Years ago, I had a client who referred to the marketing team as the “pretty pictures department.” That was back when people viewed marketing as an art.
For savvy marketers today, marketing is less of an art and more of a data-driven science. Data, when used properly, drives decisions with measurable results. And thanks to big data, marketing teams look more like a computer science lab than an artist’s studio.
Marketers now have access to more data than ever. From website traffic reports and acquisition analytics to social media insights and engagement metrics, there is no shortage of information. It’s not easy to make sense of this massive collection of structured and unstructured data, and many marketing teams can quickly find themselves overwhelmed.
Here are a few things to consider when you incorporate data-driven decision-making into your marketing strategy.
Check the Digital Plumbing
Before data can be analyzed, it has to be collected. Most of us are familiar with third-party collection tools, such as Google Analytics, tag manager and tracking pixels. These are critical components that help organize unstructured data into structured data.
Perform a digital audit to make sure these tools are properly installed and functioning as intended. Most platforms for customer-relationship management, and most email-management dashboards, allow for interconnectivity across these tools. Take advantage of those features whenever possible.
Count What Matters
Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it needs measuring. With so much information available, it’s easy to waste time analyzing that which is irrelevant. For example, one could easily spend hours determining the best time of day to launch a paid social ad campaign, when in reality, the difference is negligible.
Know What Else Counts
Data-based marketing strategies use information to inform decisions and gain insight. Well-rounded marketers understand that there are other considerations, and that the data doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Data is an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the only piece.
Industry experience, personal relationships with consumers and market expertise are not always represented by data points.
Beware False Causality
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc: “after this, therefore because of this.”
That thinking is a fallacy. Just because one event followed another event does not mean the first event caused the second event. This is called a false cause.
Here’s an example: We were working with a client whose most important goal was to drive traffic to his website, because he had determined that for every 150,000 website visitors, he sold one boat.
He fell victim to the fallacy of false causality. He drew an incorrect correlation between two data points, and ignored a number of other variables, such as the quality of the site traffic, seasonality, the traffic source and more.
Data is not a magic Band-Aid for poor messaging. Overreliance on data can reduce marketing effectiveness. Disorganized data can lead to lost opportunity. Bad data can lead to costly mistakes.
Properly managed, however, data-driven strategies will help your pretty pictures department determine exactly what pictures to paint, where they should hang and when they should be displayed.
Eric Dallin is vice president of marketing innovation for Active Interest Media’s Marine Group, which includes Soundings Trade Only.
This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.