Marketing is often seen as a combination of different materials all aimed at persuading people to invest in your company, products or services; but there is a lot more to marketing than emails, social media posts, advertisements on the Internet, TV and radio campaigns and traditional billboard, public transport and roadside campaigns.
When putting together an effective marketing campaign it takes months of meetings, brainstorming sessions and conversations about exactly what you’re going to put out into the world and how you’re going to go about doing it, and quite often it’s an unsung hero who comes to the rescue. Marketing meetings often feature a quiet person in the corner, often overlooked because they don’t shout out a range of answers or talk over their colleagues, yet they sometimes have the best and most measured ideas because they sit back and look at the bigger picture and even what’s going on behind the picture.
This person is the same as data. We don’t pay much attention to numbers and statistics because it isn’t “sexy” or guaranteed to create talking points that lead to increased web traffic or sales. There’s no two ways about it, however, data is everywhere these days. We need our campaigns to stand out and have the maximum impact based on the money invested into the project, but without data it’s highly unlikely that the campaign will have anywhere near the impact we’re all hoping for.
Here we’re going to talk about data-driven marketing strategies and just what makes them so successful compared to those inspired by pure creativity and the anxiety to hit the publish button.
How to incorporate data into your marketing strategy
In these uncertain times every marketing campaign needs to succeed in order to not only get sales back on track but to preserve jobs and businesses as a whole and this is where data really is your best friend.
Instead of blindly publishing marketing collateral as soon as it’s ready and hoping that it’ll get some traction, data can provide you with the kind of details you need to know when to send it, who to send it to and what the best platforms for that campaign might be.
A marketing strategy that doesn’t use data isn’t really a strategy at all, it’s a hunch. With no idea of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, you’ll never arrive at your destination. You need to be factoring data into your strategy from the moment you start conceptualising your plans as you could be a long way down the wrong road before you realise you need to make a U-turn.
So, how do you bring data into your strategy? It’s quite simple really, which is why it can be so infuriating when you realise what you could – or should – have been doing all along. Businesses have access to all kinds of unique data that is yours and freely available, yet many choose to overlook it in favour of hunches or overly-elaborate campaign ideas that are simply put into action without any kind of pre-planning other than a date or event that is fast-approaching.
You have so much information at your disposal these days including website traffic data, social media demographics and a list of clients, customers or subscribers. Each person, number or percentage that you can access leads itself to a concept or a key part of a marketing strategy because they can either shape the idea with something unique, interesting and engaging or it can substantiate it with fact and authority.
Depending on how you choose to use it data can be the foundation of your campaign or the firework that helps it to take off. It can be used to ask and answer all kinds of questions, including:
- If I post this, will anyone take notice?
- When is the best time to post this?
- Who is my target audience?
- What platform should I be posting on?
- How do I measure the performance of the campaign?
Let’s take a look at these individually and explain the role of data in not only answering these questions, but also informing the strategy as a result.
1. Will anyone take notice of this post?
Prior research into popular or trending topics can give you a great insight into what people are currently interested in. Twitter makes great use of hashtags and trending topics to provide people with news, information and gossip through their app while other sites such as AlsoAsked.com are incredibly useful for generating content ideas based on what people are currently searching for online.
Doing even the smallest amount of research can help to inform your strategy in the sense that you can identify what people are already talking about and any gaps or opportunities for you to cut through the noise and make your voice heard with a different perspective. If people are already talking about a subject then the chances are that you’ve missed the boat with this one, as your campaign will become just another message about the same thing.
You need to get in early and looking at data from sites like Google Trends will enable you to identify when search terms or themes are growing in popularity or about to spike in terms of interest so you can plan your campaign months in advance and get in front of your audience before everyone else has the same idea, ensuring that it’s your content that everyone takes notice of.
2. When is the best time to post this?
Past campaign performance can give you valuable insights into whether or not your campaign was a success, but it can also help you to identify whether you sent your marketing materials out at the right time or not.
If you’ve found that there has been little or no interest in your campaign in the first few hours, or that simply nobody is engaging with your latest post, it could be that you’ve published at the wrong time either because it’s a time you’ve posted at previously, or because your content was ready and you just hit the go-live button.
With people around the world operating in different time zones it’s always difficult to identify the best time to send or publish anything, and it can be just as hard in your own country, but social media platforms and email marketing systems can help you to learn the best time to send out a campaign in order to maximise the number of opens and clicks.
It might be that you find out that you need to post at a certain time on social media and send out your emails slightly earlier – or later – in the day, or maybe that you should be publishing your blogs on a particular day in the week because that is when Google Analytics and your email statistics suggest that most people are reading your articles or hitting your landing pages.
3. Who is my target audience?
The benefit of having access to platforms like Google Analytics and Search Console is that you can identify exactly who is engaging with your content. You might have a rough idea that your target audience is a particular demographic in a certain part of the world, but it may be that you’re actually reaching a completely different age group or that women are more engaged with your messaging and content than men.
Data can give you access to a wealth of information such as this, enabling you to adapt your messaging to talk to those who are already engaged, and also to speak to those that you’re looking to target. With a new marketing strategy you might be looking to reach out to a different market, and with information freely available to you you can look at the wording of your marketing material and ensure that you’re speaking directly to your new target audience.
It may be that you speak to these people who have no idea who you are and what you do, or it may be that they are previous customers that you’re looking to get back after some time away, maybe it’s a specific demographic who might be interested in the latest eBook you’ve published. Whatever the audience your message needs to speak to them specifically. If you’re sending out blanket messaging to everyone in your contact list and every single one of your social followers then your campaign is going off the rails before it’s even considered gathering momentum.
Use the data you have at your disposal to understand what people are doing with your content, and who is looking at it. You can then look to steer the campaign in the right direction from the moment you send it out into the world.
4. What platform should I be posting on?
Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes working in marketing knows that you can’t just send the same message out on every single one of your platforms. Email, social media channels, your blog and landing pages are all valuable assets and marketing tools; but if you’re sending the same campaign word-for-word across them all then they lose their value and that’s because those who engage with your brand are already doing so through one of those channels, they don’t need to do it through them all.
You might also find that there are some platforms that have no uptake at all, and that’s because your audience is less engaged or the messaging is all wrong for that channel. LinkedIn, for example, is a wonderful yet underutilized social media platform but it’s one that is used for a more professional reason that Instagram or Facebook. Your LinkedIn followers are likely to expect more professional content that they can instantly engage with and maybe strike up a conversation with you over, whereas platforms like Instagram are more likely to result in image likes than all-round engagement or leads.
Fortunately each social media platform enables you to monitor campaign performance and you can start to use the data available to identify trends and put together a plan based on previous performance (or lack of). If you find that images work best on one platform than another, factor this into your strategy. Similarly, if you find that the data paints a picture that you need to utilise your email marketing more because it is generating more leads and engagement than your blog then you could consider a new email sign-up list that enables you to publish new content on your blog and then email your subscribers to ensure that they see the exciting new article rather than relying on organic search or people visiting directly.
5. How do I measure the performance of a campaign?
Knowing when a campaign has been a hit, when it’s failed and when it’s been simply okay is important; but in many cases the performance statistics are determined by your own interpretation and what you consider to be a success.
All over the Internet there will be articles stating what a great email open rate is and what your target conversion rate should be, but we all have different objectives when it comes to certain campaigns. For instance, if you’re looking to increase blog subscribers or social media followers then you won’t be paying much attention to your conversion rate, but clicks will be very important – and, of course, the number of new followers or subscribers you pick up.
If it’s an email marketing campaign that’s looking to increase leads or sales then you will absolutely be paying attention to click through rates, open rates and form completions. If you’re new to sending out email marketing campaigns then you might have to put up with a few relatively low rates in the early days as you test what works and what doesn’t work.
However, when you get your head around the types of messages you want to send out along with the length of the message, the calls-to-action and a (hopefully) ever-increasing list of subscribers you will start to collect useful data that you can interpret to inform your marketing strategy going forward. You might have to ditch an uninspiring call-to-action if clicks go down, or you may have to play with your subject line in order to increase open rates. After all, what’s the point in an email list with 10,000 subscribers if only 1 percent of people are even opening your email? You might just find that the emails that don’t include personalisation perform poorly and you need to tailor your message to people directly, or you may need to find a way to hook your audience with an eye-catching subject they just can’t ignore.
One of the best things about data is that you can use it at the best and worst of times to steer you back on track, or closer to your destination. You just need to ensure that you’re looking at it correctly and using it to your advantage.
How to use data to transform your material, and message
Now, data isn’t used from a purely strategic perspective in marketing. It can also be used to highlight key findings or even as the centrepiece of your campaign and to make sense of complex but relevant data that your audience needs to be aware of.
If your typical marketing material has been all about words, it’s time to reconsider your approach. Sure, it’s important to get your message across in a way that everyone is going to understand, but people pay more attention to visuals than a block of marketing copy covering more than 1,000 words.
Data visualisations are taking over marketing materials and can have a huge impact on not just telling people about things, but showing them, too. Whether it’s a graph that shows rising or falling figures which have been used to great effect throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, or a different kind of data visualisation like a venn diagram showing overlapping themes or even a series of charts to show the result of votes or new subscriptions over a given period, data can take many forms and it’s all down to finding the perfect way to visualise them in order to have the maximum impact on your audience.
While the raw facts and figures like numbers and percentages can still have a significant role in marketing materials, when you’re trying to get a particular message across or display some ground-breaking statistics it might be better to visualise the information so that it instantly catches the eye of the reader. This is done well in a range of existing marketing formats including countdown clocks to the end of a sale or simple bright formatting in a short, snappy message that your recipient can take to a decision maker in their business who might choose to invest based on the kind of stats they just can’t ignore.
The message you’re trying to convey also takes on a new meaning when you bring data into the conversation. Which one of these statements are you more likely to be persuaded by?
“There are loads of people who use our platform, and loads are happy with it”, or would you be influenced by someone who says “There are 200,000 people currently subscribed to our platform, and in a recent customer satisfaction survey 87% of them said that they would highly recommend us to a friend.”
It’s the latter, right?
That’s because you’ve backed up your statement with data and facts, rather than simple marketing messaging. Yes, it’s great to make a bold statement that you run a successful business, but if you can’t back it up with concrete evidence then what’s to say you’re not just making it up? Whereas citing data (even better, your own data) you have the opportunity to engage and persuade people in a matter of moments – and that’s all you have to hook someone in marketing. Don’t waste time using thousands of words, when a few short statements backed up by unquestionable statistics can do it for you and help to hit your marketing objective.
In summary, a marketing strategy that doesn’t use data is highly unlikely to ever hit the heady heights of success that you might hope for. So many campaigns over the years have been launched without any kind of data or in-depth research to inform the strategy or even when it should go live, and as a result it has had limited impact despite often hefty investment from the business involved.
So, instead of wasting your valuable budget and equally valuable time on a campaign that might result in a handful of luke-warm leads, call upon the quiet person in the back of the room to provide some valuable insight rather than leaping to launch the first campaign you think of. Data is everywhere these days, it follows you around and can be your best friend in marketing if you want it to be, so why not invest time researching what is freely available to you in order to steer you safely and directly towards your objectives.