We spend a lot of time talking to clients about the data generated by advertising and marketing campaigns. We talk about what they should be measuring, the best ways to measure it and what to do with it once its all collected. More and more we’re hearing a common refrain – “we’re drowning in data.”
The Difference Between Marketing Data and Actionable Information
As marketers, we live in exciting times. More so than ever before we have access to tools that allow us to see not only how often customers are viewing our messaging, but also the actions they’re taking the conversations they’re having thereafter. And it’s not just limited to digital marketing either – the new systems becoming available to connect the dots between traditional advertising and real-world results are increasingly powerful. But as anyone who’s ever looked at a Google Analytics dashboard can tell you, there’s a big difference between marketing data and actionable information.
See, marketing data are things like the number of visitors coming to your website, your email marketing open rates, the paid media impression levels and your sales team’s call volumes. It’s the disparate data points often culled from a myriad of systems and (oh the horror!) paper reports that are typically good at validating the performance of that particular tactic but rarely provide the context required to help you understand what’s happening in relation to your business objectives.
Actionable information, on the other hand, are the insights that allow you to understand the performance of the marketing strategies in relation to your desired business objectives. These are the insights that allow you to draw accurate correlations and make optimizations to improve results. These are things like how many e-commerce sales resulted from that email you sent out last night, how your press announcement impacted customer discussion levels and how your email, search engine optimization, online banner ads and public relations campaigns are working together to increase brand loyalty and inbound calls from prospects.
Unfortunately, collecting data is easy. It’s the actionable information part that’s hard.
Beating Data Paralysis
I had a conversation the other day with the CEO for a fast-growing business based in the Midwest. He has a well-regarded and popular product that sells extremely well online. His number one complaint about his (now former) advertising agency? They loved to give him reams of web analytics, call-center reports and ad flight information; but all he really wanted to know was what strategies were generating sales (so he could invest more money in them) and what strategies weren’t producing the desired results (so he could stop spending money in them).
Moral of the story: beating data paralysis requires good analysis; the type that will empower talented marketers to make smart decisions about creative approach, tactical implementation and resource allocation. So what can you do to lay the groundwork for good analysis?
Focus On The Metrics That Matter Most
You can accomplish a lot, and quickly, by focusing on the key performance indicators that have the most direct impact on your business objectives. For instance, if you’re primarily interested in lowering your customer acquisition costs the number of people visiting your website as the result of an online ad campaign is much less important than the cost per lead resulting from the campaign.
Start With Proper Measurement In Mind
Ever hear the saying, “garbage in, garbage out?” It applies to marketing too. If you want to have a clean and clear understanding of how your campaigns have performed you have to design data collection and analysis in from the beginning. This includes thinking through your data collection methodology, establishing reasonable performance assumptions and structuring the campaigns to insure statistically relevant results.
Develop A Reasonable Attribution Model
Marketing attribution – that is the model outlining the amount of “credit” that each tactic or strategy should receive for the outcome produced – is a complicated topic. However I have a secret for you. In my experience, there’s no such thing as a perfect attribution model. Every one I’ve ever seen is flawed in a different way.
With that said, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have one. Unless you happen to only be doing one marketing or advertising strategy (and really, how many of us often do that?) then you should stay away from last touch attribution models as they over emphasize the importance of the last advertising channel that brings a customer to your storefront. Instead, evaluate multi-channel models that give a proportional amount of credit to the full range of marketing elements that your customer experienced.
Marketing Automation Is Your Friend
Marketing automation is the name given to software platforms that are used to automate repetitive marketing-related tasks that I’m willing to bet you rather not have to do anyway. These can be tasks as simple as emailing out scheduled marketing messages (e.g. iContact, Mailchimp) and managing social media updates (e.g. Hootsuite, CoTweet) to tasks as complex as lead nurturing (e.g. Marketo, Eloqua ) and social media sentiment monitoring (e.g. Radian6, Jive Software). Regardless of the purpose, marketing automation tools will not only help free up time within your organization to focus on distilling actionable insights, but these tools make it easier to collect the data you’ll need to conduct the analysis