Making data work harder for your marketing strategy

By Sam Martin-Ross, below, Founder and Director of digital marketing agency, Digital Uncut

Businesses are increasingly looking at investments in technology solutions that help them to enhance data collection and analysis, with the goal of improving their marketing outcomes.

Data is a powerful resource, and the lifeblood of marketing, but so many businesses, especially smaller startups, fall into one of two traps when it comes to the information they collect. Some simply neglect data collection altogether, or fail to use the data they do have at their disposal, while others collect so much that it overwhelms them. Both of these scenarios spell disaster for effective, data-driven marketing.

So, why is data so important for your marketing campaigns, and how can it be put to the best possible use?

How data drives success

Keeping on the cutting edge, as well as outpacing your competition, requires a deep understanding of your audience or audience segment. Increasingly, consumers have an expectation of personalisation, with marketing communications being catered to their needs and requirements. To achieve this, marketers must have an in-depth understanding of both their potential and existing customers – and data is the key to this.

Successfully engaging with a prospect, regardless of industry or sector, means carefully crafting your messaging and delivery, which in turn involves an understanding of what, when and how your customers are buying. Crucially, none of this is possible without robust data-gathering strategies and the ability to sort and analyse this information in a workable way.

Diving into data

One of the biggest challenges for smaller businesses, or simply those that lack the in-house expertise, is knowing where to begin. The goal should be ensuring that all of your data-collecting efforts are focused on truly adding value and driving the success of your marketing strategies.

Many businesses get caught up in largely irrelevant data that fails to translate into value, but there are some general points that can keep you on track. Firstly, keeping accurate and updated information in your CRM is important. Not only does it enable you to see how people are finding your products or services, but is also a useful starting point for creating potential user profiles to build targeted campaigns around.

Valuable data here might include when a customer first purchased or got in contact with your company, as well as details of purchases made and interactions with previous marketing campaigns. All these points will assist in building a better idea of the purchasing path of your customers.

Avoiding unnecessary data

As previously mentioned, many startups, and even some established businesses, fall into the trap of collecting data that does not add value. A prime example of this is the collection of superfluous demographic data. Companies often invest substantial resources into collecting this kind of information, such as customer addresses or industry categorisations. Often times, this kind of data is neither accurate or useful, and it would be far more valuable to marketing efforts to instead focus on interactions and purchases instead.

Similarly, there can often be an over-emphasis on interactions with the website or app, focusing on what was clicked and interacted with. Though it can be tempting to track everything when designing a new app or website, this is certainly a case where it is more worthwhile to first decide what will be useful to your marketing and business goals. Defining your goals first will give you a deeper insight into what data is worth tracking. For example, if the goal is to improve the signup process, then tracking the key steps around this will be especially useful.

Challenges to data collection

In recent times, gathering data has become more challenging for marketers. Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies, as well as the iOS 14.5 update have made tracking harder. This requires businesses to start using first-party data solutions if they want to be able to continue reaping the benefits of data-driven insight.

This is a double-edged sword, as though it is ultimately better to rely on first-party data in the long-term, in the shorter term it requires an initial investment. Startups and smaller businesses just beginning to get to grips with their data are therefore uniquely placed to put their best foot forward, and start as they mean to go on.

While there are various ways to collect additional data which depend on the sector you operate in, there are some golden rules to bear in mind. People are far more likely to share information when they are clear on how it is being used, do not feel they are being asked for too much, and can understand why providing this information may be relevant. Additionally, companies can also offer an incentive to part with a particular piece of information. Being open and transparent is therefore the best approach to take with your data collection policies.

Many businesses struggle with collecting data on where leads and customers are coming from, and this is often due to the difficulty in getting them to accept the cookie popup on websites. Increasingly, websites make it significantly easier to accept rather than decline the popup, or use other methods such as providing a screen to encourage users to accept the popup before it even appears. This is also often paired with providing an explanation to users about why they are asking for data, such as improving user experience.

Once the cookie option has been accepted, there are a range of solutions available that help websites aggregate tracking information. CRM software such as HubSpot offer an automatic solution, while Triple Whale offers a solution aimed at eCommerce sites.

Final thoughts

Gaining a deeper understanding of the most valuable forms of data, as well as establishing effective methods of data collection are both critical to successfully prioritising your sales and marketing efforts. Not only will this ensure you are channelling budget into the areas you are seeing the biggest return on, but this valuable data can be used company-wide to continue making informed decisions.