The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Focus on the one metric that matters
It's easy to get overwhelmed with the data coming out of marketing technology. I heard that marketers are juggling as many as 100 apps to execute on their marketing objectives. To simplify, select a single metric to measure that actually drives business results. By having laser-like focus on this key performance indicator, you will feel a sense of progress as you see the numbers improve.
Forecast and measure
For any marketing experiment, you should forecast what your projected outcome will be. When you've finished the project, you can compare the actual against your forecast to see how accurate you were and then decide if the project was actually worth it. Forecasting ahead of time will also enable you to get better at planning and forecasting for the next time.
It can be challenging to implement technologies or platforms while juggling the existing needs of a business. Start with the basics by building a dashboard of available key metrics and use this to share marketing performance internally and to create comfort with a new approach. This small shift can quickly lead to increased interest and investment in data-driven marketing programs and services.
Take advantage of tools
A data focus is an absolute necessity in modern marketing, and there have never been so many great tools to work with. I would advise any marketer to begin training themselves in the big programs like Google Analytics, Ahrefs, and Majestic straight out of school, and any older marketers without this background should start building it immediately.
Start by setting your goals and then work backward to figure out how to measure them/improve. There are endless metrics to track, all of which are meaningless unless they're tied to a goal. Once goals have been set (e.g., traffic metrics, lifecycle stage conversion within their funnel, CAC, community growth, etc.), then you can figure out the right metrics to use in order to measure success.
Seek a data-driven professional
If you're looking to jump into a data-driven position in your company, it's best to turn to those who are already accomplished and doing it. At my previous agency, I worked closely with one individual who was much more analytical and data-driven than I was. Ultimately, surrounding yourself with people who are wiser than you is the simplest way to improve your professional skill set.
Six years ago, I pivoted from an awareness-based PR firm to a direct response social media agency and never looked back. It's scary to be accountable for results, but nothing grows an account like reportable outcomes. A great book I suggest: "No B.S. Direct Marketing," http://amzn.to/1VU6CeJ by Dan Kennedy.
Pick one area of data to start
Don't try to shift the entire company over to a data-driven approach as it may only serve to confuse the organization. Instead, select one aspect of data that could be used in a certain area to make changes. This provides a way to "practice" this data-driven approach, get comfortable with it, and master it before you take on more areas of data to analyze and leverage.
Define your actions post-discovery
I have hundreds of students that get into the app business and start seeing large amounts of data. The biggest mistake is that they slice everything a million ways but never know how it fits into a larger strategy. You should be able to answer the "So what?" question when presenting the data you find.
Focus on your key performance indicators
If you are making the transition into data-driven decisions, it is best to understand which KPIs are the most important for your brand. Is it acquisition costs? Is it revenue channel? Is it ROI? These factors all play a major role but to truly understand what is important, I advise to create easy to understand reports that break down a high level and granular view of your KPIs.
Create meaningful goals, then figure out how to track them
Everything in life starts with a goal. Then come the strategy and tactics that get you there. In marketing, it's the same approach. Pick a goal such as more website sales, and then work backwards from there. You need trackable traffic using a UTM tag and something onsite, like Google Analytics, to tell you what they do when onsite. View the analytics to figure out the bottlenecks and then solve for "X."
Make sure your data is located in the same system
You get data from a variety of sources, including each "touch" a customer makes with your platforms. House all that data in a centralized system, such as your marketing database. Don't forget to include internal data and third-party data like demographics. This gives you a well-rounded picture of who you're creating a marketing strategy for. Every data-driven approach must be customer-focused.
Invest in automation and integration
Invest in a marketing automation tool, like HubSpot or Pardot, that integrates with a CRM, like Salesforce. Only when you're fully utilizing these two tools will you be able to truly understand the impact of your marketing investment on your bottom line and make smart marketing decisions for the future.