When it comes to marketing, data reigns supreme. Datasets and insights can be used in a number of ways by marketing professionals. Marketing is evolving to a point where it no longer is just all about buzzwords, clever slogans and flash-in-the-pan tactics.
Today’s marketers must be data-driven, analytical and strategic to see results from their marketing activities, whether they are launching a new product or growing an existing one.
Optimizing marketing strategies
Data can inform and optimize marketing strategies in several ways. It all comes down to the type of data that is being collected and how that data is applied. Data can help marketers define and track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as website traffic, conversion rates, and customer lifetime values. They can then examine whether these KPIs align with their business goals.
Data also can help marketers segment their audience and gain critical insights into consumer behavior and preferences. Sound data will help determine which strategies work best for reaching target audiences and which ones don’t.
“You can only take action on data if you have an idea of what your end goal should be. Any marketing data approach should include an initial goal-setting process.”
This allows businesses across all industries—from retail stores through hospitality companies down through B2B organizations—to optimize their efforts by focusing on those channels/social media platforms/campaigns with proven ROI potential instead of wasting time and money on things that won’t get results.
For example, if you want to target young professionals who live in the city and have children, you might segment by buying behavior. Where are they doing their grocery shopping? Where are they spending their entertainment money for their children? What are the age, gender, and family makeup specifications for this segment? The more you can glean from data, the better your marketing approach will be.
Any business owner knows that customers are the main driving force behind their business’ growth. They are the reason for a business’s existence, and customers will keep one in business if they continue to be happy with what they get from their relationship with the brand.
If these people are not satisfied with how things are going, there is no point in having any sort of marketing strategy at all—it won’t matter how much time or effort goes into it if nobody cares about what comes out of it. Strong data and market segmentation speak directly to an organization’s need to build strong consumer relationships.
Driving better results
Continuously testing and iterating on marketing strategy can drive better results overall. Data can point you toward cutting investments with low returns on investment (ROI) and allow you to feed other channels with potentially better returns.
Automating data collection can also drive better results. From sending out emails to scheduling social media posts or polls, automated data collection can save marketers money and time, freeing them up to think of ways to best improve the customer experience or reach more people.
The type of data you collect and analyze matters as well. Great marketing minds understand which datasets are most connected to success and which data is actionable. For example, suppose you see that a donation campaign featuring images of people is garnering more clicks and donations than a campaign with no images or just simple research icons. In that case, you can optimize the stronger campaign with a higher conversion.
Whether the datasets are constantly in flux or more static, they can be leveraged to drive better marketing results if used appropriately.
Data for any size organization
Now that we know what kind of data we want and what can be done with it, how can marketers get the most out of their data once it’s collected? That question can best be answered by first taking a look at the size of the organization.
Data analytics may be approached differently by a small- or medium-sized organization than it is by a large one, as smaller or midsize companies may not have the systems or people in place to manage large amounts of data. Even if they could collect the data, analyzing and processing that data could be cost or time prohibitive.
The prospect of data analytics and data-driven decision-making could easily overwhelm small and midsize businesses. The deluge of data can be significant, and it can be easy to dismiss the benefits of solid data analytics if you feel you are being bombarded with datasets.
The focus for these small and midsize businesses should be those key performance indicators that make the most significant impacts. For small businesses, their KPIs may be more locally targeted, for example. The most important part of the equation is consistency. Data cannot be actionable or a benefit if it is not being consistently collected or analyzed—regardless of the brand’s size.
“Data cannot be actionable or a benefit if it is not being consistently collected or analyzed—regardless of the brand’s size.”
Step by step
So, where should an organization start? No matter the individual situation, an organized and intentional approach can help anyone get the most out of that precious data.
1. Define goals
You can only take action on data if you have an idea of what your end goal should be. Any marketing data approach should include an initial goal-setting process. What do you hope will happen with your marketing efforts? Do you have a target growth percentage you would like to hit? No matter what you hold as essential goals for your marketing strategy, those goals must be defined.
2. Collect meaningful data and analyze it correctly
As we previously discussed, the type of data matters. Whether you are using surveys, focus groups, or automated data collection and web analytics, you want to make sure you’re not barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. The analysis stage must be approached thoughtfully as well. Look for patterns and study how that data can best be applied so that those goals you set in “Step 1” are within reach.
3. Apply what you learn from data
Data is useless unless it is actionable, even if that action is simply halting a marketing approach that isn’t working. Data can point us in the right direction or shoo us away from a direction that is not going to have a satisfactory return.
4. Track your results
Once you properly apply data and make marketing decisions based on that data, you must track the results of those efforts. Is a shift in your marketing strategy working? Are you better off this year than last year? How many new customers have you garnered with a data-informed marketing strategy? These are all questions you can ask yourself when tracking marketing campaign results.
Marketing can be approached scientifically, instead of being a process where we simply throw ideas at the wall hoping something sticks. You can truly get the most out of your data by properly utilizing strong data collection and analytic practices.
Julia Fitzgerald is a CMO, senior executive, Board Director and author with 20-plus years of experience in growth strategies, marketing plans and brand strategies. She has expertise in building digital eco systems that include websites, apps, portals and CRM. She also is experienced in driving digital engagement, sales and leads through search, SEO, display, social and content marketing.