Data plays a crucial role in all aspects of your business. Without data, you can’t analyze your website or app’s performance and avoid crashes.

And just as importantly, you won’t know whether your marketing initiatives are paying off or not – and what you need to do to improve.

The days of living off a hunch’ are long gone: Your marketing team must be 100% data-driven.

“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”

Dan Zarella

However, data – especially big data – can be overwhelming for many marketing teams. Marketers often struggle with a data-driven approach because they’re unsure where to find the most relevant data.

They also complain that they don’t have the right enterprise communication solutions to access, analyze, and compare the right information.

What does a data-driven marketing team look like?

Before we dive in and offer some actionable insights, let’s take a look at what data-driven marketing teams have in common:

  1. Firms that have a data-driven marketing culture know how to optimize their brand communications based on customer information.
  2. Data-driven marketers use customer data to predict their customers’ needs and anticipate their behaviors. These insights help them develop personalized marketing strategies to move them along the sales conversion funnel and achieve the highest ROIs.

Before the days of data-driven marketing, marketing teams had to make assumptions – or ‘educated guesses’ about their target audience.

They generally did this by using any available market research – or working with their gut feeling.

This marketing by trial and error meant companies had to launch numerous strategies to uncover the one capable of fulfilling their goals. An approach that was both time-consuming and expensive.

On the other hand, data-driven marketing allows marketers to connect with customers at the right times with offerings that will appeal. It enables marketers to:

  • Personalize the customer experience.
  • Target defined marketing segments.
  • Win new customers.
  • Measure and improve strategies in real-time.

So, despite the challenges of working with data, most marketers realize it’s the only way forward.

As promised, here are some ways to make sure your marketing team learns to have a more proactive approach to working with data.

1. Don’t keep analytics in silos

Leaving analytics in silos is a common mistake. Having data and metrics in several different channels, such as email marketing, blogs, and social media, leads to a big headache when you need to compare them across those channels.

All this data must connect to your customer relationship management system (CRM).

Otherwise, you could be missing out on highly valuable closed-loop analytics that can tell you how well each marketing channel is performing.

If you’re unhappy with your current marketing analytics strategy and its lack of cohesiveness, look for a new solution. When you choose a CRM system, though, make sure it integrates with your existing software – e.g., your cloud pbx phone system so that you can track all your customer interactions.

2. Make individual marketers responsible for specific metrics

Once you’ve organized all your analytics tools, so they’re integrated and reliable, you can start using them to their full potential.

Don’t be afraid to measure everything possible – there are not any metrics you shouldn’t track. For example, if you just installed some new software in the shape of a multi-line phone system, you could track how it affects customer satisfaction metrics.

Whatever data you decide to track, make sure you hold individual team members accountable for specific metrics.

For example, you could assign your social media manager the task of monitoring the leads and visits generated via social media as well as the leads generated via each social network.

He or she could also be responsible for monitoring more granular metrics, including comments, likes, and shares.

This will ensure the measurement and tracking of all important metrics.

3. Set benchmarks

Setting benchmarks will help you know how to not only meet but exceed future expectations in terms of performance.

Look to your industry to get an idea of established benchmarks. By seeing how others are performing, you can see how you stack up comparatively.

You should also aim to set benchmarks that are specific to your own business.

To do this, use the analytics data you’ve been collecting over a period of months to identify general patterns in individual marketing metrics’ performances.

These can act as your benchmarks to work towards and improve on overtime.

4. Use metrics to set goals

Having set benchmarks, you can now set goals. Make each marketer responsible for tracking and reporting on specific metrics and achieving particular goals.

These goals will depend on a number of factors but must always be linked to the overarching objectives of your company.

Marketing and top management must meet to determine the company’s growth projections. Only then can you see how marketing fits into the bigger picture.

If, for example, the CEO wants to see 5% growth over the coming quarter, you will need to work out how many leads you’ll need to generate to convert 5% more customers or revenue.

Once you’ve worked out the marketing team’s overall goals, you need to break this down into individual goals using each marketing channel’s benchmark.

It’s important to assign a proportionately sized goal to each channel based on benchmark performance.

For example, if your blog posts contribute, on average, around 20% of your leads, while your virtual event’s marketing contributes 10%, you need to assign blogs a larger number of goal leads than event marketing.

5. Have regular progress reports

Once you’ve set your goals, make sure individual marketers base their tactics on achieving their monthly goal quotas.

Hold regular meetings to report on the progress of your most important metrics – e.g., traffic or – leads at weekly intervals. Track these metrics in your CRM so you can see how you’re doing on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Track less important but still required metrics every month. These might be niche metrics such as unsubscribe rates and social media reach.

You can also track individual performance metrics, such as the number of calls agents are making using your cold calling software.

Highlight how each marketer is performing and how the marketing department as a whole is performing within your company.

This will make teams feel more accountable and make them more aware of the importance of being data-driven. It will also show the company that marketing is about more than intangibles.

6. Use your marketing data to help you make decisions

It may seem obvious, but once you’ve collected all that valuable data, make sure you put it to fair use.

To be entirely data-driven, you need to do more than just collect and analyze data – you need to use it to drive your marketing decisions. This requires analytical skills and critical thinking.

Say, for example, you’ve been conducting across-the-board social media campaigns for several months because you felt this was the right thing to do.

But now that you’re tracking your campaigns’ success using marketing analytics tools, you may start to realize that some social media networks are not working for you.

If you’re an eCommerce company, metrics can also help you analyze online store trends so you can make the right decisions around optimizing your customers’ experience.

Spending equal amounts of time on campaigns that aren’t performing well won’t help you maximize your ROI.

When your analytics tells you your Facebook campaign is outperforming your Pinterest campaign by five times in terms of ROI, you now know it’s time to reallocate your time to Facebook.

Using data to back up your decisions will get you better results in terms of ROI.

Here are some other examples of where data can help you make good decisions:

  • Blog analytics can help you determine the topics that are resonating with your target audience.
  • Analytics can help you refine your SEO strategy.
  • Metrics can help you decide how frequently to send out emails.
  • Landing page analytics can help you determine your best marketing offers.
  • Analytics can help you prioritize your best leads and perfect your cold-calling techniques.

7. Aim to measure the difficult to measure

Just as it’s hard to measure the smoothness of your migration to the cloud, it may seem impossible to measure something like branding.

Because branding isn’t as cut and dry as something like leads or click-through rates. However, it’s still essential to get a grip on these types of metrics.

You can measure direct traffic to your website and branded search term volume to give you a lowdown.

You also need to get an idea of people’s perception of your brand – and this isn’t as easy as looking at a dashboard. Carry out short, multiple-choice surveys of your audience, placing them on your “thank you” pages when someone downloads your ebook or webinars.

Ask visitors if they know what your company does – the goal being to maximize the number of people who select your product or service – rather than selecting “marketing content”.

To get a clear picture of how people perceive your brand, check customer reviews regularly. If the percentage of bad reviews is going up, then there are some issues that need sorting out.

8. Reward the marketing team for hitting goals

Get your marketing team on board with metrics by incentivizing them. Give out monthly awards for the individual who achieves the most impressive results based on their given metric goals.

Identify a monthly champion and invite them to a winner’s dinner with top execs.

Recognize team members’ achievements publicly, too, so the entire company can see the great work they’re doing.

Create a chart to track all team members’ metrics – so you can see their performance over time and incorporate them into annual reviews.

9. Incorporate data into your content

Marketing data doesn’t only help drive analytics and marketing decisions. It can be used in a host of other ways.

Most notably, it can be used to improve your marketing content — things like blog posts, white papers, and ebooks.

Any written marketing collateral. Using your data in your content makes it higher quality and more credible, which makes you more of a thought leader.

There are various ways to use data in your content. These include:

  • Indicating change or consistency over time
  • Pointing to benchmarks
  • Revealing connections or correlations
  • Making a point
  • Emphasizing why readers should care about an issue
  • Backing up an opinion
  • Illustrating discrepancies
  • Using social proof.

Only use the best data at your disposal and make sure to attribute it correctly.

10. Use A/B testing

The best data-driven marketers are always seeking to get even better and improve their analytics for their assigned metrics. The best way to do this is to use A/B testing.

A/B testing enables you to examine how different variables affect certain metrics, like clickthrough rates, conversion rates, and traffic. Then you can make sure you’re using the right variables that give you the best results.

There are lots of variables you can test in your marketing, including:

  • CTAs: test out how well different calls to action perform based on their placement on web pages.
  • Layout: test blog posts, emails, landing pages for different layouts.
  • Colors: test colors of buttons or even the overall scheme of web pages.
  • Size: the size of headlines or CTAs.
  • Blog titles: Do numbers get you better results?
  • Length: Does the length of your landing page content work for you – or should blogs be longer or shorter?

Investing in a strong data strategy is worth the effort. Recent research indicates that companies with a well-defined data strategy report better financial performance than their competitors.

Although it can seem like a challenge, the opportunities for using a data-driven strategy cannot be underestimated.

Marketers of today need to use technology to apply strategic thinking backed by data and turn that data into sustainable revenue streams.