Data-driven marketing - what, why and how | DMA

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Data-driven marketing - what, why and how


Marketers are forever seeking the holy grail of marketing, striving to focus their efforts towards a segment of one, where they can be sure that their message matches the intended audience and the content/context metric is perfectly balanced. The pursuit of this goal is by no means trivial and requires the right people and processes in place, along with the right tools to be able to deliver the strategy.

To figure out the why and how we first need to define the what – “Data-driven marketing is the process by which marketers glean insights and trends by analysing company-generated or market data, then translating these insights into actionable decisions informed by the numbers. The goal of data-driven marketing is to optimise marketing processes and strategies to cater to changing trends and the unique demands of audiences and consumers by leveraging data to gain deeper insight into what customers want.”, July 2018.

This is the fundamental definition of Marketing in its simplest form – figure out what people want and give it to them – the data-driven piece allows you to be more granular with your targeting, fulfilling the quest for “segment of one”.

The analysis and insight of the data should allow the marketer to become almost prescient, within the confines of their brand and products, and enable them to predict the “next best action” to promote the customer engagement along the desired customer lifecycle. Personalisation is the key to growing engagement, and this comes from knowing all about your customer and what they have done to date. If you are capturing data about your customers, then you are duty-bound to use as much of that data as you can to provide the most personalised experience to meet and exceed their expectations.

Theory and practice can often differ greatly, consumer data comes from a variety of sources, from surveying consumers directly, to secondary sources such as social media, web browsing, search behaviours, or even measured device preference. With all those information sources available, the sheer volume of data generated each day alone is overwhelming for many marketing teams. But data-driven marketing strategies and delivery tools are the most effective and efficient way to create content that will resonate with customers and ensure that the message is highly personalised. So, there are some challenges and it takes a lot of time and effort to come up with a data-driven marketing strategy, but it is well worth it.

So, what to do next, how do you build the best data-driven marketing strategy. Use the following steps to start the process or to enhance an existing strategy.

  1. Commit

Change is painful, but the rewards are clear, so once you decide to follow the strategy your organisation must commit the time and resources necessary to see it through. It’s incredibly difficult to develop a well-defined path forward, without putting in the time. Processes will need an overhaul and you may need to review your organisational operating model.

  1. Integrate & Automate

As mentioned above, the sheer volume of data that customers produce every day can be overwhelming for even the most robust marketing teams to collect and becomes exponentially more difficult to analyse effectively. Without a specialist database or Customer Data Platform marketers won’t have the appropriate data required to create a view of the customer profile and engagement. There is also the challenge of linking offline and online activity data to ensure physical location sales and mobile browsing can all be integrated into a single customer view. However, by implementing new marketing automation tools and technology into their strategy, marketers can spend less time analysing their data to find segments, and more time optimising these segments building quality creative and highly personalised marketing campaigns.

It is important to note though that not all marketing automation tools will give the required capability, with triggered campaigns at the lower end and automated customer journeys at the top end, you’ll need to choose what supports your strategy. Being able to track signals, interactions and events in real time is the only way you’ll be able to respond with relevant content when your customer wants and needs it.

  1. Get appropriate talent

This can be one of the most difficult tasks to complete when dealing with emerging technology and new business processes. Recently, however, there has been a convergence on traditional marketing disciplines and IT with more people classing themselves as marketing technologists. This new breed of marketer has skills in marketing, business analysis and query logic. It is not critical to find talent that can undertake all the tasks in isolation, but it is important to find someone that can successfully orchestrate all the constituent parts effectively.

  1. Collaborate

Organisations will be collecting data from different departments for their individual business goals that may contradict each other so, it is important to ensure data is shared and works across the organisation and that those top-level business objectives are aligned. This could be achieved with cross-departmental teams, but it is more efficient to ensure that the data is of high quality and integrated to successfully implement data-driven marketing.

  1. Imitate

Competitor awareness and analysis are important, you will undoubtedly learn a lot about what to do, and conversely, what not to do from how other brands run their strategies. Marketers should also take on the role of staying up-to-date with the latest trends and changes in data-driven marketing to help their own brand’s strategy.

  1. Rinse and repeat

Test and learn is the mantra of the successful data-driven marketer, campaigns are created and delivered to achieve a specific objective. If the desired objective is not reached, the framework created provides the ability for analysis to identify what needs changing. Marketers can learn what is most, or least, effective and pivot, optimise, and experiment accordingly. This will allow teams to effectively target the right audience, by providing personalised content that persistently resonates with them.

Continually and consistently measuring engagement and impact helps the brand stay focused on the business and campaign goals but has the added benefit of tracking ROI and providing evidence to gain ongoing buy-in from leadership.

And finally, the Why. You will never know everything about your customers, but by having a strong data-driven framework in place, you will at least capture the bits of information they want you to use. It is now your responsibility as an ethical marketer to use as much of that data as you can to deliver the most relevant and contextual message to grow the conversation and their engagement with your brand.

We are in the age of 1-2-1 marketing so being able to gain insight on a segment of one allows your brand to stay relevant with your audience and gives them a reason to love you and become an advocate – the desired endgame for most marketers – and the most beneficial for your organisation.

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