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For those who’ve tried the BI and build paths, it’s no longer a question.

The proliferation of marketing signals has become daunting, if not ridiculous. According to Scott Brinker there are nearly 5,000 martech vendors out there, many of them representing distinct data sources for marketers to analyze and optimize against. The CMO of one of the country’s largest retailers reacted to this reality at a recent ANA conference: “It’s so bad I need a dashboard for my dashboards.”

Marketing intelligence – the realm we occupy as a vendor – is relatively new. Consequently, when marketers attempt to get a grip on their performance across dozens of channels, data sources, and tools, they frequently pursue one of two paths before discovering us:

1. Leverage a business intelligence tool (oftentimes, one already exists in their company)

2. Build a custom solution to suit their needs

The discovery process – irrespective of the chosen path – is as enlightening as it is challenging. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with dozens of innovative companies who’ve pursued one or both of these paths, and we’ve collected some of their key takeaways in this two-part series.

We’ll be sharing what’s been learned by those who sought to leverage a BI tool to address their marketing intelligence needs.

Leveraging a BI Tool

Most companies employ a BI tool.  When that’s the case, marketers aren’t stymied by the lengthy vetting process required for new vendors. They may also benefit from institutional knowledge and devoted technical resources for onboarding, knowledge sharing and support. Conversely, marketers can find themselves on the lowest rung of the BI priority ladder, paying their share for licensing and custom data integrations while their requirements get trumped by Finance and IT whose needs are more urgently tied to revenue recognition.  

Whatever the case, the marketers we’ve spoken to have come to some interesting conclusions about their BI tools. Here are a few worth noting:

  • BI tools aren’t built to handle the complexities of marketing data.
    Marketing data needs to be automatically collected, cleansed, customized, normalized, and harmonized to be useful. No BI tool adequately accomplishes that for marketing data, so it’s up to the marketer, their IT counterpart, and the BI vendor’s team to tackle those needs for each marketing data source. This can be a lengthy and costly process, especially when deep technical knowledge of the marketing data source doesn’t exist. Worse, the marketing data that ultimately makes it into the BI system is often incomplete and inaccurate, which creates more downstream problems for marketing when no one can trust the data.


  • Business Intelligence cannot be used in place of marketing intelligence.
    BI solutions simply aren’t built or maintained to handle the high number of diverse, constantly changing data sources, metrics, and dimensions from marketing. What’s more, the data models being used by BI tools are typically so rigid that marketers have difficulty building the right views with their BI vendor – and it doesn’t matter how great the visualization capabilities are. It’s all custom work, with very little functionality ready out of the box. These issues greatly limit a marketer’s ability to flexibly slice and dice their data across campaigns, channels, segments, business units, regions, and more.
  • The best case scenario is having a marketing intelligence solution and a BI tool.
    Once a marketing team realizes that each solution is designed to handle different needs, they’re able to use them in a complementary fashion. For example, feeding a BI tool properly cleansed and harmonized data from a marketing intelligence solution ensures that marketing’s data are accurate, complete, and correctly processed for other stakeholders to consume.
    In that scenario, marketing will benefit in other ways, too:
  1. They’ll trust that the data in their company’s BI system accurately reflects performance
  2. They’ll waste fewer cycles explaining historical inaccuracies in the BI tool, which can erode adoption of the BI system
  3. They’ll be able to analyze their data against a broader set of company metrics they might otherwise not have access to
  4. They’ll improve visibility with other executive stakeholders who are using or receiving outputs from a more widely adopted BI solution
  5. They’ll retain their ability to customize, analyze, and visualize their data as needed in their marketing intelligence solution, knowing that it’s been correctly collected, cleansed and harmonized
  6. They’ll save time, money, and resources and achieve a more scalable outcome by leveraging the strengths of both solutions

Surprisingly, in nearly every instance where marketing initially believed their company’s BI tool could serve as a marketing intelligence solution, they came to the opposite conclusion – one that was less about replacement and opposition, and more about co-existence.

Get in touch with us to get your questions answered, and to get a grip on the results of your hard work across dozens of channels, data sources, and tools.