ETL tools “extract” data from multiple sources, “transform” that data so that it’s uniform, and then “load” it to another location, typically a data warehouse.
Marketing ETL tools, in particular, are popular because marketers deal with many disparate sources of data that need to be analyzed, visualized, and distributed to stakeholders and clients.
So, what should you look for in a marketing ETL tool?
There are many tools to choose from, including coding your own. We’ve been in the marketing data management space for decades and we think these 3 factors are important in a good marketing ETL tool:
Our marketing ETL platform, TapClicks, handles the entire data management lifecycle for you in one place, providing an automated central hub for all your data that is scalable and doesn’t require coding.
In this post, we’ll define what an ETL tool is and why they are helpful for marketers. Then we’ll explain how TapClicks fulfills the 3 factors above.
ETL tools have been around for decades and are commonly used in general business areas such as finance and operations.
Their function as connectors or data pipelines means that companies can move data around.
For example, taking customer data from a CRM to a business intelligence (BI) tool and making that data — which typically comes from disparate sources — uniform, so that data can be stored in one database and analyzed together.
As mentioned above, the ETL process involves “extracting” large quantities of raw data from various different sources and “transforming” that data by cleaning it to make it uniform (e.g. deleting excess columns, changing titles so they’re the same across different data sets, etc.). The data is then “loaded” to another platform, typically a data warehouse or BI tool where it can be stored and/or analyzed.
ETL tools are particularly useful for marketing teams because marketers need to aggregate a large amount of data from many disparate sources (e.g. Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, eCommerce platforms, to name a few).
Without an ETL tool, doing the data extraction manually by going into each individual platform (and downloading the data into an Excel spreadsheet, for example), is hugely time-consuming, and certainly not the best use of a marketer’s time.
A survey by CrowdFlower showed that nearly 80% of data scientists' time is spent extracting and cleaning data, and that’s before you even get to doing marketing analytics and reporting.
And when there are many clients or brands each with data on multiple platforms, efficient data extraction, transformation, and data warehousing becomes even more essential.
But most marketing ETL tools only do part of the job — the extraction, simple transformations, and loading the data into a database. Very few marketing ETL tools help with the other essential components of a marketing team’s data management workflow, namely: doing advanced calculations on the data so you can extract key insights to report to clients or executives, and visualizing and building reports from that data.
We’ll explain more on this next when we discuss the 3 factors that all good marketing ETL tools should have and explain how our tool, TapClicks, fits the bill.
Not all ETL tools are made equal. Many tools only connect to a limited number of data sources. So, if you’re using a tool that connects to Google Ads and Facebook Ads but not your Salesforce or eCommerce data, there’s little benefit in using it at all.
Imagine if you had multiple clients and your ETL tool only collected data from some of their data sources. You would have to do this process yourself (or use another tool) for each client, on an ongoing basis. Not only is this a huge time-waster but it would significantly restrict your ability to scale.
TapClicks connects to all your marketing data sources and all your other data sources, too. We have connected to over 6,000 data sources via our “Smart Connector” tool including home-built databases and offline data sources.
We also have hundreds of direct data integrations, including all the marketing platforms you would expect (e.g. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.), and lesser-known ones too (e.g. Genius Monkey and Tiger Pistol).
Once you’ve set up the data connections you want, your data will be extracted immediately, automatically, and daily. In some cases, we can pull 12 months of historical data, too.
And because we manage the API connections, you never need to worry about a connection breaking or having your developers manage APIs, because the TapClicks team takes care of all API and data connections for you.
Being able to pull data from all your marketing sources along with other data sources means the entire extraction process is done by the TapClicks solution and there is no need to use third-party tools or do anything manually.
Not only is this a massive time-saver, but it means that the process is scalable for multiple brands or clients.
Part of an ETL tool’s job is to clean up or transform data. This includes small tasks like deleting extra columns or duplicates, making sure schemas are consistent, and mapping and organizing data sets so that they are ready for data analysis.
With most ETL tools, this is where the transformation process ends. The “transformed” data is pushed out to another tool, usually a data warehouse or another analytics tool (e.g. Looker or Google Data Studio) where you need to do further work to create visualizations and reports.
This basic ETL function may be fine for general business use cases where the ETL tool’s job is simply to get data from different sources (CRMs, ERP systems, etc.) and store it in a database for various departments to analyze if and when they need.
But marketers need a lot more than “data cleaning” to show clients and stakeholders meaningful analytics. With TapClicks, unlike most ETL tools, you can do advanced calculations so you can visualize and report on your data at a granular level directly from the TapClicks platform.
Here are two examples:
Marketers often deal with metrics from different marketing platforms that have unique names or meanings in each platform but are effectively the same in a big picture context (for example “follows” on Twitter or Facebook and “subscribes” on YouTube).
When reporting or doing analysis, marketers often want to add up or otherwise treat these different metrics as the same (e.g. reporting on total social shares or total social engagement of a large-scale social media campaign). We can call these “umbrella terms”.
This “consolidation” of disparate metrics to create high-level reports for clients or management is typically a manual, labor-intensive, spreadsheet-heavy process that wastes hours of employee time.
But with TapClicks, you can define an umbrella term once and it will remain available and updated with the latest data for all future reports you want to create.
For example, you might define “total social engagement” as the sum of post-reactions on Facebook, “views” on YouTube, or click-throughs on LinkedIn (see below).
Once that custom metric is defined, it will be available in TapClicks forever, with updated data, so you never have to manually add those engagement metrics yourself again to report on it. This can save dozens of hours a week for agencies or marketing teams.
In addition to defining custom metrics, you can also do advanced calculations of all kinds on your data in TapClicks.
For example, if you are a tire manufacturer and you want to view your data by brand, but you have multiple ad campaigns running for different brands, you can set up advanced calculations that find the specific brand names in the campaign names and aggregate stats across all of these into single metrics for that specific brand.
In our example below, we can see that there are 266 Facebook Ad campaigns, all pulling in data from our data sources.
We’ve decided to name a certain segment of those campaigns ‘HNP Campaigns’ (see arrow on the right-hand side).
This means we can now pull data for just those HNP campaigns into any report or dashboard we want to create.
In this example, there are 191 of them and it pulls the data for all of those campaigns into one line (see arrow on the right-hand side).
You can use this function to group and view data by all types of location or by any segment you like — product, campaign type, or group, and zoom in and out as you need to.
Advanced calculations also mean you can calculate the overall click-through rate by adding up clicks across many campaigns and dividing by total impressions. You could calculate cost per click for campaigns across a region or specific product lines by adding up total spend and dividing by total clicks. The possibilities are endless and are not something that could be achieved by a simple ETL tool that only cleans up or consolidates data fields as part of its “transform” function.
And, as with everything in the TapClicks solution, you only have to set these up once. Then every week or every month, the calculated metrics are up-to-date and ready for you to report on.
As we’ve mentioned above, ETL tools generally act as pipelines that collect and push your data out to another tool or data warehouse once it’s been “transformed”. These data warehouses are typically just databases and therefore require a database programmer or data analyst to access the data.
The beauty of TapClicks is that not only does it collect all your data for you and allow you to create custom metrics and advanced calculations (#1 and #2 above), but it’s your data warehouse too, where you can produce reports and/or push data out to other locations.
You can read more about the TapClicks data warehouse function in this article, but essentially, TapClicks is the central hub for all your data, so it can be stored safely in your own fully managed data warehouse forever, and the data can be accessed by any marketer without any database programming skills required.
If you want to visualize data and build reports and dashboards from within TapClicks itself, we have a robust reporting and visualization toolset available. Specifically, you can visualize and report on your data in two different formats.
First, you can create dashboards so you can view campaign data in near real-time (typically updated daily). TapClicks dashboard tools are designed to be scalable, meaning single dashboards or visualization can easily be turned into templates and applied across dozens or hundreds of dashboards. Or, marketing agencies can create one dashboard for a specific type of report and filter the data to each client.
Here’s a video that shows you how to create a dashboard:
Second, we also have a reporting solution, ReportStudio, where your data will automatically populate PowerPoint-style reports. These can be scheduled to be sent out to your chosen audience whenever you want (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly, etc.).
Here’s a short video on how to schedule reports with TapClicks:
If you prefer to analyze and visualize data in a third-party tool, you can also push data from TapClicks to any other destination.
For example, if you use Tableau for analysis and visualization, you can push data from TapClicks there or likewise with Google Sheets. You can read more about TapClicks integration with Google Sheets in this piece.
These are just a few examples. As with ReportStudio, you can schedule and automate when the data is sent out.
TapClicks is a flexible, all-in-one data solution for marketers that does so much more than a general ETL tool. With TapClicks, you can collect, store, analyze, and report on marketing data automatically and at scale.