Putting ourselves on the MarTech map with Datacroft: FELD M Products
on 29.07.2021 by Eliot
Part 1, The Datacroft „Link Manager“ Campaign Tracking Tool
The field of marketing technology (MarTech) has been growing at an astounding rate over the last years. Some months ago, there were an estimated 8.000 different tools and solutions out on the market*, and these numbers are expected to explode a lot more in the future. Because we at FELD M have been developing Martech solutions under the brand „Datacroft: FELD M Products“ since 2012, we wanted to give a „behind the scenes“ retelling of why we decided to create our products – our products` origin stories, so to speak 😊
But let’s first go back to the Martech map: The reason that the numbers of MarTech solutions have increased so much, is that the development conditions have improved drastically: In all fields of marketing, from ad serving to CDPs, from personalisation to sales operations, from content creation to workflow management, there are efforts to automate and/or improve specific aspects of marketing by developing new tools, so that they can be dealt with more efficiently and therefore less costly for clients. Another essential part of these solutions is that they usually integrate into all other MarTech tools in a client‘s tech stack, so that a number of tools can be linked together to further optimize workflows and reduce overhead. The overall aim of MarTech tools is to automate, augment and integrate.
Some of these new tools are being developed by service agencies themselves, because these agencies have seen a need to either create a solution to meet their own internal requirements as a marketing agency, or they are meeting demands raised by their clients **
This mirrors exactly the way we at FELD M have come to found our own business unit, Datacroft: FELD M Products, in order to develop our own „little helper“ tools and solutions to help our clients understand and optimize their marketing activities in a data-driven way. We now want to give you a deeper insight into how we came to think about developing our products – and will start in part 1 with our campaign tracking tool, the „Link Manager“.
The Datacroft „Link Manager“
Our motivation for developing our first product was quite straight forward: We were in Excel hell, and wanted to escape.
To be more specific, back in 2012 we were tasked with maintaining and validating one global campaign trackinglink structure for a large number of markets and business units of a big corporate client of ours, which back then was done with several market-specific Excel files, that had been configured by us, following client requirements. The problem was that some of these markets had their own idea of how their campaign tracking should look like and got quite good at using our Excel templates in every way they could think of – just not in the way we (and our direct client, the corporate head department) had intended so that the data could be analyzed channel-wide and on a global level. Finally, we were able to convince the head department of our product idea and they gave us the go- ahead so that we could start developing the Software-as-a-Service tool that now has become the „Link Manager“.
Now we had to think of the features we wanted to add to our new tool that should still grant the markets the highest possible degree of flexibility and freedom, but only to the extent that our client`s goal of channel-wide and global analyses was not compromised.
To start with, we wrote down our own experiences with campaign tracking on client projects so far, to find out what our tool should offer our users:
- We were often asked to create trackinglinks on very short notice, because campaign tracking was thought of only very shortly before a campaign launch – so usually at that point we got very urgent emails or phone calls because there were trackinglinks still missing, and our clients needed them NOW, IDEALLY YESTERDAY!
- There was also often important campaign data missing which had to also be added on short notice, for example new campaign names or product names. Whenever the correct values could not be added in time, users would often use any kind of value that vaguely matched their campaign types (or not…), which of course decreased data quality.
- The two points mentioned above – missing trackinglinks and missing or faulty data – lead to a general poor quality of campaign data in web analytics reports, which we had to face when our clients asked us to create campaign reports based on this data. These reports then often were quite useless, and could not be used to analyze current campaigns or to optimize future ones (which btw should always be the goal). Often we had to either try and create some kind of insight by making assumptions, based on past data that hopefully was correct, or we tried to find other data points that we could use to fill in the gaps. All in all, it was not very satisfying work, because the main problem – the poor data quality of our client’s campaign traffic – was not dealt with.
- During the campaign tracking process, we had to communicate with people who had different skill and knowledge levels, and a different awareness of the importance of campaign data: From the web analyst on client-side, who looked into their reports every day and had detailed knowledge of tracking implementations, to service agency account managers, who would never get to see and use the data that they were asked to add and had no knowledge of web analytics tracking implementations. Since our tool was going to be used by both of these user groups, we had to have both in mind when thinking about the interface and features.
- We also had to deal with different technical tracking requirements for our clients. Often, with our clients, a campaign tracking structure had evolved over years and had sometimes become quite complicated and locked in. Scrapping everything and starting again with a new, clean structure was often not an option. The campaign tracking setup also sometimes had to not only meet requirements of web analytics solutions (our tool supports any type of web analytics solution, btw, not just Adobe Analytics) but also those of other tools that had been added over time. So a „one-size-fits all“ approach did not always work for all of our clients, they required a lot more custom development.
Based on these experiences, we came up with the following development guidelines:
- Easy access for everybody: We give out unlimited user logins for each client, which everybody can access via their browser. So even if things are very urgent before a campaign launch, there will not be a bottle-neck because the colleague with the licensed user login is unavailable.
- Easy-to-use interface: No knowledge of tracking implementations neccessary. That way, every user is able to add new data and create new trackinglinks on short notice.
- Bulk upload feature: Not everything you can do in Excel is bad, of course! Especially when dealing with a lot of trackinglinks at once, an Excel-based solution can be very efficient. That’s why we developed a solution to create trackinglinks in bulk in an Excel file that can be uploaded in our tool, so that our users get the best of both solutions.
- Automatic validation of trackinglink data and URLs, so that data quality in web analytics reports increases and broken landing page URLs can be detected before they are added to marketing measures. Because useless campaign data will lead to useless campaign reports, we wanted to make sure that our users are able to select the right data as fast as possible and spot any errors without having to do manual quality checks.
- We can also restrict the new data that users can add and/or select in the tool so that they have to conform to predefined naming conventions which again increases data quality. As we mentioned above, we want to both guarantee as much flexibility as possible for each channel type, because often channels will have their own specific data points, but we also want to make sure that the campaign data is set up in a consistent structure that makes a global, channel-wide reporting We can for example prefill dropdowns with values that cannot be changed, to ensure that a consistent spelling is used. We can also restrict the input possibilities of free text fields, so that users have to conform to a specific format, like for example only using lower case letters, no spaces, using only underscores as delimiters etc.
- Custom developments based on client-specific requirements: It has always been very important to us to find ways to meet specific client requirements and to fit our solution as closely to our client’s existing infrastructure as possible. This way we can of course also find new feature ideas that can be useful to all clients. We for example adapted our trackingcode logic so that it can be filled with abbreviated campaign values after our client MINI Germany requested it from us (instead of using a unique ID trackingcode, which we had done before). This requirement came about because their trackinglinks not only had to work for their Adobe Analytics setup, but also for their CRM tool „Top Drive“. It now is a standard feature and has been used for many different kinds of trackingcode logics for our clients.
Now, in 2021, our „Link Manager“ SaaS-tool has been licenced by a number of clients over the years, from a medium-sized eCommerce business to global corporations with a large number of markets like BSH Group and BMW Group.
Because we already started 9 years ago, and we were always closely aligned with our clients‘ requirements and needs, we are now able to offer a level of product innovation and technical maturity in the „Link Manager“, that other providers are not yet able to reach in their product cycle.
For more information about our tool, please visit our product page at https://datacroft.de/en/link-manager/
In part 2, we are going to talk about the „Campaign Data Importer“, a tool that is closely aligned with the „Link Manager“!
**source: The Martech Show Episode #5: 5 Martech Trends for the Decade Ahead / The Agency View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnMAl5d0Zx8