Don’t Trust Your Gut: Making Impactful Data Driven Marketing Decisions
We think that anyone, anywhere, in any profession from any background will agree with the following statement: “Decisions driven by data will reveal the greatest results.” However, in the world of marketing, so many decisions are made by gut feelings and the general momentum of the product or business. According to PWC (https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/library/view-of-decisions.html), 59% of executives report making decisions using only human feeling. At the same time, 39% of decisions are highly data driven. Digital marketing is perfectly suited to make quick decisions based on data. But, most marketers only optimize marketing efforts at set periods and do so without fully understanding their data. But, what’s causing this disconnect, and how can the gap be bridged?
The first issue we see is one that has become and old and tired tale for most marketers: data is siloed and unstructured. This has a cascading effect on the rest of the analysis and optimization decisions. Without a full understanding of the data landscape, marketers are stuck looking at each report separately and can’t make the informed decision they want. They’re forced to look at disparate data sets that don’t always measure the same outcome. It becomes impossible to prove a customer journey or create or connect meaningful KPIs. With all of these hurdles to overcome, marketers barely have time to make minor optimizations day in and day out.
Another issue we consistently see to compound this is that digital marketing moves fast, and the accumulation of data can take time. Therefore, marketers wait for data to come in and build before making any changes to their bids or creatives. Though we do understand that large scale changes require a lot of data and can be expensive, in terms of investing in new creative or new messaging, small scale changes can be inexpensive and do not require much time or investment. This is especially true in what we like to call “always on" channels like display and paid search. We see that most marketers will create a campaign, launch it, and leave it to their agency to run the campaign and provide a report at the end. The marketer loses huge opportunities in this scenario, by waiting for monthly reports or campaign summaries before making changes, marketers fail to optimize individual ad placements or keywords that might be better performers in the larger scheme of their marketing plan.
The disparate data issue also leads to a division in teams. Rarely do the search teams and display teams sync up to compare trends. Further, certain rises and dips in the activity and effectiveness of these "always on" channels can vary strongly with more direct marketing deployments, like email and SMS campaigns, and should be measured together.
Each issue can be resolved without too much headache. Siloed and unstructured data is able to be parsed and defined into a dashboard, but the trick is setting it up. Partners exist, like SAP Marketing Cloud, to help you gather your disparate data sources into one space and tie each interaction to a customer contact. It’s a good solution, but it requires some time and investment. A better way might be to add a human element. By performing some expert analysis, you can determine marketing ebbs and flows based on the different investments and campaigns launched by each of your channels or partners. Though it may not get you down to the individual user, understanding how your brand search investment rises after each email should give you an idea of how to budget spending in one channel or the other.
The speed of digital marketing can be a hard one to solve, but it’s not impossible either. The most simple solution is to not let yourself or your team get bogged down in the details. Define exactly which KPIs matter to you and make sure each team is aligned on that goal. If you’ve built a unified marketing analysis, even without a fancy dashboard, it should be easy to figure out what these KPIs should be. In the end, the answer is revenue. This can be harder to attribute to an upper funnel type of marketing that is reaching out to possible new customers, but if those that are reached never convert, then regardless of the traffic they drive, your business can estimate that the investment is not worth it. Defining the proper measurement will make each member of your marketing organizations goal easier and help them work together.
In turn, we’re then able to solve the problem of disparate teams. By aligning our data, whether by platform or by human analysis, and by determining team wide KPIs, we’re able to encourage more collaboration and help our different teams understand how their efforts might impact another team. Facilitating an environment where all marketing is measured together will encourage the team to work on cross channel promotions and create innovative ways to deliver your message to your potential customers.
Understanding these problems and solutions will go a long way toward optimizing your marketing budget and teams. Building a data framework you understand becomes your first goal, which in turns allow you to develop and analyze KPIs that are relevant to your business, that enable your team to work together to plan and execute cohesive marketing campaigns to examine and optimize over time. Once you and your company have an understanding of your entire marketing ecosystem, you’ll be able to make adjustments during campaigns to get the most out of your budget and use longer term information to choose the right digital marketing mix for each new campaign.
Data driven marketing decisions are important to maximize the efficiency of your marketing. Make sure you evaluate how you're determining your marketing budget and optimize it to bring in the most amount of returns.