Anyone who’s more than just a few years into their career can probably remember a time when marketing was a lot squishier than it is today. Back then, marketers tended to rely on anecdotal evidence, bits of information collected from customers, and even their gut instincts to drive decision-making. And for the most part it worked, or at least people assumed it did. Of course, since measuring success was a lot harder back then, you never actually knew for sure how well your campaigns were working.
While marketers got by for years like that, the fact is that things have changed dramatically since then. We now have access to huge amounts of data about our customers and prospects and can precisely measure what impact our marketing efforts are having.
While that’s great news and puts us at a huge advantage, it also brings the burden of responsibility with it.
One the one hand, it means that we’re able to be far more strategic and effective at our jobs. For the first time, we can actually make a significant and — importantly — demonstrable impact on our company’s bottom line. That alone has helped pave the way for marketing to go from a support function to a key business driver.
On the other hand, however, gone are the days when we can only rely on hunches to get by. Instead, we’ve got to use data to back up everything that we say. That’s especially true when it comes to talking to the C-suite about investment. These days any budget discussion needs to include the data.
Of course, it’s not as simple as just downloading a few reports from Google Analytics. You’ve got to have a structured approach in place to help you deal with and make the most of your data. Here are three tips to help point you in the right direction:
1. Get Everyone on the Same Page
Let’s face it, just about every marketing department has a different lexicon. Your definition of a lead or an opportunity, for example, might be quite different to mine. And, even more important is the fact that those definitions may well differ within your company and even within your own team. You’ve got to get on the same page so that everyone’s speaking the same language.
Beyond simply agreeing to a single, standard definition for metrics, it’s also important to make sure that you always put metrics into context for the C-suite. So while the fact that a new report was downloaded 500 times in the past week may be a source of pride for you, that might not be as meaningful to others. If, however, you can say that those downloads resulted in 20 new sales-ready leads, you will be able to get more traction.
Ultimately, you should always put the metrics you track into the context of the customer lifecycle. That’s something that everyone around the boardroom table will understand. And, if you can demonstrate how the metrics you’re tracking are helping to propel prospects and customers down the path to purchase, you’ll be able to show your C-suite definitively how your marketing programs are contributing to the company’s pipeline.
Having said that, never discount the impact and power of your brand awareness activities. Although it’s much harder to link brand building to the bottom line (although soon I’ll clue you in on a great tool to make this easier), these are still incredibly important to your growth and shouldn’t be discounted.
2. Know What You Don’t Know
No matter where you are on your journey to becoming a data-savvy marketer, there’s bound to be gaps in your knowledge. You may have a very clear understanding of what’s happening with your e-mail campaigns, but not why a particular page on your website isn’t performing the way you thought it would.
The best way to approach a problem like this is to perform a simple analysis. Take the time to get a holistic view of all of the data you have and where the gaps in that data are in terms of specific insights you’re looking for. In the process, you’ll probably discover you actually have a lot more data than you initially realized, you just need to use it in the right way.
While there will likely be some things you just can’t measure, there are lots of tools out there that you can use to fill in most of the gaps you may have in your data. A few great options to consider include the following:
KaPost’s Content Scoring will tell you how individual pieces of content such as a blog post or a single Tweet is contributing to your company’s revenue.
Lattice Engines offers predictive lead scoring and conversion rates, helping you better understand, and predict, buyer behavior. While this isn’t helpful for understanding what you’ve done, it’s great for making the case for what you plan to do.
Quill Engage is a free tool that makes it easier to understand website performance by explaining your Google Analytics data in plain English (disclosure: this is a Narrative Science product).
TrendKite is the analytics platform I mentioned earlier related to understanding awareness. It provides a rich source of data for your media coverage and allows you to measure things like mentions, readership, and social amplification.
I’m just scratching the surface here, but the point remains. There are many tools out there that can help you get the insights you need to make your case. In my view, the best of them are the ones that convey that information in a useful, easy-to-understand way.
3. Be Confident and Have Conviction
Being armed with the right data is one thing, but being able to present that data to others effectively is another. To do so you need to have confidence and conviction, and that will only come when you truly understand the data and what it means.
So make sure that you take the time you need to not only identify and fill the gaps in your data but also to understand what all of that data can tell you about your business. You want to be able to use it to see what’s working and what’s not, and to be able to deliver data-driven recommendations to the C-suite.
The best way to do this? Remind the room about the objectives for each program or activity so everyone understands what ‘success’ looks like, and then articulate whether or not they had the impact you anticipated. Take it from me, data combined with confidence makes for a compelling argument.
Data, Data Everywhere
I think it’s safe to say that being a marketer is a lot harder today than ever before. Sure we have better tools, but with that comes much greater responsibility. These days, marketing budgets are not decided based solely on anecdotes or intuition. They’re decided based on facts.
If you’re armed with the right data and insight to make your case, you’ll be in a much better position to get the support and investment you need.