Using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) To Analyze Your Marketing Funnel

Marketing funnels help you visualize how your efforts contribute to sales. They map the customer journey from when a person first hears about your product or offering to when they buy it. The funnel approach is a good way to understand how your marketing mix works and in what order. However, marketing funnels must be analyzed in a variety of ways to properly optimize for growth. You need to be able to view the funnel by lead channels, mediums, and sources to name a few. This type of analyses and need to slice and dice funnel data ad-hoc requires a database and reporting platform. SQL Server Reporting Services is one such tool that can be used to accomplish this.

Your marketing channels and your methods for engaging people are complex and numerous. For instance, you may use social media to introduce customers to your brand as well as re-target ads. These multi-touch approaches require reporting that can visualize buyer journeys in a non-linear format. In the absence of an advanced reporting tool you may think of your marketing efforts too narrowly limiting growth opportunities. Fortunately, companies with a SQL license can utilize SQL Server Reporting Services at no additional cost to visualize and analyze marketing data.

SQL and Marketing Funnels

You can use a special database called SQL to analyze your marketing funnels. It will help you gain more valuable insights than traditional market analysis. SQL is short for Structured Query Language. Microsoft developed it. Servers called SQL servers use this language to manage relational information within a database. In this way, SQL servers are also management systems. You can use them to analyze operations or improve processing speed. They can also shine in examining marketing funnels.

What is SQL Server Reporting Services?

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is a software system that generates customizable reports. It does this using information from the SQL server. Microsoft’s suite of Business Intelligence (BI) tools includes this reporting software system. These tools include the database engine SQL Server as well as a data mining tool called SQL Server Analysis Services (SASS). It also contains the data integration platform SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS). 

When it comes to analyzing your marketing funnel, SSRS can draw from data stored in the SQL Server. It lets you take advantage of the data mining capabilities of SASS. Plus, SRSS can use the capabilities of SSIS data warehousing to pull relevant data. You can use these insights to improve your marketing funnel.

What makes SQL Server Reporting Services unique is that it serves several types of audiences. Analysts can use it as well as marketers who are exploring or consuming information. For instance, you can use SSRS to automatically create basic reports. These can tell you the percentage of people that advance to the next phase of your marketing funnel. SSRS is also useful for marketers who need to apply filters to their reports to sort data. For example, you can apply filters to sort the various prospects you are vetting in the awareness stage of your marketing funnel.

Basic Functions and Advantages of SQL Server Reporting Services

SSRS provides many features you can use to improve your marketing funnel analysis. You can summarize data from different providers as well as total that data into visual tools. You can create tables and charts that let you understand what those numbers mean. In some cases, this may mean using a traffic light system to highlight important information on performance scorecards. You can configure the SSRS to highlight numbers that are within your goal parameters. Those would be green while those numbers that are closer to target might be yellow. When your performance completely misses the mark, those figures can show as red. This feature helps you understand where you need to focus your attention. You can also where your performance is strong.

For time-constrained users, SQL server reporting lets them see specific information. It makes it easy to see where they need to focus and eliminates the noise of necessary information. For instance, a sales manager may see hourly sales or a marketing manager may see conversion rates.

SSRS offers several advantages. First, SSRS makes it simple for multiple users to run reports on demand. It’s useful for updating current reports with new data as well. Further, you can access your reports and data from one central location. In this way, the system can act as a single source of truth and help ensure data integrity.

SSRS also shines in sharing. The platform supports sharing data among various devices and platforms within the Microsoft ecosystem, such as SharePoint or Excel, so extracting data is easy. SSRS also gives you control over your report outputs, from appearance concerns like font or the actual placement of report components.

At the same time, SSRS is very secure. Having access to the SSRS does not equate to having access to the information held within the database. You can set permissions as needed, either establishing classes or setting custom permissions.

Creating Reports in Sql Server Reporting Services

You can use SSRS in many ways. While the way you deploy those tools will depend somewhat on the platform you use to run the system, reporting goes through three stages: authoring, management, and delivery.

Authoring

In this stage of SSRS reporting, the author specifies the report layout and identifies the data that will be pulled for the report. There are two basic tools for authoring: Report Designer and Report Builder. Different users have their own preferences as to which one is best. 

Report Builder

Report Builder is used authoring reports that are paginated. This tool is a stand-alone program that lets you specify the visualizations you would like and preview the report. It can pull from many different services and you have the ability to update any reports that you may have created through the Report Designer in SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT). You can also modify your data, add formulas, create charts, highlight specific performance indicators, and create interactive components. However, Report Builder does not support imported data or MetricBase Time Series information.

Report Designer

You can access Report Designer through Visual Studio. It guides you through the report creation process. In a single panel, you will specify the type of report you want, how you would like it configured, and the style or appearance you prefer. From there, Report Designer generates a preview of the report and lets you adjust it as necessary before sharing it via the Share panel. Report Designer is unique from the Report Builder in that it can use imported data as well as reports from the MetricBase Time Series. You can also import Microsoft Access reports and leverage the Report Wizard to create your report.

Management

Next, you will need to publish your report. This is called the managing stage. Generally, you will publish the report to the SSRS database where the report administrator will use different tools to oversee the document. This person will designate who has access to the report and control over how it should be handled. Subscriptions to the report will originate from this point as well as how and when the report should be processed. Delivery of the report can be automated as well as the specific content of the report. For instance, you might configure the report so that certain users see a specific set of columns while another group of users see a different combination of columns.

Delivery

The final stage is delivery. This includes how the report is distributed as well as its format. For instance, this might include email as well as a web browser so the user can view the report online or via the Report Manager. Email is generally sent out via a push model while online users may subscribe to the report.

Picking the Best Reporting Tool 

Deciding which reporting tool is right for you requires assessing your needs. It’s also crucial to understand the type of marketing funnel you have to determine if SSRS is an appropriate tool to use. For instance, if your focus is to convert leads to your support service agency via your content, then you may want a reporting system that easily integrates with your email marketing funnel. If you are using a variety of Urchin Tracking Models (UTM) to track link clicks, you want a reporting platform that can assist you in analyzing the performance of these various tactics. If you’re looking for a good all purpose reporting tool that supports an interactive presentation format, then SSRS may be a cost effective solution.

Don’t forget about your offline reports, too. Traditional reports are still essential to help with your marketing efforts. If you or your client are holding meetings, it’s useful to handout hard copy reports as visual aids for your presentation. SSRS makes updating these types of reports simple so that you can give your reports a fresh look using relevant data. For instance, if you require a report that combines the power of business intelligence (BI) with SSRS, then it’s often beneficial to use SRSS for your reporting needs. SRSS works with other Power BI tools to integrate data from different points. That means you can rely on SRSS to update data in the background from various sources so that it provides the latest insight when you print out or share your reports. 

It’s also worthwhile determining if you require a centralized way to access your reports. SRSS supports accessing data from a single point. You may also want to consider your skills and need for advanced reporting. While you can run reports using SRSS, it often requires strong SQL skills to run the reports efficiently. Moreover, if you don’t have a need for complex reporting, you can still use lighter reporting tools and even your own Excel-generated reports.

Reporting System Concerns 

An effective marketing funnel often employs strategies and data-driven tools to draw key insights. Your reporting system can also help improve your marketing funnel if it’s simple to visualize and easy to read. That’s why it’s important to ensure you’re using tools that support your reporting needs. Knowing whether your current reporting system is working for you requires identifying key issues or concerns with the system you have in place. Here are some tips for spotting issues with your current reporting system:

Identify your key performance indicators 

Knowing which key performance indicators (KPIs) are relevant to your business and industry helps improve the success of your marketing funnel. Identifying your KPIs also makes it easier to determine if the reporting tools you use are delivering this valuable data. For instance, if your current reporting system does not have a way to identify your customer acquisition costs (CAC) or even the specific channels driving your leads, then it’s possible your current reporting system isn’t fulfilling your needs.

Check for responsiveness

Today, marketers are continuing to work remotely. So, it’s crucial to have tools that support access to reports on various devices. If your current reporting system lacks responsiveness, then consider using SSRS.

Consider visualization

A picture can clear up matters quickly. Visual aids help readers to identify important points fast. Research shows that 65 percent of people learn visually. Moreover, studies also support that visual aids like maps and images help people comprehend information 60,000 times faster than if they used text alone. It makes sense when you compare looking at a wall of text versus infographics or photos that help explain the text within seconds of viewing the visual content. If your current reporting system lacks the advanced visual aids you need or does not have any at all, it’s possible you need to change your reporting system to a more advanced solution, such as SRSS. SRSS provides maps, data bars, gauges and other visual aids to help users identify problems and data points quickly.

Determine if your reporting system’s updating capabilities

Automated reports require updates even with older reporting systems. But if your current reporting system cannot handle to the updates or does not update your data effectively, it’s probably time to consider one with more advanced features.

Consider your budget

Even if you initially selected your existing reporting system because it fit into your initial budget, it’s important to review the cost of maintaining the system over time. As your business scales, you may need to find different solutions to accommodate the goals you have for your marketing funnel and your budget. If your existing reporting system’s maintenance costs are outweighing its benefits and going over your budget, it’s probably time to move on to a more advanced solution.

Moving Forward

Investing money in improving your marketing and sales is a no-brainer when you know you are getting an ROI on your investment. However, you might not have enough data to prove the return on investment or a funnel process that is mature enough to reflect the benefit of your efforts. There is also the issue of skillset. In order to run business analytics that are truly insightful, you need staff who understand what needs to be measures, the reports that need to be run, and how to fix the funnel in light of those analytics.

Many companies adopt reporting systems to analyze their efforts, but the problem is that they often don’t work – at least not out of the box. Reporting systems like Domo, Power BI, and Tableau are not stand-alone solutions. They are platforms upon which you could build the analytics you need to run your company more effectively. However, the processes that are in place are not easy-to-use if you don’t know how to implement tagging and attribution.

In order to use your chosen reporting system to actually benefit your company with meaningful analysis, you need someone who can manage your business intelligence in a way that reflects your unique needs. This way, you can customize your reporting and make the most of the investments in business analysis that you’ve made. While SRSS provides the platform and basic tools you need to optimize your marketing funnel, it won’t help you succeed if you or your team doesn’t understand the data points you need. From UTM strategies to cost per acquisition (CPA), several relevant data points impact the success of your marketing funnel. 

If your in house reporting is not enough to drive your marketing funnel forward, it’s time to look towards data analysis solutions from an expert team. IronFocus has the process experience and skillset you need to fix your funnel processes as well as create reports and analytics you can use to inform your efforts. We provide customized analytic solutions for your funnel.

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