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4 marketing data myths that need to go

4 marketing data myths that need to go Mark Gambill

Data? Analytics? Those are for the IT team, right? Not anymore. While you'll never catch a marketer using data the same way a developer would, that doesn't make their role any less important and impactful to non-technical teams. Data is an untapped resource that, when leveraged in the right way, can provide valuable insights other marketing activities can't offer. I often remind myself and my team that data helps you listen louder and look longer -- which can lead to far more opportunities to draw connections and make smarter decisions.

Here are four common myths about marketing and data that could be leading your team astray.

Myth No. 1: Google analytics will do the trick

From politics to Pokémon Go, we've become a society of extremes. On one end of that extreme are those who surface skim data without fully understanding its context and how it drives the right types of insights. It's also very common to feel like too much data will simply overwhelm your employees to the extent you can't do any analysis at all. This feeling can lead teams to keep it simple with good old Google Analytics. On the other end are marketing teams that go too far with the information available to them, over-analyzing every last bit of data they have in an attempt to find the ultimate "ah-ha."

Data is persuasive, but is only of value if you have the right systems and processes in place to effectively mine the information, which is usually coming from multiple sources. Collating and effectively aggregating this data is critical in order to paint a complete picture of customer behavior. When building a strategy for collecting data, keep in mind that it should be accessible, digestible, and actionable for the entire team to use.

The best way to start is by knowing what questions you want to answer. For example, if my company just held an event with 250 attendees, I can collect data on those individuals to tell me things like:

  • How many people in the audience were customers, prospects, and partners?
  • Which industry do each of these attendees represent? What is their role and title?
  • Which of my company's products are they using?

Identifying key questions will help you build a dashboard that presents the information your team needs to take action.

Myth No. 2: Good data can stand alone

This may be obvious to some, but it's important to remember that the best analytics strategies balance qualitative and quantitative inputs. Data can provide a great framework for your marketing strategy, but it's your team's ability to analyze those results that makes the impact truly powerful.

There are two types of information you can gather. The first is key performance indicators (KPIs) such as cost per lead or cost per qualified lead, which reveal how certain marketing tactics are performing. The second -- the real gold-mine of opportunity -- is the analysis of that aggregated information. Analyzing a complicated data set gives you the ability to answer questions like:

  • How do marketing vehicles perform on an individual basis versus a collective whole?
  • Are we answering customer questions and equipping them with what they need to make a final decision?
  • How is my team's work impacting different areas of the funnel? Where are my investments really needed, and at what percentages?

Using data for marketing efforts is like conducting a symphony -- as the piece progresses, new instruments join in, contributing unique sounds and combining to create a more elaborate mosaic of music. In marketing, we're often not sure how those instruments -- our marketing tools -- are going to fit into the bigger picture at first, but we do have the ability to try out different options and see what works best. As with an orchestra, so many elements play into a complete marketing strategy, from channel to message to language to tone, and from the top of the funnel to the bottom. Effectively leveraging data helps us to put all of that into perspective.

Myth No. 3: Marketing data should stay within the marketing department

At many companies, there's a bit of disconnect between sales and marketing. While the marketing team thinks they're doing great work, the sales department may feel like they aren't getting quality leads. This is where data enters the equation. It can reveal whether those sales reps are properly equipped to do their jobs by identifying gaps in training that need to be filled.

On the flip side, data on the success of marketing materials and activities can lead to a valuable feedback loop from the sales department. Is the messaging impactful enough to draw interest? What sets your company's messaging apart from competitors? Does the messaging address the customer's needs? What doubts are prospective customers expressing on calls?

Myth No. 4: Data is a "set it and forget it" thing

I have a sign in my office that says: "Discover, create, execute, measure. Take a breath and do it again. 'Take a breath' is optional." Once you've established a process for data collection and analysis that works for your team, it's easy to fall into a dashboard rut. Resist the urge to get comfortable. A strong data strategy requires constant test and learn and should shift when needed along with your other marketing activities.

Once you get into the cadence of looking at the same dashboards every day, those numbers can quickly become meaningless. The best way to stay accountable is to assign a lead marketer to challenge the numbers and press the team to iterate on them, continually assessing whether that data is answering the right questions.

A smart approach to collecting and analyzing data allows you to discover, adjust, and execute accordingly, but this shouldn't be done in a vacuum. The marketing department impacts everyone from sales to HR to finance and beyond.

For example, if data pulled by marketing shows that prospective customers respond positively each time a certain software feature is mentioned, putting more spend behind a campaign promoting that feature is likely a smart move. By leveraging data, a marketer can make a strong case to the finance department when it comes to additional marketing and advertising investments.

Not having an effective data strategy is like trying to hit a baseball in the dark. You'll expend a lot of energy with very little result. The goal of every marketer is to be as targeted as possible. Understanding how to use data to develop insights helps make that goal a reality.

Mark Gambill is the Chief Marketing Officer at MicroStrategy, a leading global provider of enterprise business intelligence solutions. Mark has over 20 years of executive marketing experience across a diverse set of industries. Prior to joining...

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