Why data-driven marketing is more crucial than ever

August 19, 2014 10:10 am The UK Domain

Data has always played an important role in marketing; it helps us to improve understanding and engagement with our customers. Over the last few years technology has evolved, moving us into a more mobile-orientated world. With the ability to get online and connect on the go, businesses now have more opportunities to collect and measure customer behaviour and quickly, and this has resulted in data becoming bigger and more complex.

Ben Harper, co-founder of marketing agency Datify, explains why now more than ever, data has an important part to play in every successful marketing strategy.

What is data-driven marketing and how can it help your strategy?

“Data-driven marketing is an approach that uses collected data to help understand customer behavior so that businesses can determine the ideal targeting, timing, and content for marketing campaigns. There is a big incentive for using data in your marketing strategy and that is efficiency. Too many, the idea of analytics is a mildly terrifying concept, but it’s actually very simple. Applying data at every stage of the marketing process means that you are going to reach the right audience in the right way. For us, this starts with creating a data-led strategy. We’ll study our target audience and pull out all kinds of data on them in order to come up with a campaign that they’re more likely to respond well to.”

How important is data within marketing?

“Data is crucial in marketing. It isn’t just about surveying what kind of people buy a certain product, it’s about looking at what obstacles are in your way, both with employees and customers, and overcoming them. Data insights allow you to engage with consumers effectively and work out the best ways of reaching them. I strongly believe that data enables marketers to really see the worth of their results, improve their performance, and ultimately raise their game.”

Is it changing the way businesses think?

“Yes, and certainly for the better. Traditionally, the big boss always makes the final call and this is often based on little more than their authority. The key to data-driven marketing is to make decisions based on evidence rather than opinion. The pioneering aspect to data-driven marketing is that anybody can have an idea or make a case as long as they can back up their ideas. This approach demands a more flexible attitude from the whole company, but it’s a much more refreshing environment. In my opinion data should always be given preference over opinion.”

Why should startups be using this approach?

“It’s particularly important for startups to use a data-driven approach. By nature startups tend to be experimental and often change direction more than once to achieve the best positioning of their business. Data is a great way to improve visibility and through targeting and distribution it can allow a new business to get where they need to be faster. For example, we’ve improved the Facebook visibility of a number of clients by looking into their audience demographics, and then coming up with data-led targeting sets that allow us to capture a more relevant audience at a better rate. This means we can amplify content to more people, without increasing their budget.

It’s a common belief that data is only important at the beginning of the project, but we use it as a thread that runs through everything we do. From the initial data-led insights we’ll create the campaign and then continually optimise it to ensure that results consistently improve. At the end of a campaign, we’ll then pull out all relevant data and generate insights to show what the results achieved and what lessons we can learn from them.”

Is it necessary to hire a specialist?

“If you want to implement a data-driven strategy within your business there are options available that don’t involve hiring an expert. However, if you want a job done well it’s worth getting someone who knows what they are doing to help you. Two popular routes are using an agency or getting training on elements of data-driven marketing for your current team. Ultimately someone will need to be responsible for data, and its use, but in the long term you want everything to be accessible and for anyone to be able to come to the table with a great idea backed up by data.”

Are there any challenges you should be aware of before starting your data-driven marketing strategy?

“There are a few things that you will need to assess before you take the first leap. The first aspect to discuss is what kind of data you should be studying. This can depend on a number of elements, such as your industry, the type of campaigns you are running, and your overall goals. For example, a restaurant will want to focus on data that will inform them about their customers’ tastes: what dishes are selling well? What are the best times and ways to reach out to them with promotions and offers – is it through newsletters emailed at weekends, or posts on social media during the evening? There are many variables and it’s important to work out what information is most important to you.

The second, and one of the biggest, is how to make sure you maintain the right culture to get the true benefit of data-driven marketing. You need to ensure that you can be flexible enough to make changes, and be able to make decisions based on what the data is telling you.”

What are your top three tips for those who are new to data-driven marketing?

“My number one tip is to put data before personal opinions. It can be tough to not look to the most senior person for a decision, but you should trust the insights you’ve gained from data and base your decisions on these learnings.

My second piece of advice is to think outside the box when it comes to the data you use and find new sources. For example, one of our clients in the automotive sector planned to just use their customer relationship management system (CRM) to find out more about their audience. We took a more creative approach and found new sources, such as social audiences aligned around their direct competitors and also around brands competing for their customers’ attention but not necessarily in the automotive space. This provided them with a different audience to target and learn from, which then led to a massive reduction in their cost per acquisition of new customers.

Lastly, I would always recommend that you test everything you do before you go out to your target market fully, as often the best way to increase efficiency and push your business forward is to learn from experience and make positive changes. Using data is a great way to give you this visibility.”

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