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7 Steps to Becoming a Data-Driven Marketer

“Data analytics is ultimately about making good decisions. It doesn’t matter what business you are in or what your role is at your company, we all want to — need to, really — make smart, informed, evidence-based decisions.”
~ Amy Gallo, Contributing Editor, Harvard Business Review

Becoming a genuine data-driven marketer is a priority for more than 67 percent of B2B firms, according to research by Forrester. However, the same study also found that “only half of marketing and sales decisions are based on data.” Most companies understand the growing need to get a handle on how they collect, analyze and glean actionable insights. But, in order to fully realize the desire to execute data-driven marketing, companies must also identify which data points to monitor and measure in order to achieve the goals they are pursuing.

Step 1:  Inventory Data Sources

Make a list of all of the tools and systems that are collecting data throughout your organization. Organize the list by department and note what types of data are being collected and how data is being stored. A few questions to ask during this process are:

  • Do we have the data we need already?
  • Can we collect the data we don’t have, but want, or should we purchase data?
  • Is data standardized within the company or does it vary according to department?
  • Who is managing the data sources in each department?
  • Is there data that other departments want that we can purchase together

Step 2:  Integrate Data Sources

As we noted in the previous chapter you can’t make informed decisions when the information you are using varies from one department to another. If you haven’t invested in an integration platform to connect all data sources in your organization, now is the time. Yes, you may have some political campaigning to do with people in other departments in order to get their data out of a silo, but it is a quest they will benefit from, too.

Step 3:  Prep Data for Use

Data is constantly changing. Customers get promoted, change offices and move on to new companies every day. To account for all this change, we recommend adding a data management tool to your stack. A good data management tool will not only eliminate dirty data, it will complete, enrich and standardize data, so that your data remains valuable and ready for use. Just as integrated data allows you to see the whole story, clean, high-quality data ensures that you get the story right.

Step 4:  Centralize Data Access

Centralizing access to customer data is how you get closer to the holy grail of creating a single customer view, and a single customer view is essential to your understanding and execution of a flawless customer experience. Although it may seem a monumental task, tools such as marketing dashboards (aka data dashboards) simplify the task. Other benefits of centralized data include enhanced targeting for campaigns, increased productivity since everyone can see where customers are in their journey, and the ability to mine data for insights with greater speed and ease.

Step 5:  Determine Measurements and Establish Benchmarks

Lots of organizations make the mistake of tracking the wrong measurements. To avoid this problem, write down the goals for both your marketing department and the company as a whole. Then, for each goal ask yourself:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What are the variables or key performance indicators (KPIs) that we must track/measure in order to determine progress?
  • What result will connote success?

Once you have identified what it is you want to know and how you are going to measure it, you will need to establish benchmarks in order to accurately track performance. If your data has been connected for some time, you should be able to use your data dashboard to analyze KPIs over a defined period of time and set your benchmarks. If you do not have access to past performance of KPIs, you will need to begin tracking them now so that you can establish the benchmarks against which your future success will be measured.

Step 6:  Analyze Data

Analyzing your marketing data does not require a PhD in mathematics or the help of a full-time data analyst. Although either or both would be nice, it’s not a deal-breaker in your quest to glean actionable insights from your data. The KPIs you identified in the previous step are your metrics, or the variables you are measuring. To find insights you will need to start at a fixed point in time and then track the journey of your KPIs over time. For example, let’s say you had a goal to increase Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) in the second quarter. To reach this goal you decide to launch a cross-channel campaign that offers your segmented list a free white paper. The KPI you would track throughout the second quarter would be how many of your targets downloaded the white paper. At the end of the second quarter, you would compare this number to the first quarter benchmark to determine if you hit your goal. Of course, other insights are available from tracking the SQLs, such as: Which channel saw the most downloads? Was the topic of the white paper as popular as last quarter’s white paper? Etc.

Step 7:  Share Insights

As you follow the highs and lows of the metrics you choose across time, you are looking for patterns and trends. These will be the roots of your insights and the foundation upon which you will form your hypotheses for optimizing performance. A good marketing/data dashboard will help you do this by visualizing the data for you in graphs or charts that make it easy to see averages, outliers and anomalies. Your dashboard should also come with a feature that allows you to share the insights you’ve found in graphic reports that enable everyone to see precisely what you are talking about. Once you have gathered and shared this information, you are now able to make decisions based on what the numbers are telling you, and that is data-driven marketing in its purest form.

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