Most business owners, marketing managers, and sales managers (folks who are the marketers for their businesses) have been taught that analytics and KPIs are the keys to improving performance, right? This is the same kind of naive thinking that believes you can lead a horse to water AND also make them drink. I know this because since 2005 I have designed and launched three SaaS products which all have analytics.

While I agree that you cannot improve what is not measured, simply having visibility to analytics (data) does not guarantee that you will improve sales and marketing processes. Marketing and sales analytics are overrated because we live in a data-crazy business world where every decent SaaS application has some kind of dashboard which provides at least a modicum of analytics for the user. Analytics often provide just enough noise to distract marketers from making real improvements. What is underrated is the intelligence of the user who has visibility into the analytics. The experience of the user and the visibility into the patterns is what is needed to identify possible areas to make performance improvements. Then, users must be able to rally staff to make adjustments and re-measure to see if improvements can be spotted in the analytics.

What are Analytics?

First, let’s take a look at the definition of analytics given by Wikipedia (I’m paraphrasing) which says that analytics are the gathering and presenting of the meaningful patterns in data used to communicate. Wikipedia goes on further to explain that analytics are used to describe, predict, and improve performance.

There are a myriad of sales and marketing-related SaaS applications used in the cloud that provide analytics –, Hubspot, CallRail Call Analytics Dashboard, MarketingManager, Wufoo, Mail Chimp – the list goes on forever. Probably the most famous analytics engine is Google Analytics, which hooks directly to your website to provide data on the visitor traffic on your website.

There is no shortage of availability to analytics; however, what seems to be missing are the people who understand the marketing and sales processes of a business that is armed with marketing and sales analytics. I’ll provide some anecdotal evidence on this shortly.

The Internet Marketing and Sales Process

Before we look at an example of where analytics were available, but the business intelligence was not, let’s break down the marketing and sales process for businesses who are using their websites to grow. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be talking in general about B2B or B2C service-related businesses, not eCommerce.

1. Inbound and outbound marketing activities are performed: Marketing activities such as blog posts, press releases, eBooks, emails, social media marketing, paid search advertising, phone calls, radio and television advertising. All these marketing activities are designed to drive traffic to your business’ website.

2. People (traffic) visit your business’ website: As I write this post there have been over 2 billion searches on just Google alone (source: internet live stats), not to mention Bing. People are visiting websites all the time! Are they visiting your website?

3. Traffic on your website converts to a lead: Most service-related businesses have forms and phone numbers on their websites for visitors to “convert on” (a marketing term). When visitors turn into leads, your business should have a way to follow up with those leads. Analytics tools like Wufoo track form conversions, CallRail tracks phone conversions, and even provides keyword call tracking to give you the keyword or pages the visitor saw when they called your business.

4. Leads are nurtured by marketing or sales: When a lead fills out a form on a website or calls you, that typically is the signal for a sales person to engage with the lead by phone and email. Typically the marketing and sales teams use marketing and sales automation software like Hubspot and to track the calls or emails sent to leads.

5. Leads become sales and revenue is generated: In many companies, once a sale occurs the sales team hopefully records the sale (amount and type) in their CRM (customer relationship management) software like In addition, accounting or administrative staff record the sale in accounting software.

Analytics with Intelligence

There are many moving parts to the marketing and sales process. The following is an abbreviated version of the story I told in Marketing Agency Becomes Client Superhero, but illustrates why you need analytics with intelligence about business process to truly make superior improvements in marketing and sales. A client of mine was complaining about the number of leads they were getting and how sales were down. As a metric-driven marketing agency, my team at Fannit looked at the data. Since we use CallRail, we could tell the majority of sales our client made came from inbound phone calls off of the website.

The analytics we received from CallRail and Wufoo were telling us that the volume of first time callers was up significantly, and the number or leads generated by forms were also up – the client was getting plenty of leads. We then cross-referenced the sales that were made by the client with our lead list. The percentage of leads converting to sales was lower than normal, and the revenue generated from those sales was, too. This meant that the issue was not generating lead volume, but rather closing those leads to sales or driving the wrong type of leads to the sales team.

Having sold a variety of items and services in my career, I asked to listen to some of the calls which CallRail recorded for us. After listening to the receptionist, we knew the client’s issue was related to the introductory conversation the receptionist was having with callers. With a little training, the receptionist improved and so did sales. We uncovered $250,000 in additional revenue that was lost because of this.

Our client had the call analytics and recordings AND understood how to sell himself, but couldn’t make the analytics work for him. It took an experienced marketing and sales professional armed with great analytics to dig in to identify the issue and point it out to the client.

So, without visibility into analytics combined with the experience of sales and marketing business processes, B2B and B2C service-related business marketers will have a tough time making real improvements to grow revenues for a business. Analytics by themselves are extremely necessary, but overrated if you do not have someone with the experience in the marketing and sales process to make use of the information hidden in the data.

A heart inspired, metric driven business leader, Tony Lael is the CEO and Founder of MarketingManager – a B2B marketing and sales ROI dashboard designed especially for marketing managers and marketing agencies.