Of late, data-driven marketing has become a very popular turn of phrase. But if it often seems like we’re all talking about different things when we talk about data-driven decision making, it’s because we are. Data is a hot buzzword, and while many marketers are thinking about how they can get on the bandwagon, still more are unsure about where to begin, what they should be focusing on, and what being ‘data-driven’ even means.
So What Does Data-Driven Mean?
A data-driven organization is not synonymous with data collection; data-driven refers to how you collect data and what you do with it once you’ve got it. Though marketing will often (rightfully) require you to go with your gut, you should always measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and iterate based on results rather than a fuzzy sense of what worked. Digital marketing in particular allows for robust reporting and measurement, and one of the biggest mistakes marketers make is failing to learn from that data.
But being data-driven isn’t just about campaign experimentation and optimization. While all marketers can surely benefit from solid optimization strategies, the best marketers go much farther, gathering relevant data about all aspects of their business and diving deep to learn more about what makes their customers tick.
Don’t get caught up in pulling reports—you can’t go from analytics to action just by looking at numbers. It’s all too easy to implement analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Omniture, but these tools can’t provide insights directly related to business outcomes. They can’t tell you how you can drive more sales or increase customer satisfaction; you have to be able to determine that, using the metrics they offer as a guide.
Finally, data-driven thinking is not limited to web analytics. With the right mindset you can gather valuable insight from virtually every customer interaction, from the keywords potential customers search for to the customer service calls they make.
Smart Data Collection: Don’t Gather Metrics for Metrics’ Sake
For many organizations, the problem is not too little data, it’s too much.
It’s incredibly easy to begin collecting pieces of information, beginning with web traffic and conversion rates, and moving ever so seamlessly into more obscure metrics. You could spend hours in Google Analytics, segmenting your traffic by geography, comparing the conversion from different East European countries, but what are you actually measuring?
Each and every piece of data you collect should attempt to answer a fundamental business question, such as ‘is our brand awareness improving?’ or ‘is my content marketing driving revenue?’ or should seek to measure the success of a new or existing campaign, i.e. ‘will our website redesign improve our conversion rates?’ The answer to questions like these should have the power to fundamentally change some aspect of your business. For example, if you find that certain pieces of content are driving revenue, this can (and should) be reflected by ramping up your content strategy. If your website redesign didn’t improve your conversion rate, go back to the drawing board.
If a piece of data, such as the conversion rate in Slovakia, doesn’t answer a specific business question or measure success on some level, it’s not helping you. If there is no way that a metric could change your behavior, don’t collect it. There is no inherent value in data collection; it’s only valuable insofar as it can help you improve your bottom line.
Before gathering any given metric, you should have a solid understanding of what you are measuring, why it’s important to your business, and above all, how your results might change the way you do things.
An Organizational Shift
For a truly data-driven organization to function at its peak, the ethos of analysis must permeate the entire organization. If data-driven thinking is only characteristic of the marketing team, you’ll be missing out on a wealth of rich and actionable data.
If your organization is not there yet, take some advice from Avinash Kaushik on how to convince the rest of your organization to focus on the data, and to ditch reporting for true analysis.
Check back for more updates on which touch points you can gather insights from and how you can use those insights to improve your customer experience.