Don't Make These 3 Mistakes When Using Data-driven Marketing

By Brendan Raybuck » 7 min read

Those who have known me for many years know that I fell into this industry by accident. I never had any intention of getting into digital marketing or becoming a data-driven marketing professional. I had always intended to go back to school; get my masters, maybe my Ph.D., in biology.

Fate had other plans. Right place, right time, and years later I have been fortunate to be in a growing industry for the last 12 years. People have always said to me how much of a big leap it must have been for me to jump from one industry to another, but the concepts are very similar. Ecological systems and cell biology are not that different from technological systems and marketing strategies. The scientific method runs on data, as do digital marketers today.

This intersection of biology, data, and digital has been on my mind during the Covid-19 situation. When sitting with clients dealing with issues or problems, I often ask the question, “What does the data set show?”

The situation we find ourselves inside the United States with Covid-19 is a cautionary tale for digital marketers.

The United States has fallen behind many other nations in the volume of testing, contact tracing, and other pieces of data that are necessary for the nation to understand the scale and the scope of the epidemic. The infrastructure has simply not been put in place.

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Not enough data collected through testing

This uncertainty created assumptions, many of them reasonable based on looking at previous outbreaks or related viruses. Unfortunately, Covid-19 is a new virus and we found out that many of them turned out to be false.

  1. Coronavirus is going to be seasonal (latest data shows it is not)
  2. Asymptomatic people cannot spread the disease (latest data shows they can)
  3. We have drugs on the market that can treat the virus effectively, like hydroxychloroquine (a recent study showed that hydroxychloroquine does more harm than good)
  4. Masks are not important for day to day use (countries that have common mask usage are showing less spread)

This lack of data has made our response to the pandemic less effective than it should be. As much as the digital marketing industry talks and discusses data, this is not something all organizations are doing well. Website analytics platforms are often set up to show pages viewed and goal completions, but not an omnichannel view of the customer’s journey. Marketing automation systems track opens, but not which campaigns are creating real value to the business. There is still a lot of spray and pray email and digital advertising spend. It is a lot more common than one would think by listening to industry thought leaders.

Data-driven marketers can take key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid making similar mistakes in implementing their marketing campaigns. As a matter of fact, data-driven marketing is more important now than ever, but most organizations are making these 3 mistakes.

1. Operating in silos

By continuing to operate in data silos, organizations will never be able to understand and optimize the full customer journey. Each platform will answer some questions, based on the scope of capabilities, but in reality, customer engagement is rarely confined to those same silos. By breaking down these silos, you’ll gain more insightful analytics to understand how to best engage with your target audience.

2. Not implementing the data infrastructure

Corporations (and people) are impatient. Laying a strong analytics foundation takes time. Not only do you need to know what data you need to capture across marketing channels, but organizations need to configure systems and integrate processes. Then you need enough time to pass to have enough data to come in to tell you anything useful about your marketing efforts. Only then can you effectively pivot.

With quarterly earnings calls, organizations often want to invest in quick returns. Let’s figure out the future later. Why it is important to invest time and resources to pull necessary and actionable data? Without enough data, you may be making decisions that are skewed by the short observation period. You may also be missing insights about seasonal behaviors, trends, and your customer experience.

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3. Stuck in the past, not making data-driven decisions

Organizations are doing what they always have to generate leads and increase conversion rates. No focus on campaign ROI. Consistently challenge the way your organization invests and operates. All decisions should be data-driven. Massive tradeshows, while now a thing of the past, are a great example of high ticket items that don’t always pull their weight when you take a data-driven approach to analyzing ROI.

While organizations realize the need for accurate customer data, they still lack the infrastructure needed to effectively aggregate it from multiple sources. Companies need to prioritize their investments in data-driven marketing today to have the insights needed to get ahead in the post-COVID business era. At a time when marketers don’t know what to expect from customers in the near future, data is the most dependable solution for a successful campaign.

Like the country, organizations are dealing with a new business climate. Old analogies are not applicable, and assumptions based on them have a high chance of being wrong. Organizations with a strong investment in data and analytics will be able to shed inaccurate assumptions earlier within this crisis and take advantage of competitors that are slow to move. To do that, an organization needs to start gathering the right data as soon as possible, with a solid digital infrastructure. The sooner the better.

On a more personal note, I hope that you and yours are staying safe within this global economic crisis. My thoughts are with you.

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