5 Questions that Matter in Marketing

From the advent of the data age, businesses have struggled to harness new technology to make data-driven marketing decisions. From lead conversion to better ROI, and now customer engagement, marketers are eager to make use of the power data has endowed them with.

Every modern company aspires to be ‘data-driven.’ The problem is, achieving this coveted label isn’t so simple. With new power comes new complications – keeping data clean, separating facts from assumptions, tracking the right metrics, and choosing appropriate platforms and tools, just to name a few.

So how can businesses know if they’re truly data-driven or getting stuck in the various pitfalls of wielding unfamiliar technology? While the details vary for each business, a few simple questions can provide clarity.

1) Is a cross-channel strategy employed and is it getting results?

Most businesses know they need to reach out to their audience through multiple online channels. The easy part is creating accounts and having a presence on all of these relevant channels. The hard part is creating cohesion between them. A cross-channel strategy accomplishes two valuable objectives: It ushers customers smoothly from one step of the marketing funnel to the next, and it amplifies the impact and message of the overall marketing strategy.

A cross-channel strategy that is employed correctly will strengthen brand recognition and help customers remember specifically what it has to offer. A business without a cross- channel strategy ends up with choppier communications and a value proposition that lacks unity.

2) Is data being collected and analyzed in silos?

What happens when the findings of one dataset contradict another? How can marketers avoid comparing apples to oranges or drawing conclusions based on data that is too limited and specific? Ultimately, collecting and analyzing data on several separate platforms increases confusion and makes it harder to create a cross-channel strategy that makes sense. Platforms that allow for a centralized data hub give a broader perspective of the health of a business’ marketing efforts. These platforms also increase communication and collaboration between team members who should all be accessing the same data reports.

Fortunately, data silos are a problem that businesses are making great strides in solving –

According to a recent study by Teradata, “43 percent of respondents said they have achieved fully integrated data across teams, compared with just 18 percent in 2013.”

3) Is data being analyzed and action being taken?

It sounds all too obvious, but even highly developed marketing teams can get caught up in the chase – that is, collecting data endlessly as if collection is the goal itself. In addition, companies can easily lapse into using data strictly in hindsight, looking back at past results to understand what already happened. This neglects the bigger purpose of data, which is to forecast, improve future outcomes, and prevent problems. It’s crucial for businesses to stay focused on answering the right questions with data rather than endlessly collecting larger and larger pools of data. Bigger is not always better – especially if the ‘why’ behind the project grows hazier as the data size increases. If data is collected and analyzed successfully, but no clear information can be learned from it, it’s a red flag that marketers need to go back to the drawing board. Even the most skilled data analysts with precise conclusions won’t make an impact if decision-makers don’t head their advice.

4) Is testing central to how the organization operates?

At the heart of every data-driven organization is testing. Whether its split testing two versions of an ad campaign, swapping email subject lines, or anything else, a data-driven company tests whatever has an unknown outcome. A large corporation with several product lines might run dozens of marketing tests per day to pinpoint optimal ways to reach customers.
This testing culture is born from the realization that there is always another way to tweak, streamline, and optimize processes for best results. Thus data-driven organizations embrace testing as a means of continually growing their reach, understanding customers more intimately, and increasing revenue. As predictions are made about inventory, sales, or marketing, companies can later look back to assess the accuracy of these predictions and make changes to improve.

5) Where is most of the time spent?

A good rule of thumb is that marketers should be spending less time on data collection and reporting, and more time using those insights to create change. According to Hubspot, wasted time can be reduced by making small changes, such as automatically updating reports daily. Simplifying the data collection and reporting process makes space for data analysts to spend more time on what matters – generating thoughtful insights and using the information to solve problems. Companies must have sufficient time to reflect on the bigger picture underneath their data – What is the deeper meaning and why are these patterns playing out?

Ultimately, a business is only data-driven if it takes consistent action based on definitive findings. For that to happen, a business needs to have sound data collection and analytical capabilities. In addition, being able to segment datasets without going too far as to create silos is critical.

This delicate dance of using data intelligently isn’t easy, but for the persistent marketer, it pays off in spades. A data-driven company is a company that knows the health of its customer-base, where its revenue is coming from, and what marketing decisions to make next. Businesses no longer need to leave these immensely important choices to chance. With data, there can be certainty, and with certainty, peace of mind.