Microsoft’s initiatives to make Power BI user-friendly and easy to configure have helped propel it to the forefront of BI/Data Analytics solutions, according to an early 2016 release by Gartner. A big proponent of this success can likely be attributed to healthy selection of data connectors which allow accessing data sources from popular services without the need to develop custom web services.

This capability is much more than being able to access all of your data in one dashboard. If your marketing and sales data sources are connected to Power BI, you can correlate metrics across platforms and attribute changes from each-other. By having a more complete view of your data, the likelihood of attributing “false positives” is also reduced.

Connecting these data sources and making informed decisions – whether you’re using Power BI or not – is the true goal of any business intelligence solution. For the Power BI users out there looking to squeeze the most out of their sales and marketing data, how can you take advantage of these integrations? Let’s find out!

Customer Outreach Programs

Customer outreach is huge in the digital marketing space – so much so that I’ll have to break this into different categories.

Social Media

The biggest focus of data integration from social media will be the juggernauts – Twitter and Facebook. Many companies are funneling money into promoted content and advertisements on these two social media outlets, and although they have analytics that cover interaction within their platform, the data often is isolated from your other sources.

Starting with Facebook, there is a data connector readily available to accept Facebook data from their Open Graph API such as likes, posts, comments and share counts. Customizing your Power BI dashboard with Facebook data is relatively simple, and Microsoft has provided an excellent tutorial on how to do so.

Twitter is notably missing from the data connector list, but this doesn’t mean you can’t access Twitter data with Power BI. One method is using Azure Stream Analytics to access real-time data. Again, a tutorial is available on Microsoft’s website to do so, which will require some technical know-how, but Aptude has actually used this feature in the past when sponsoring an event. The other way to import your Twitter analytics is by manually exporting and importing it into Power BI. Microsoft has again provided a tutorial, and this method is rather simple to accomplish. Unfortunately, you can only export up to 90 days of Twitter data, and there’s no way to automate the processes. This is not a fault of Microsoft or the Power BI platform, Twitter actually has no API available to connect to its analytical data, so there’s really not any other choices regardless of your business intelligence platform.

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is another big staple of marketing initiatives, and Power BI has data connectors for two specific e-mail marketing tools – Sparkpost, and MailChimp. Of course, those are not the only options available. Companies using CRM platforms such as MS Dynamics, Salesforce, and Marketo can also easily connect their e-mail marketing data with Power BI.

There are many e-mail marketing platforms out there, and it would be impractical for Power BI to have data connectors for every single one of them – not to mention many, if not most, of these platforms don’t have an API to connect to for accessing analytical data. Should your platform not be on the list, just check if your platform can export the data to an Excel or CSV file, which can then be imported into Power BI.

Web Analytics

Tracking website interaction and content performance is another important marketing initiative to follow. Power BI has many tools to help track your SEO, E-commerce sales, online advertising, and online engagement of your customers.

Power BI has data connectors for some of the popular website data analytics platforms, including Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, and comScore Digital Analytix (purchased by Adobe). While those two platforms are specifically purposed for analyzing website metrics, many of the other platforms supported also provide these capabilities, or cater to more specific business markets (such as SweetIQ, which specializes in local search, or appFigures, which focuses on mobile application analytics).

Additionally, if you’re using advertising with Google Adwords and a Google Analytics user, you can connect to your Google Analytics account to track your Adwords performance with Power BI.

Of course, to make full use of these capabilities, you have to properly configure your analytics to track the right user interactions and metrics.

Another useful idea for organizing your data within Power BI is to incorporate your research data in your dashboard. Often marketing professionals will create and maintain Excel spreadsheets which contain relevant information for formulating a marketing strategy – such as trending keywords, keyword advertising costs, or various market statistics. Just include them in your dashboard and this information will be readily available to you at any time!

Utilizing Power BI effectively with your Marketing

Even if some of your data sources are not available as data connectors, there are usually going to be options to export and import the data into Power BI. While this may not be as easy to maintain as an automated solution, it’s still much better than many of the alternatives.

I’ve consulted to many small to large-size organizations on digital marketing initiatives, such as social media, SEO, and e-mail marketing campaigns, and more often than not these companies will utilize excel spreadsheets to manually track metrics of their campaigns. These spreadsheets are not only “siloed” to that person and/or department – which can easily be lost over time or when that employee leaves the company – they will also only contain data relevant to that campaign, making it difficult to compare effectiveness to other initiatives. Additionally, manually updating spreadsheets is tedious and often only contain the bare-minimum amount of data.

Here are some of the biggest benefits you can achieve by using Power BI:

  • Data availability across different departments
  • Data visualization – view report or dashboard metrics with charts, graphs or maps
  • Automated data sources and better capabilities for updating existing manual sources
  • Data retention – saved in the cloud, and not confined to user systems

Dashboard Sharing with Power BI Organizational Content Packs

To overcome the challenge of “siloed” data, Power BI allows you to create content pack groups with permission rights to view, edit, collaborate, and share the dashboards and reports with others. Users can also create their own dashboards based on a shared one, which then can be expanded to a new group to collaborate with. Reports can also easily be added to your website, if there’s some data that you feel comfortable with sharing to the public.

Using OneDrive or Sharepoint with Power BI to automatically update your dashboards

With so many options available for cloud storage, it often comes to a matter of preference for which you decide to use – except for when it comes to integration with some of Microsoft’s products. For example, if you are manually exporting excel or CSV files and importing them into Power BI, you can actually keep updating the same files stored in your OneDrive account or Sharepoint Team-Site. Power BI will check hourly for updates to these files to ensure that your dashboards are up-to-date with the latest information.

This is also useful when working with vendors or partners that may not have access to Power BI – just give them permissions to edit a CSV or Excel file in OneDrive, and they can update data related to a particular project or campaign. This way you won’t have to be e-mailing files back and forth and redundantly updating information!

 Data Visualizations with Power BI

Power BI visualizations go far beyond simple charts and graphs. It also takes your reporting a step further by allowing you to pin snapshots of reporting data as configurable tiles in your dashboard, which when clicked, can go directly into a more detailed report of that data set. These tiles can also link directly to another dashboard.

The visualization types are also comprehensive, with numerous ways to visualize charts, in addition to displaying data geographically with maps. Oh, and did I mention that Power BI also works on mobile devices? There’s mobile applications for Windows, iOS, and Android.

Combining your marketing data into reports and dashboards

Before importing all of your data, you’ll want to strategize how it will be incorporated into your dashboards and reports. Strategies will vary depending on your goals, and often may come down to personal preference. While there certainly are some wrong approaches, there are also many different right ones.

As long as you can access and compare your marketing initiatives easily, then you’re on the right track. With the ability to view your social media, e-mail marketing, and web analytics in one platform, you’re in a much better position to make informed decisions. If there are larger initiatives or recurring marketing programs that you need to track, it may be beneficial to setup specific reports for each of these respectively.