Getting the most from marketing data

Getting the most from marketing data

Marketers are drowning in a sea of data, so which sets are likely to provide the most value?

Earlier in 2016, at CIM’s Brand Health Summit, Jeremy Waite, IBM's new exuberant strategist and evangelist (formerly at Salesforce), showed a slide that was a back-to-basics reminder of the need for data:

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” it read, quoting the American statistician W Edwards Deming.

It sounds simple enough, but with the wealth of technology available to marketers, measurement has become simultaneously easier and a whole lot more complex. 

Some things still can’t be measured; others are hard to measure; and yet more can be measured in so many ways that insights become confused. So which data sets should marketers be focusing on? While there’s no one-size-fits-all rule, there are some basics that should always be considered:

Your customers

Your existing customer relationship management (CRM) system holds some of the most valuable information about your customers that you can ever hope to gain. Using this will help you to understand their needs and build a customer-focused marketing strategy. That data can then be segmented to target individual groups more accurately. Know your customer – it’s a good starting point. “It’s a generalisation,” says Waite, “but when I talk to companies about collecting customer data, I call it the 5 Ws: Who, what, why, where and when. Companies often already have all the data that they need – but they forget that they are sat on gold mines of data. Only 1% of all the useful data that is collected is ever fully analysed. Less than 20% of enterprise companies use more than 50% of their customer data.”


Remember the end of the last century when rudimentary websites often featured a counter showing the number of ‘web hits’? There’s an argument that most online ‘engagement’ statistics are equally as redundant. Instead, look at conversions: this is the point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action. It could be opening an email, or purchasing a product, but conversions are real, tangible actions. Also, rather than inspecting each conversion to elicit insight, look at the incremental changes in conversion rates over time. This is more likely to tell you whether your marketing strategy or campaign is working.

First vs. second vs. third party

Third party data – purchased from another business or a specialist data collector can be relatively cheap but, as it is often aggregated or not designed specifically for your business, its true value can be limited. Second-party data might be more helpful – essentially it’s another company’s customer data, offered in exchange for your own data in situations where shared knowledge will benefit both parties. First-party data – collected directly from your own customers – will always provide the most relevant and accurate insights.

“It’s very easy to drown in the sea of data that’s out there,” says David Lloyd, UK head of data and insights at global marketing agency Wunderman. “It’s vital to have a coherent data strategy that pulls together all of the data that’s useful to you, starting with your own first-party data and then looking to augment that with the most appropriate second and third-party sources.

“You’ll need people with strong expertise to do this, so if you don’t have that in-house, bring in consultants. Also, don’t just go collecting everything – there should be a clear purpose behind anything you collect. How will it help you target, measure and generate insight? The key is to ensure it’s completely aligned to your marketing strategy and technology capabilities; start small and grow where you see value.”

In the fast-changing world of martech and data, agility is also vital. “If you try and learn as you go, you may find the landscape moves faster than you can keep up with,” says Lloyd, who advises seeking outside advice. At Salesforce, Waite cites the cloud computing firm’s founder, Marc Benioff: “Companies are no longer competing against each other, they are competing against speed.”

Whatever data you collect, the trick is to do it all the time, and act on it immediately. Last quarter’s figures are this quarter’s misinformation.

If you need some help understanding how to select and use the right data for maximum impact, why not come along to our fourth Digital Summit where we'll be discussing the art of data science. 

Martin Bewick Content Lead CPL
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