There was a time when the marketing function at an organization was just a glorified reporting team. Those teams would track data about their activity, but that information was only used at the end of campaigns and did a better job of describing the campaign than it did of detailing the audience or assessing the value of different pieces of that campaign.
Now that the marketing landscape is based around digital marketing channels — along with offline channels — that can provide more data about the way content is consumed, there’s a new rush to build more data-driven marketing processes. Present-day marketing has already moved past simply providing media air cover and building brand awareness. Today, these teams are the primary growth driver at a data-driven company. It’s a function that uses real-time analytics to make decisions and engage with prospects at every stage of the funnel to drive revenue.
These new abilities come with new responsibilities. Because of the focus on data, marketing teams need to improve their data literacy and approach metrics with the same level of rigor that a data or operations team would employ. Clean, accurate, up-to-date information, when analyzed through the lens of an informed marketing team, is the difference between a company that grows and one that remains stagnant. Here are a few examples of ways that a well-trained modern marketing team can use modern tools to optimize growth.
As you add more unique marketing inputs, the profile of your audience gets exponentially more complex. Not long ago, audience profiles were reliant on survey results and demographic or behavioral information that was too general to provide any significant value. Today’s audience segmentation tools get to break down an audience beyond their demographic descriptors into much more valuable information: interests, habits, purchase history, location, language preference, etc. This type of information moves your marketing team beyond just understanding who is in your audience and into understanding how they behave.
Part of that behavioral knowledge is pinpointing the channels that different segments prefer to use for communication. You can take all the time you want to create a perfect email to your customers, but if they’d rather receive a text message, you might be wasting your time. Building out a profile of each audience segment’s preferred channel will improve engagement with your marketing messages. Assigning new members to segments based on their personal information is also a great way to make sure they’re receiving the right messages on the right channels and ensure that you’re making the most of each opportunity to grow.
Instant Feedback on Experiments
With improved analytics on web traffic, email interaction, and content consumption, today’s marketers can conduct A/B tests at light speed. Rather than compare metrics from two completed campaigns, marketers can test two options on a small sample of their audience and use the results to dictate strategy for the larger audience. Alternatively, they can use a different sample audience to compare another variable. These experiments are a great tool for marketers to monitor the actions of the customers and prospects to build up a base of best practices for their audience.
With a better grasp on the segmentation of their audience, marketers can perform A/B tests on these smaller groups to generate learnings about how to engage each one. Maybe younger customers prefer one website design and older customers prefer a different one. Prospects from the Midwest might react differently to certain email language than prospects on the coasts. Marketers can create experiments using what they already know about their audiences and run tests to confirm or reject their hypotheses.
Marketing teams aren’t operating on hunches anymore, they’re communications scientists and they’re implementing the scientific method of marketing. They start with an educated guess then run a test, observe the results, and adjust their hypothesis. This is the new era of marketing, treating each campaign as a laboratory to optimize growth and better understand the target audience.
At its core, marketing is about managing millions of one-on-one relationships between your brand and individual customers or prospects. The advances in segmentation and testing can be combined to tailor messages or campaigns that speak directly to certain types of people. Smart marketing finds a way to combine everything that a company knows about an individual into content that feels uniquely personalized.
All that data you’re collecting should ultimately result in the right messages going to the right targets at exactly the right time. Today’s consumers are leaning away from one-to-many billboard-style messaging and embracing companies that demonstrate an understanding of what makes them unique. As a marketing team, this means putting more effort into designing your funnel to account for all of the different ways different people can engage with your organization, but it also means you have an exciting opportunity to create relationships with your product that are deeper and more meaningful than ever before.
The result of all this data being collected should be an automated, but still highly-personalized approach to marketing. You don’t have to be Netflix-level good at determining an individual customer’s tastes, but you do need to put yourself in your target’s shoes for a bit and think about what will move them. When it comes to personalizing your marketing efforts, you should be looking for any opportunity to stand out; little things can go a long way toward building loyal customers.
The journey of modern customers can be extremely complex and finding a way to allot attribution to the stops along that journey can be a mess. While it’s possible that someone sees a single message from your company and makes a purchase instantly, it’s extremely unlikely. Today’s consumers need to see multiple messages across several different platforms before making a purchase decision. Even if you have a perfect view of every interaction leading up to a purchase, determining what role each played in the ultimate decision is a very inexact science.
While it seems like improved data collection on digital channels would be a benefit to marketers, it turns out that most teams are so overwhelmed by the amount of data they collect that it ends up being a distraction. Instead of trying to make sense of all of the different touches across all the channels, marketing teams see that flood of information and either abandon attribution entirely or reduce it to an oversimplified model like first- or last-touch. This may have worked in the past, but if your approach to data is to throw out most or all of it, you’re also losing most or all of the value that the data can bring.
To do marketing data right, a good place to start is with your data team. Let them study the bigger picture of channels and the attribution model you currently have in place. From a data-centric view, maybe that team can zoom out and notice some larger trends that you might have missed. With a large dataset, a team of data professionals is uniquely suited to dig around and find valuable insights that can help your team connect certain marketing touches to value. Maybe they could even help you design some attribution experiments to begin building out your own set of best practices.
Data should be opening doors for your marketing team, not causing confusion or holding you back. It’s time to start taking advantage of all the opportunities for data to teach you about your targets and the best way to communicate with them.