The heart of marketing is asking big questions like “how do we build a sustainable brand that keeps customers coming back?” and “is it time to diversify our growth?”.
Back when this discipline was more art than science, guesswork played a big role in getting answers. Companies often relied on highly-regarded industry experts who formulated strategies based on a history of past success.
Today, sharp marketers are forward-looking and always experimenting in order to keep up with rapid business shakeups.
If you’re a marketer, it’s time to embrace your inner data nerd. Don’t worry; you’re in good company with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Quentin Tarantino and the plucky protagonists of hit shows like Big Bang Theory and Silicon Valley. Dive in by adopting data-informed strategies.
Data-informed marketers – as opposed to “data-driven” – don’t just blindly follow numbers. They employ a scientific approach of collecting data, testing, analyzing results and continually adjusting. There’s no better way to tackle daunting business questions.
Regardless of whether you work in B2B or B2C, the following steps can transform your team into powerful, data-informed marketers:
a. Set up tech infrastructure to provide raw data.
b. Provide actionable insights.
c. Foster a culture of data citizenship.
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When setting out to build your data infrastructure, selecting the most appropriate product is paramount. Think of it as a nerd’s never-ending quest for the perfect planner. Of course, the right choice will vary depending on company size and industry. A large enterprise will have stricter standards for data security and management, as it’s likely to host vast amounts of sensitive customer information. Meanwhile, a mortgage underwriter likely has specific databases for realtors who provide referrals as well as for customer financial data.
To identify the right tool for your business, start by considering how much historical data you’ll need. This appears straightforward, but cost also comes into play. Data collection and analysis tools both operate and charge differently. For example, when using Salesforce to manage and build reports, the upper limit is restricted to a certain number of operations. Your team must consider what’s covered for the amount of users in your package.
Next, think about security. It’s critical that your customer data is secure with the tool you’ve chosen. If sensitive personal information is ever compromised, it spells disaster.
Lastly, remember to account for the kind of support you can expect. Salesforce’s support team is renowned, while the Salesforce ecosystem of industry and implementation consultants offers another advantage.
The goal is to maximize affordability, functionality and flexibility. Usage rates as well as third party integrations factor into this equation. For example, if you select a cheap warehousing strategy that only connects with Marketo or Hubspot for marketing automation, your team is winning in terms of cost but losing on system flexibility.
We won’t pretend this is an easy choice. The right data infrastructure is a business lynchpin well beyond the marketing department.
Consider an e-commerce website. Thanks to solid data infrastructure, the company stores card and transaction information, plus captures discount codes, payments and inventory data. This comprehensive database opens the door to analysis: marketers for the e-commerce site can understand which regions are underperforming and what products sell best. Next, the marketing team can start to figure out the causes of those trends and try to effect change.
This example illustrates that data is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to actionable insights. Done right, data infrastructure entails more than just storage. Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms analyze that data to furnish wisdom that can inform your marketing strategies. Additionally, these technologies automate a great deal of manual effort. Marketing Cloud is an example of a system that combines both data analysis and automation.
Since geeks seek understanding above all, it makes sense that savvy marketers seek contextual data and total visibility into customer journeys. For instance, a 30% conversion rate doesn’t mean much unless you also have context that it was 7% for the last two years.
Every marketing team’s dream is to have the complete customer lifecycle laid out and honed into specific customer journeys. A “happy or ideal path” might go something like this: the potential customer enters through a social media ad, then lands on a personalized landing page. Then, the new lead receives an email in less than 24 hours. Spurred by a discount provided in the email, they placed an order. Now, the company’s retention goal is to keep this customer placing two orders per month. All of this can be realized in Marketing Cloud.
Nerds build the coolest stuff, from social media platforms, helpful robots and devious systems for annoying roommates to movies finely-tuned to elicit human emotion. Marketing nerds make ideal customer journeys into reality. Here’s how that works:
By creating the social media ad with Ad Studio (currently known as MC Advertising), your marketing team would receive immediate performance data. Let’s say the click rate is currently 12%. Your team might hypothesize that doubling this click rate will have a huge downstream impact. To reach this goal, you could A/B test, randomly splitting your target audience so recipients get two creative versions of the ad. You can see how this approach inches ever closer to the optimal strategy. For data-informed marketers, this process never ends.
Information should be a precursor to action. Marketing Cloud is configured with this principle in mind. Using this platform, your team wouldn’t have to upload creatives or create separate audiences in other systems. Plus, other team members and supervisors could easily access data, removing internal friction.
Having a data warehouse and action options back-to-back helps marketers reduce effort. This way, teams like yours can focus on formulating that ideal customer journey and answering the heavy questions on brand growth.
We’ve talked about setting up a data infrastructure and then leveraging it for actionable marketing insights. The success of these efforts also depends on another factor: culture (No, not pop culture. We know that’s your kryptonite).
When it comes to any digital transformation project, leaders should emphasize how everyone in the organization will benefit. If investing in data infrastructure is a siloed activity enacted by a sole CEO or CMO, it may not be impactful.
All team members should care about getting and using correct data. Your company might invest into data-informed strategies – for marketing as well as other departments – yet fail to get results due to sheer lack of interest. Without the right company culture and expectation-setting, you may end up running on false data, which doesn’t help anyone.
If you’re ready to embrace data-informed marketing strategies, you’ve got plenty of work to do, not just in terms of selecting tools and enacting strategies but also instilling your team with the right attitude.
Steve Jobs, a widely-admired nerd, was, essentially, a marketer. His achievements illustrate the impact of smart, creative and well-executed marketing strategies. Businesses that manage to build recognizable brands and command loyalty – like Apple – reap significant benefits.
Of course, the path to brand success is never clear or straightforward. Marketers grapple with this uncertainty daily, regardless of industry. The best advice we can give is to avoid guesswork. By embracing data-informed marketing strategies, marketers like you can strive to create ideal customer journeys and arrive at the best answers for questions like “how do we diversify growth?” and “how do we increase app stickiness?”.
Many marketing data nerds take advantage of Marketing Cloud. This platform stands out because it allows teams to move from insights to enacting new strategies very quickly. Contact us to learn more about this tool.
The harsh truth is that teams that don’t avail themselves to smart data will be left behind. Scientific-minded marketers that continuously learn from data will come up with the campaigns we all remember. Much like in a high school reunion, it’s the former “geeks” that show up everyone.