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Free yourself from Excel

People talk about ‘Death by PowerPoint’, but the biggest killer in marketing is not PowerPoint, but its Microsoft stablemate: the Excel spreadsheet.

Among the numerous big brands and retailers we consult with about helping them make their marketing operations more efficient, the most commonly occurring statement I hear is, “can you do anything about all these spreadsheets?” – usually accompanied by pulling out of hair and a sallow-faced, wide-eyed look of despair.

As it turns out, there is something we can do about it – but more about that later. First, what is it that makes marketers refer to their campaign spreadsheets by such affectionate names as the Spreadsheet of Doom or the Squares of Despair?

The first horror is version control. When companies run their campaigns and allocations via spreadsheets, there’s necessarily a requirement for several departments to be involved. Legion are the stories of departments all working off different versions, leading to the wrong assets being briefed, the wrong amount of print being ordered, and the wrong allocations being sent to stores.

Excel almost encourages easy mistakes. Delete one figure linked to a formula, and you can throw whole rows of important data out.

Checking and checking

There are also tortuously long checking processes to ensure all the information that has been put into a master spreadsheet by everyone from legal to HR to procurement is accurate and matches up.

“I’ve got a marketing degree,” I was told recently, “but I’ve just spent my afternoon running my finger over a spreadsheet.”

When you couple Excel issues with communications via email, with all the lack of visibility for anyone not in that particular chain, emails going into junk folders, and people never being able to find the right email, even when they have a vague recollection of receiving it, you have a recipe for errors and vast unnecessary duplication of effort.

Some of our recommendation to companies looking to us to help drive efficiencies is about process; the rest is about technology.

MRM efficiency

In an efficient marketing operation, the two go hand-in-hand. Manual campaign planning, email briefings and approvals, assets held on suppliers’ hard drives, store allocations spreadsheets (and guesswork) – all of these and more can be replaced by an efficient and flexible MRM platform.

Everything you require to run your operation is in one place, accessible to anyone with permissions, and with only one version of any data – the one within the system. All briefings, amendment and approval information is held in an easily accessible part of the software, rather than in the middle of a virtual forest of emails.

With the right MRM system, you can say goodbye to the Spreadsheet of Doom altogether – and get on with doing all those nice strategic things you dreamed of when you were doing your marketing degree.

Until next time

Simon Ward

About Simon Ward

Simon Ward ITG – Simon is the founder and CEO of pioneering technology-led marketing company, Inspired Thinking Group (ITG). ITG delivers best-in-class marketing software, procurement and studio services to dozens of blue-chip clients, including Audi, M&S, KFC, PUMA and Heineken.

Simon Ward SP Group – Prior to ITG, Simon founded SP Digital in 1998, and in 1999 bought SP Print to form SP Group, creating innovative marketing and point of sale displays for some of the world’s best-known retailers, including M&S, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Calvin Klein.