data quality issues?
  • Ongoing Testing and Maintenance: How do you ensure that your data stays fresh and reliable moving forward? If tracking or something in your data pipelines breaks, will you know before it is too late?

Historical Analysis

When most people think of working with an analytics agency, this is what they want to get at. Developing a clear understanding of how the results your marketing activities are producing and where there are opportunities for improvement is tremendously valuable. Unless you are hiring an agency for a specific target project, you’ll want to ensure that your agency is highly adept in supporting you in these analyses. It is also worth questioning, however, whether an agency can adequately support these types of analyses if they don’t have capabilities in the other service areas.

Below are some of the analyses that you will want to dig into with the support of an analytics agency:

  • Funnel Conversion Analysis: What does the overall marketing funnel look like, from the top of funnel awareness through to closed revenue? What are the conversion rates at each stage of the funnel? If segmented by channel or lead source, how does this compare?
  • Channel and Campaign Analysis: How is a particular channel or campaign performing? What is the ROI for investments in this channel or campaign? Which campaigns, themes, or areas of the channel are producing the most revenue? How does each channel or campaign compare to the others?
  • Attribution Modeling: How are the various components of marketing affecting closed won revenue? Are there channels or campaigns that are producing outsized results? Are there opportunities to trim spend on areas that do not convert all of the way through the funnel?
  • Customer Segmentation: How does the marketing funnel compare across various customer segments? Are there customer segments that are over or under performing throughout the funnel? Which customer segments are most effective at converting?
  • Advertising Analysis and ROI Modeling: For spend on advertising and other variable marketing activities, how effective is it at driving the desired results. Are the mid funnel conversions driven and reported by advertising platforms converting all the way through to closed won revenue? What is the return on marketing spend in various areas?

Reporting and Planning

Most marketing leaders desire to have data-driven reports baked into how they operate their function. This includes ongoing reporting cadences and integration into strategic planning. Below are ways that an agency can support a marketing leader in reporting and planning:

  • Team KPIs, Operational Reports, and Dashboards: How does the team know how it is performing on an ongoing basis? Is there a reliable single source of truth that the team is looking at? Is there an opportunity to surface actionable reports to improve funnel conversions, cut wasteful spend, or highlight unexpected drops in performance?
  • Management and Board Reporting: How are you as the marketing leader reporting out to the CEO, the rest of the management team, and the board? Do you have reliable high level KPIs, with the underlying details at the ready when asked? Do you have a partner in preparing these essential reports before board meetings or QBRs?
  • Strategy Planning Cadences: Are you using data to determine the highest impact areas of focus for team objectives and OKRs? Do you have measurement in place for the initiatives that teams and individuals are taking on?

Data Activation and Automation

As already discussed, a good analytics function blends into the operation of the business, leveraging data to drive efficiency and effectiveness. Marketing analytics agencies may also provide support in these areas. Projects that an analytics agency may take on include:

  • Improved Automation: Do you have employees completing manual processes that could be automated based on data available in other systems? Could you increase conversion by delivering a more relevant, personalized customer experience if you leverage available data?
  • Customer Experience Effectiveness: Would your customer facing employees benefit from having more information at their fingertips? Would conversions in sales improve if reps were able to tailor conversations based on known interests the prospect has demonstrated?
  • Experimentation Practice: Are you testing changes to determine if the hypothesis that your team has delivers the expected results? Even if you don’t have adequate volume for a robust experimentation practice, are you measuring the before and after conversion rates of the changes that you make?

Hopefully the outline of the various services that can be provided by a marketing analytics agency will be beneficial as you determine which company will best be able to support your efforts.

Infrastructure, Data Integration, and RevOps Support

As mentioned throughout this article, analytics is deeply entwined with the data infrastructure, the SaaS tools in use within your company, and the RevOps processes that exist. While it is listed as a service in the section above, it is also a requirement for most any other part of analytics to work effectively. Unless you have robust solutions in place already and only need an agency for a precise analytics need, you’ll want to ensure that you find a partner that can provide full service support. Below are a few areas to ask about:

Infrastructure and Integration Support: 

  • If you don’t already have a data warehouse in place, will the agency be able to create and manage this for you?
  • How will the agency pull relevant data from your various SaaS tools, advertising platforms, website visitors, and your own product usage?

Data Cleaning and Transformation: 

  • What is the agency’s approach to ensuring that your data is accurate and reliable?
  • How does the agency deal with issues such as identity resolution (as an example, this person in Salesforce is the same as this person in Hubspot, these cookie IDs from Segment, and this user ID from your product)?

Integrating into RevOps Tools and Processes: 

  • Does the agency have a good understanding of the RevOps processes that your company has in place? If so, are they ready to leverage data to maximize the effectiveness of those processes?
  • Will the agency push data back into your end user tools (CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, etc.) to ensure that the data is consistent and accurate across all tooling.

Additional Resourcing and Costs

To build an effective analytics function for your marketing and GTM teams, agencies will require the use of software in one form or another. If the agency is utilizing their own software stack (meaning you do not have to use or purchase any other software), it may look attractive at the beginning. But be sure that you understand how your analytics function will continue if you ever cancel the contract with the agency. Otherwise, you should discuss the software needed in order for the agency to be successful and be sure that you include that in your budgeting.

Additionally, you will want to understand what resources will be needed from your team to ensure that the agency is successful. As with any agency or contractor relationship, ensuring alignment and clarity with the internal teams is critical for effectiveness. Understanding the time and work requirements from your team and other departments up front will help ensure a smooth start and overall partnership.

Communication and Partnership

Ultimately your analytics agency is only as good as the results that you achieve from working with them. This will vary depending on your specific needs, but typically it can be boiled down to an understanding of what is happening historically and leveraging data to hit future growth goals.

To achieve these sort of results, you need to partner with an agency that has an understanding of your business and your goals. You need an agency who can communicate effectively, taking complex data and ensuring simplified understanding across the team. And ultimately, the agency needs to be a good cultural fit for you as the leader and the team they will be working with. This can only be fully tested through the initial conversations that you have as you explore partnering with an agency, but it is essential to keep in mind in your decision making process.

Best Marketing Analytics Agency for B2B SaaS Companies

There is no one size fits all answer for the “best” marketing analytics agency. Across industries, stages of growth, and individual needs, the definition of best will certainly vary. If you are looking for the best marketing analytics agency for early and growth stage B2B SaaS companies, we believe that Floodlight is the top provider out there.

With years of experience leading and operating marketing teams in growing B2B SaaS companies, plus a deep passion and understanding of analytics, we are positioned to provide full service analytics support to your team. This includes everything from data collection and infrastructure setup through to reporting, planning, and board reporting.

If you are interested in learning more, we are always happy to chat! Our initial conversations are always completely free and give us a chance to discuss how we would approach your needs. Just fill out our contact form and we will get in touch ASAP to schedule a time!