6 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in a Data-Driven Marketing World

Data-Driven Marketing

All marketers know that data has completely changed our work and daily lives. We now have access to our audience’s demographics and habits, true statistics on social media engagement and great knowledge about when people actually click on one of our ad campaigns. But along with the benefits of this new data-driven marketing world can come some stress and anxiety.

What data should I be looking at? Am I collecting it well? Which data-collection companies should I be working with? How should we hold ourselves accountable? Why isn’t what I’m doing working!?

I’m stressing myself out just writing this list!

How to Get Control of Your Data

But don’t worry – data does not have to take control of you! Here are six easy tips for surviving, and even thriving, in today’s data-information-overload-statistic-spreadsheet landslide!

Tip #1: Set clear goals

One of the fastest ways to become overwhelmed by data is to not know what you’re tracking or why you’re tracking it. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve talked to that have told me: “I want to grow our Facebook audience. I want more Likes.”

That’s great! But then I always ask them:

“What do you want Facebook to do for your company? What are your overall goals for social media?”

A lot of times I receive silence at those second questions.

It’s incredibly important to understand the goals of marketing campaigns. Do you want to increase page views to your website? Do you want to collect emails? Do you want client sign-ups? Brand awareness? Or more likely, the key metrics you need to measure are more around leads and conversion. No matter what your key objectives and metrics of success are, make sure you are focused on strategies and tactics that align with those priorities.

Make sure you know your goals before you start collecting and tracking data. Otherwise, it won’t mean much to you, and you won’t be sure if you’re being successful.

Tip #2: Keep learning

Once in awhile the days of Don Draper seem wonderful to me. (Minus the smoking and expectations for women, of course.)

Mad Men TV Show

Back then, you could be an extremely successful marketer just by having great ideas. Creativity was often rewarded just as much as actual results. I mean, you wouldn’t have even known how many people saw your ad during Howdy Doody! Or how many people took the time to read your brilliant billboard ad as they drove by in their car! Back then, you would have had no way to accurately measure your audience, so you hoped for the best.

Of course, now, data has changed everything. Since it’s hard to keep up with all of the latest trends, devices and tracking tools, you simply must commit yourself to continued learning. You’ll likely never know it all. But don’t let fear stop you from charging forward!

But how can you keep learning and continue to be an expert in your field? Isn’t that an oxymoron? No, the most renowned experts will tell you they learn something new every day!

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Take an online class or a class at a local college. If you feel like you need to learn some basics of HTML, take a class! There’s no shame in constantly updating your technical skills.
  2. Read a book. There are so many excellent resources on the library shelf (okay, actually on Amazon.com) that will help you learn on your own schedule about data-driven marketing and analytics.
  3. Ask someone at your company to teach you. If you want to know more about the backend of your website, talk to a developer! Take them to lunch or perhaps suggest a trading of information. Maybe they can teach you about your content management system while you teach them about social media.
  4. Hire someone. Sometimes this is truly the most effective way to solve your problem. If you’re a very creative person and you need someone to create beautiful Excel spreadsheets and charts about analytics, you might just need to hire someone to help you!
  5. Join online training: There are so many great webinars and online training courses that focus on specific topics and are a fast way to get a refresh or learn something new. Take an hour a week and learn or validate some key marketing disciplines.

Tip #3: Be realistic

If your company has 5,000 Facebook fans, you’re likely setting yourself up for disaster if you promise your boss 500,000 by next quarter.

If your company blog gets 100 unique visitors a day, you probably won’t beat The New York Times next month.

Set goals that are difficult, but reachable. Find out how the needle is moving daily to help yourself choose numbers that make sense. Understanding best practices and benchmarks for your industry and competitors can help.

Social Media Audience Analysis

Rival IQ can help you set good goals by letting you know how your competitors are doing.

In this example, if you were working on the social team at MSNBC, you would see that you have a long way to go to reach your #1 competitor, CNN. However, instead of setting 34,000,000 overall fans as an immediate goal, you could set a more realistic goal and attempt to take over CBS News at 6,353,000.

Tip #4: Find vendors you trust

There are a lot of companies who will try to get you to use their products to help you track data. The reality is, you NEED good tools to help you track, measure and report – and hopefully, to make it easier to find the “so what” behind the data. But you can also fall to tool overload or get sucked into too many vendors’ promises.

Establish a good system for vetting these companies, getting references and making sure there aren’t better options out there. Make sure to take your time, ask questions and talk to a lot of different people before signing a long-term contract. Leverage the free trials most marketing vendors provide to find out if the tool really addresses your needs.

Data, especially analytics or big data, is a great initiative to drive collaboration across teams, not only within marketing, but with IT, sales and other groups who also are invested in the intelligence the data can bring or in keeping the data secure.  And make sure any new applications or tools play nice with existing software, so you don’t end up making your environment even more complex (another reason to involve IT!).

Tip #5: Don’t expect data to tell you everything

Data is wonderful. It can completely revolutionize your marketing department.

But if you’re only looking at straight numbers, you may miss the big picture.

Make sure to augment your data-driven marketing insights with qualitative and contextual research too. Data needs artful and purposeful interpretations.

Tip #6: Take time to celebrate

It’s easy to become so obsessed with numbers and charts and spreadsheets that you don’t stop and acknowledge the successes! Send your staff, or the company, monthly and quarterly updates on your progress.

Here are some great things to include in a rah-rah email or celebration:

  1. Call out particularly popular campaigns, social posts, blog posts, etc.
  2. If a staff member was responsible for what happened, give them props!
  3. Show a big win against the competition.
  4. Highlight fan appreciation.

What are YOUR tips?

How are you surviving in this data-driven marketing world? Let me know in the comments, and share your ideas!

Jenny Kuglin

Jenny Kuglin is a lover of all things related to cheese, cats, and craft cocktails. She's an award-winning journalist with fifteen years of experience working for television, radio, websites, and newspapers. She made the transition from the KOMO-TV newsroom to the startup world when she took a job as the Director of Customer Relationships at SocialNewsDesk. She is now helping thousands of journalists and marketers across the country tell their stories to a bigger audience. Jenny is from Montana and still loves her cowboy boots, but is proud to call Seattle her home.

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