With each passing year, the world of marketing and sales software becomes ever more crowded. Players in the space jockey for every available dollar they can get their hands on by cramming “innovative” and “new” features into their products to attempt to differentiate themselves from their peers. However, with the overwhelming push for companies to saturate their product suites with as many features as possible and consolidate functionality into all-in-one offerings, why does the continual gap between marketing solutions software and data visualization tools still persist?
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that companies aren’t making actual innovative strides within the industry. If you need an example look no further than all the work being done with AI lately. I am however saying that long-time players in this space still aren’t addressing a critical area within their solutions. There remains a disproportionate gap between quality marketing solution products and the relatively lightweight data reporting and visualization components that come with these tools.
Let me provide you with an example of one such product, HubSpot.
HubSpot is a fantastic marketing platform. I’d go into a detailed list of all the things it allows you to accomplish, but they have a dedicated blog to all their cool stuff. We’ll just say you can’t go wrong with HubSpot for any marketing related task. From a marketing standpoint, they blow their competition away. To add to that, HubSpot is also really coming along as an effective and efficient CRM. I have no doubt that HubSpot will start to give Salesforce a serious run for their money and continue to chip away at the market Salesforce has dominated for so many years.
However, for a number of platforms HubSpot supports and measures, it leaves a bit to be desired from a reporting and visualization standpoint.
Where HubSpot Falls Short
Where you’d expect to be able to leverage all or even most of the data points from each of these integrated systems, the reality is you can only leverage a small portion of them. To give credit where it is due, the dashboards and reporting features HubSpot offers are very user-friendly and will suffice for a healthy percentage of their user base. They just lack more of the advanced functionality you’d hope to get from such a tool. Items like adjustable reporting logic, highly customizable visualizations (outside of the eight chart types and basic color pallet), and cross-tabular reports just aren’t part of the package though.
Let’s dig in a little further and add Adwords to this example. Even with the HubSpot Ads add-on (that you have to pay more for), you’re still limited to just basic traffic and conversion data. You won’t find any of the crucial competitive, demographic, or geographic metrics that you’d find in the Adwords interface.
As I said, this won’t be an issue for most people, but for your advanced users who are well beyond the basics; this will be a huge inconvenience. These limitations carry over into the analysis and reporting side of things. You’re fine if you stick to basic “and / or” logic, but if you want to layer the two on each other to get really specific results. The same goes trying to use a customized list to feed a dashboard widget.
This leads us to the group of solutions that fill this void. Enter business intelligence tools.
Why Business Intelligence Tools Matter
This style of product, more often than not, is brought on to replace the basic reporting that marketing and sales software provides. To boil their functionality down to simple terms, they aggregate, compute, and display data. These solutions come in a variety of flavors from cloud-based SAAS solutions to on-prem server deployed setups.
As with any software vertical, different solutions offer different levels of service and functionality at different price points. In this particular space that usually boils down to the level of visual customization data manipulation abilities, connections with other apps, and ease of deployment. Some of the big players in the space are Tableau, Domo, and Databox.
Since we’re talking about HubSpot, which tends to cater to small and medium-sized businesses, we’ll discuss a business intelligence tool from a similar weight class, Databox. To use their words, “Databox is a business analytics KPI dashboard. It gathers all your metrics in one place and helps you deliver the crucial KPIs across multiple devices.” Databox is a fantastic, lightweight, user-friendly platform that plugs the holes in solutions like HubSpot.
Databox features a large selection of data source connectors and all the KPIs you could want from those sources. With those KPIs, also comes the ability to set goals and alerts, whether good or bad. You can’t do that in HubSpot.
As far as displaying those metrics goes, customization is the name of the game at Databox. Select the source, select the metric, and you're done. They have a plethora of chart types and their datawalls allow you to structure dashboards in an infinite number of ways. They’re also extremely mobile friendly. Need basic calculations that you can’t get in HubSpot? They can do that too with a simple query builder.
Now Databox doesn’t have all the bells and whistles (yet, keep an eye on these guys). Advanced logic operators and cross-tabular functionality are found on heavyweight tools like Tableau.
How You Can Get a Better Picture of your Data
The bigger point here isn’t that you can find the functionality lacking in tools like HubSpot in business intelligence solutions. What I am getting at is if platforms really want to capture every available dollar within the sales and marketing universe, all-in-one solution providers can’t ignore this gap in functionality. Data aggregation and visualization is a critical piece of any business. Until providers realize this and expand into this particular space they’ll be missing out on easy money.
HubSpot and tools like them are headed in the right direction. This industry isn’t one that will always be able to support numerous one-off solution providers. Look back five years. How many of those VC funded startups have been picked off and purchased by the mainstays? It’s only natural.
So come on y’all, build out this functionality or purchase someone that’s already doing it well and roll them in. It’s low hanging fruit. If not for the added revenue, do it for me.
Don’t make me have to keep switching between browser tabs. It’s really annoying.
For more on Salesforce and HubSpot, give this post about Revenue River integrating Salesforce and HubSpot a read.