We live in a world of data, plain and simple. Our jobs are data-driven, our healthcare is data-driven, heck, people in general—their actions, their behaviors, their thoughts—as collections of data-points. And that’s not a bad thing. As companies like Google and Salesforce (and yes, even CircleBack) develop and push intelligence engines and machine learning to the forefront of the tools they offer businesses, huge strides in targeting intelligence and market prediction rely on… nay, demand we consider the world as discoverable data.

Yet still, so many marketers still rely on gut. There is something to be said for intuition—there’s no doubt about that—but the reality remains: there’s no gut so reliable as data. Intuition may carry a marketer 9 times out of 10, but the machine will ace it every time, given the proper know-how. And given that, at this point, we have the technology and the data, it’s time to let data drive our work.

But you probably know all this, that, with data, there are no broad targets for your marketing campaigns, fewer misses in engagement, and virtually no long-term mistakes. Yes, your message may not catch on right aware, but through the magic of multi-variable, multi-channel testing, you can easily get the data you need to refocus and succeed. What you might not know is that you can’t go half way. Google Analytics isn’t enough. Simple A/B testing isn’t enough. You have to go the distance if you want the glory.


6 steps to data-driven marketing success:

  1. Build a strategy: Though you don’t necessarily have loads of intelligible data yet, it’s important to start thinking strategy: strategy for attacking and interpreting specific data-sets, strategy for early data findings, strategy of content/channels… you get the idea. You should fairly quickly get a rough picture of your audience from the data, something that you can quickly build out into preliminary, testable work.
  2. Look at your data: It’s not realistic to expect that you’ll be able to interpret all of your raw data immediately. It can take months (sometimes years) to get a truly accurate, holistic look at what you’ve got. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look. Fundamentally, all data is insight, and as you delve into these insights, you’ll be able to modify and begin more intelligently working your strategy.
  3. Paint a picture of your consumer: As the data begins to revel differences in your audience-base—different career paths, different industries, different life-style preferences—begin segmenting into more personalized audience groups. Some businesses will even find stock photos of people who represent these groups, people whose stories get fleshed out, whose wants and needs get determined and targeted.
  4. Create more data: With a strategy, preliminary findings, and roughly accurate audience buckets, it’s time for some testing. Use your favorite testing and analytics tools to create to explore your strategy and your conception of audience value.
  5. Refine your strategy, your consumer: With your new data, you should able to get a clearer picture of which of your efforts were good and which weren’t. Focus on the failures. It’s great to know what works, but knowing why elements/efforts of strategy failed prevents you from making similar mistakes in the future. They also tend to lead to better ideas and keener insights about your consumer, allowing you to react and retarget.
  6. Literally never stop doing this: By following steps 4 & 5 into infinitely, you should theoretically never have a marketing problem again. It’s only those that stop, those who “know what works” and keep doing that who fail because consumers change as the week ends, as the seasons change, as the culture does. Only those who work from a clear, clean picture of current data will stay in-step with their customer.

So as you can see, while data-driven marketing isn’t rocket science, it requires a lot of patience, a lot of testing, and the continuous analysis of data. Once you’ve got your strategy and you really understand who your consumers are, though, your goals are in reach. By continuously using data to refine your strategy and audience, you’ll get closer to that marketing-success nirvana.