Digital technology has created an enormous volume of new opportunities for marketers, and the rate of change that defines and shapes the channels we currently market through shows no signs of slowing down. The control, reach and automation that we already leverage as advertisers provides the flexibility to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time, and enables us to better accomplish -- and measure against -- a host of advertising objectives.
It is now clear that the fundamental key to success in any of today’s digital marketing channels is data.
Whether you’re working with paid or organic search advertising, display, social, mobile, video, email, affiliate, or even shopping channels, the raw material of your craft is data -- and without it, there is no direction, no accountability, and no strategy.
Here are six things you should be doing with data to improve your marketing strategy:
1. Define it
Too many organizations have taken a “get it all and we’ll worry about what to do with it later” approach to data. Well, now it’s time to start worrying. Before you begin collecting data, spend the time to define the metrics, key performance indicators and data segments that can map to tangible business objectives and provide a catalyst for change. Taking stock of what you will measure and how that data will be used to make decisions and evaluate success or failure will help drive the data collection solution you will need to implement.
2. Collect it
Data collection has come a long way, but it is still in a very nascent and fragmented stage. A Web analytics implementation requires much more than slapping some code on your Web site, and today’s tools offer massive customization opportunities. And clickstream Web analytics tools and advertising platforms are now just pieces of the data collection puzzle: Customer data, audience and targeting data, transactional and financial data, social measurements, application tracking, form and visual analytics, and voice of customer data can all help you make crucial decisions. Architecting a data solution and infrastructure that connects these sources, standardizes across tools and platforms and provides a usable data set is the goal.
3. Analyze it
The amount of data we have at our disposal can be overwhelming, and successful organizations don’t waste time on month-to-month and year-over-year comparisons of hit counts. Instead, they leverage data mining and visualization tools to explore the data for inconsistencies and anomalies. This is where insights and opportunities hide. In addition, to optimize how marketing dollars are spent, effective analysts are building and applying customized attribution models that credit various channels with appropriate value across the multiple touchpoints on multiple devices that define today’s consumers.
4. Disseminate it
The greatest analysts finding the most valuable insights are worthless unless those insights arrive in the hands of decision-making stakeholders in a language that can be understood. Resist the urge to send hundreds of pages of tables, numbers and graphs to an email list on a weekly basis. Instead, condense the key messages, recommendations and supporting data into consumable chunks by way of dashboards and bulletted points that can be presented as clear, actionable recommendations.
5. Act on it
The concept of a data-driven organization is one that many are now proudly proclaiming and embracing, and hopefully yours is one of them. While instinct, gut and raw talent still have their place, if you have implemented a data strategy that provides confidence and accuracy, at the end of the day you can let your data guide you with conviction. Using the data to drive action is what truly makes it valuable, and going through the cycle of taking action, measuring that action, learning from it and starting over again provides a framework for continuous improvement.
6. Own it
As marketers become more sophisticated with data, they will become more aware and protective of its value. We will see more accountability in data privacy and ownership as data is recognized and valued as a digital asset that is responsible and required for competitive advantage. Taking steps now to ensure that the data being generated by the tools, platforms and services you are using remains your own will pay dividends tomorrow.
Data is truly the common currency that advertising will use in the years to come, and cultivating a strategy and infrastructure to leverage its power is what will define the success or failure of tomorrow’s organizations.