Drive Action Through Marketing Data By Giving It Meaning

How often have you created a report that served up shiny, impressive statistics only to see those results not translate into action from decision makers and stakeholders? Raw data, month-over-month comparisons and even key performance indicator (KPI) goals won’t necessarily earn buy-in from leadership. Giving meaning to marketing data by connecting the dots across channels helps prove the value in a diverse set of tactics, and guides future decision making. 

To do this, consider the bigger story told in the marketing plan. No marketing plan encompasses just one tactic, so the story told through reporting shouldn’t either. Consider each stage of your customer’s journey and the strategy used to support those stages. Based on the channel the report centers on, ask these questions:

  • What stage of the customer journey does this tactic support?

  • How is this channel influenced by other tactics that support an earlier phase of the customer journey?

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    How does this tactic influence later phases of the customer journey?

As an example, when creating a report about a business’s paid social media efforts, first define a goal for the campaign, then how that goal supports the customer journey and what metrics support that goal. Then ask how the business's organic social media influenced paid efforts. Was an increase in followers from a paid campaign supported by organic content on the page as well? Is there an opportunity to push organic content further using paid tactics?

Creating a report that doesn’t first ask these questions might lead to a focus too closely on metrics that don’t support the purpose and position of the campaign. For instance, focusing on engagement metrics won’t help tell the story of a conversion campaign.

By asking these questions first, and building reports that reinforce the marketing strategy, a deeper level of meaning is brought to the data, which decision makers then see. 

Of course, connecting the dots is difficult if data can’t be interpreted to begin with. One of the many advantages of being a marketer today is that almost any datapoint imaginable is at our fingertips. But that can create a lot of noise.

Creating "SMART" goals at the beginning of every campaign sets the foundation to tell the right story. A smart goal is a mnemonic that helps define intentions. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Here’s an example:

Generic goal: Increase conversions on my website.

  • Make it Specific: I want to increase the number of conversions from new customers.
  • Make it Measurable: I want to increase conversions of new customers by 15%.
  • Make it Actionable: I will accomplish this by running retargeting ads on Facebook.
  • Make it Realistic: Ask whether this goal can be achieved and reassess if necessary.
  • Make it Time-bound: I want to accomplish this over the next three months.

Now the goal is to increase conversions from new customers by 15% through retargeting ads on Facebook over the next three months. This type of specificity gives marketers and decision makers clarity about what to expect as well as measurable outcomes for gauging success.

Using the SMART method to set campaign goals automatically creates a framework for reporting. This allows marketers to shape the story told without getting lost in unnecessary details that detract from a campaign’s purpose.

Now it’s time to bring it all together. After determining how a campaign supports larger marketing goals, set clear and attainable goals and tell a story with the data. Rather than simply calling out what happened, build a report to focus on how certain things happened, why they happened and how it connects to a bigger marketing story. This is where marketers move from providing insights to sharing wisdom —  to naturally guide the conversation to the most important, actionable question. What comes next? 

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