Business Intelligence (BI) is essentially the ability to aggregate and analyze data from within your organization to make better decisions and provide important reports. Although you may not think of BI as a marketing tool, it has incredible value to state and regional business markets; it allows firms to see what’s happening in the market and gauge the strength and size of competitors that they may not be able to see themselves.

Business intelligence tools give you actionable insights into how your strategies are performing for different channels, segments, sales reps, and prospects. They provide a real-time pulse check on how effective your tactics are, indicate where you should make changes, and track how successful those changes are.

A wide variety of business intelligence tools exist for companies to choose from. There are point solutions that focus on a single portion of business intelligence, like sales analytics. Then there are macro solutions that provide insights across your entire company. Finally, there are advanced solutions that are super customizable and enable the user to build a reporting engine in which they can look at both structured and unstructured data.

Benefits of using BI in digital marketing

BI provides the data-driven insights businesses need to guide the marketing process. BI tools can help companies understand their audience, find trends in customer behavior, measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts across all channels, and reveal insights on competitors. Let’s examine how companies can use BI to accomplish these goals in more detail.

Know your audience

If a business doesn’t know who its customers are, its marketing efforts are doomed. Organizations gather customer data through many channels, including their websites, messages, and comments on social media posts, and third-party data sources. Understanding information regarding customer demographics can mean the difference between success and failure for a marketing campaign.

Enterprises can use BI tools to develop a picture of their customers across all marketing channels to reveal who they should target. For instance, a company could use BI to view data on engagements across various social media platforms to show who responds well to its social media marketing efforts, then adjust its marketing to better target that audience. A BI tool could also regularly track customer lifetime value so the enterprise can ensure it’s focusing its marketing efforts on the most profitable customers and identify new groups that are worth engaging with.

Marketing campaigns need to address buyers with personalized offerings. According to an Accenture report, almost a third of customers “expect the companies with which they engage to know more about them.” BI tools help organizations see how to tailor marketing to meet customers’ needs.

At the point of purchase, for example, some customers might look for product details on the company’s website, while others seek out peer reviews on social media or rely on email campaigns. A pie chart on the distribution of customers’ preferred channels or a heat map of review sources helps enterprises understand how customers interact with products and what factors entice them to make a purchase. By gaining such insights, marketers can run relevant, timely, and personalized campaigns that reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) and lead to better customer engagement.

Measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts

Companies spend billions in marketing — in 2017, Alphabet spent $2.4 billion on advertising, while Procter and Gamble spent $4.3 billion. But how can they know whether these expenditures provide a positive return on investment (ROI)?

BI reports, supported by dashboards and visualization tools, can help monitor marketing efforts and measure their effectiveness. Continuous tracking and reporting allow companies to quickly withdraw or realign their marketing strategies as indicated.

Enterprises can use BI tools to track and compare KPIs that give insight into whether marketing efforts are generating higher returns, such as:

  • Website traffic-to-leads ratio
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQL) to sales qualified leads (SQL) ratio
  • Conversion rates from multiple channels, such as landing pages and emails
  • Email unsubscribe rate
  • Returning visitors to the website
  • Funnel conversion rates
  • Cost per lead (CPL)
  • CAC
  • Customer retention

Take Netflix — in the fourth quarter of 2018, the company’s marketing spending jumped by 57% year-over-year, while its revenues rose by 27%. An analysis attributes the discrepancy to escalating CAC. Winning a new customer in the U.S. costs Netflix four times more than it used to, as the company finds itself running out of new households to sell to. Netflix could use BI tools to surface this information, then retool their marketing efforts by, for example, exploring underutilized channels or focusing on less saturated markets to reduce CAC.

Get ahead of the competition

Enterprises can also use BI reporting to gain insights regarding competitors and their industry at large. With third-party data, companies may be able to measure their competitors’ performance and benchmark that against their own. They can then adjust their efforts to beat the competition by, for instance, changing pricing, increasing marketing spend in a neglected channel, or targeting different demographics.

Companies can use BI to gain a competitive advantage in many ways. They can compare specific metrics, such as website traffic or social media engagement for newly launched products, or assess competitors’ marketing practices for specific channels, such as email, to see if their marketing could be improved.

Here are business intelligence tools that can be beneficial for marketing and sales reporting.

1. InsightSquared

InsightSquared is a point solution for sales analytics. It helps companies manage their pipelines, improve conversion rates, forecast accurately, and identify areas for coaching. 

The platform pulls data in real-time and can create data visualizations that are beneficial for sales reps, sales managers, and executives alike. With these insights, companies can work to increase their win rates and generate more revenue.

2. MixPanel

MixPanel is a point solution for product analytics. It provides reports on the performance of your product’s features, user conversions and retention, cohort behavior, and more. You can also break down that data by device and platform to get more granular insights and create custom dashboards around your KPIs. 

These reports help companies understand their users’ experiences and improve upon them to increase retention.

3. Intercom

While Intercom positions itself as more of a customer engagement platform due to its conversational features, those features are effective because of the platform’s customer data analytics. So Intercom is also a business intelligence point solution for product usage analytics.

Intercom tracks your customer behaviors within your product so you can understand what they’ve been engaging with and what their history is. You can use that information for segmentation and target your customers with personalized communication.

Use our Software Evaluation Worksheet to determine if your next software purchase is the right one for your business.

4. Klipfolio

Klipfolio is a cloud-based reporting app that can be used for deepening your understanding of any area of your business. It can be used for data visualization, report building, and KPI tracking.

Klipfolio has over 300 integrations and can connect to additional tools through APIs.

5. HubSpot Reporting

HubSpot’s reporting add-on is a macro solution that allows users to dig into data spanning across marketing, sales, and service. It enables users to build custom reports and dashboards from scratch or analyze over 150 pre-built reports from its report library.

For companies using HubSpot’s Marketing, Sales, and Service Hubs to run their business, no integrations are required to access all the data you need. But if you are using outside platforms as well, HubSpot can also report on data from integrated apps.

6. DataBox

Databox is a macro solution that can be used to analyze the results of your marketing and sales efforts and your company-wide strategies. The platform pulls your companies data from across your tech stack into a single location for easier analysis. In doing so, it can also calculate cross-platform metrics, like conversion rates, for you.  

DataBox is most well-known for its easy-to-use data visualization capabilities. Its dashboards are easy to create and customize for users without design or coding experience, and it has many easy-to-activate integrations that come with hundreds of pre-built custom reports.

7. Grow

Grow is a macro solution that can analyze your marketing, sales, and customer service data. It’s an all-in-one business intelligence solution that can store, clean, and connect your data and then transform that information into dashboards and reports.

It’s built for non-technical users, so its dashboards don’t require technical knowledge to customize and it offers many one-click integrations.

8. Looker

Looker is an advanced business intelligence solution that can be used for everything from marketing reporting to customer 360s to supply chain management. It offers pre-built data visualizations or users can create custom visualization depending on their needs. 

Looker also has its data modeling language that enables users to build custom models or leverage pre-built ones. 

9. Tableau

Tableau is an advanced business intelligence solution that provides data visualizations of both structures and unstructured data. It can do benchmarking, forecasting, cross-database analysis, and more. In addition to interactive dashboards and drag and drop functionality to allow ease of use, Tableau also has a natural language search function to help users find what they’re looking for.

10. DashThis

Business Intelligence & Data Reporting Tools example dashthis

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DashThis is an effective tool for keeping up with marketing analytics at a glance. It’s a dashboard that provides a clear look at your campaign KPI data. You can access quick metrics and reports from your dashboard.

DashThis lets you select a template and then automatically fills that template with your data to streamline the reporting process. It also exports data into PDF files so you can share reports with your team.

11. Raven Tools

Business Intelligence & Data Reporting Tools example raven tools

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Raven Tools offers SEO analysis, social media engagement, funnel performance tracking, and competitor comparison. Whether it’s big-picture analyses, like domain authority, or small-scale comparisons of site functionality, Raven Tools lets you stay on top of how you’re faring in competitive spaces. Additionally, the drag-and-drop editor and report generator make creating custom, professional-grade marketing reports easier.

12. Megalytic

Business Intelligence & Data Reporting Tools example megalytic

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Megalytic eases the process of combining marketing data from many sources — Megalytic is specially designed to import data from a range of marketing software.

It takes only a couple of moments to access data from Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, Adwords, and more on Megalytic. The tool can also process and report data stored in CSV files. Lastly, if you’re looking to produce a comprehensive report that pulls together loads of disparate data into one place, Megalytic is a smart choice.

13. Klipfolio

klipfolio example of Business Intelligence & Data Reporting Tools

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As important as it is for reporting tools to effectively take in and analyze data, they also need to produce readable reports. Klipfolio is great for making sure your reports can be read and accessed with ease across various technologies as well as via the tool’s dashboard that updates in real-time.

Additionally, Klipfolio allows you to offer access to your reports through Slack, email, or custom links, and it enables you to sync your dashboards in real-time across multiple devices such as smartphones, web browsers, and TV screens. Having the ability to efficiently pull up your analytics dashboard at any time, via any device, makes actions like on-the-go reporting, team collaboration, and remote work simple.

14. Mixpanel

Business Intelligence & Data Reporting Tools example mixpanel

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Mixpanel is a tracking and reporting tool with powerful analytics features that provide insight into trends like engagement and count. It tracks how people engage with certain products over time and how different features influence user behavior with graphs. If you’re interested in keeping track of how a certain site or product is performing, it can be a valuable tool for reporting on that kind of information, too. 

Most marketers today track and measure everything. I’ve seen many companies use business intelligence platforms to help them know exactly what they need to do and how they can perform better, but those same platforms aren’t always helpful when it comes to the small things marketers do daily. This is why I created this list of the best business intelligence tools for marketing strategy. Each tool will make your job as a marketer easier and faster. Plus, these tools will make sure you don’t miss any great ideas or opportunities that could help you out with your marketing efforts.

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