Most organizations would admit they often depend on spreadsheets to track and report on various metrics, processes, etc. Spreadsheets have a place and are sometimes valuable, but if you’re using them to manage marketing plans, budgets and metrics, you’re likely ready to pull out your hair. It’s time to stop the madness and say, “We’re not going to take it anymore!”
The Problems with Spreadsheets
Spreadsheets are static. Spreadsheets are complicated. Spreadsheets are manual. With thousands of cells, pages and macros subject to human error, they offer little in the way of providing trustworthy data that can be used with confidence and you never know if you’re working from the same version as the other guy. How much time do you or those on your team spend collecting data, verifying the data is accurate and the right version, and trying to share it with others? How well do they enable your team to collaborate and share ideas? How effective are they in helping you plan, measure and predict your impact on revenue?
Marketing + Spreadsheets = Hell
Marketing is inherently complex because there are usually many projects running at the same time, each with their own budgets, metrics, schedules, markets and team members. Using a spreadsheet to manage all of these moving parts not only adds countless hours, but puts the organization at risk for using bad or old data and wasting a lot of time.
The truth is, spreadsheets were not designed for collaboration. Since your marketing department likely consists of more people than just you, using a spreadsheet just isn’t practical in light of all of the automated marketing tools available. Spreadsheets are limited in their functionality when it comes to marketing; they don’t allow multiple users to input or access data on demand and they don’t provide real-time visibility into what’s really happening. To make things worse, often times, there are multiple spreadsheets being used by various people, leading to frustration and data inconsistency.
If your marketing decisions are based on actual data, you have to trust the data you have. A single error in a single cell of a massive spreadsheet renders that spreadsheet completely useless. Are you willing to risk your marketing efforts on the accuracy of those spreadsheets over which you have so little control?
Stepping Out of Spreadsheet Hell
Marketing departments must step out of their comfort zone of spreadsheets and embrace marketing performance management solutions that automate processes and integrate with other business systems, like CRMs and marketing automation platforms. You need modern technology to do things spreadsheets don’t allow, like testing and comparing “what if” scenarios. You need to have a standardized methodology for evaluating and measuring performance and results. You need a single source of truth from which your team can work.
Spreadsheets will never be able to give you these features, flexibility or visibility.
Knowing this, why do CMOs still sometimes cling to spreadsheets? Likely because they’ve always used them and don’t want to learn or invest in something different. I get it. Change is scary and there is often a learning curve. But spreadsheets will perpetually demand vigilance and consistently fall short of what you really need to run an effective and successful marketing organization. Once you learn how well a marketing performance management solution can improve productivity and performance, you’ll wonder how you ever managed with spreadsheets. Welcome to nirvana.