Walk before you can run: Start small and smart to get data-driven marketing right

A recent study found just two percent of companies are classified as best in class when it comes to data-driven marketing, and another discovered only a third (32%) have a clear view of the customer lifetime value. Clearly, the rising number of consumer touchpoints are not only bringing with them huge scope to improve reach and engagement, but also overwhelming amounts of fragmented data that are proving hard for marketers to decipher.

Effectively analysing data to understand the customer is essential to delivering impactful experiences, as 65% of marketers worldwide agreed. But when this means spending significant time and resources to gain a clear view of all this data and what it actually means, many are lagging behind in creating actionable and effective insights.

But does this have to be the case?

While it’s often assumed that harnessing data requires large-scale reconfiguration, this approach isn’t often successful. A recent Forrester report found that 'in 2018 more than 50% of digital transformation efforts failed or stalled as the sheer size, complexity, and change of the mandate overwhelmed organisations'. As more marketers experience the pain of these failures and the lack of progress, attention is shifting to initiatives that start with much smaller steps.

What’s wrong with ‘one size-fits-all’?

With 73% of global consumers citing experience as a key factor in purchasing decisions, using data to understand loyal customers, and deliver the messaging that will most appeal to them, is  crucial. It’s not surprising many marketers think this requires implementing disruptive sea-change initiatives, replacing entire systems with a new technology stack to boost their data capabilities. But a complete technological overhaul is not always the right answer.

Aside from the fact installing a generic solution is unlikely to meet the unique challenges facing each individual company, full stacks also come with issues of their own. Integration is typically intensive — with lengthy time-to-value — and the tech is also frequently too complex to accommodate constantly evolving market trends and consumer habits.  

Instead of making drastic changes to existing operations, marketers should adopt a more measured approach — developing strategies that are focused on meeting specific organisational needs, and ensuring teams can successfully leverage customer data to overcome these particular pain points. 

The benefits of a narrower remit  

Beginning small doesn’t mean thinking small, starting with the big picture is key. Only by assessing wider business goals can marketers identify the barriers to growth and the opportunities for the quick wins they should concentrate on first. With a clear chain of priority, they can tackle issues one by one: devoting maximum energy, investment and resources to rapidly and effectively addressing each business critical area, before moving on to the next. 

For example, an overall company objective may be increasing sales but a lack of accurate performance data might be impeding the success of the campaign’s optimisation. Setting unification of data and measurement as a priority could help meet both challenges.

Options for realising this goal vary, but the most efficient involve adopting complementary tools. For instance, combining the use of a customer data platform (CDP) that centralises every piece of customer data to build a unified view of behaviour and multi-touch attribution (MTA) tech – to measure the impact of all online and offline touchpoints that play a role in the consumer’s journey – enables marketers to turn disparate data into a single pool of customer knowledge, and use it for running granular performance analysis. In this way, they will not only gain a 360-degree view of customer journeys that includes every interaction, but also understanding of the impact each touchpoint makes. So, marketing messages and delivery methods can be immediately adjusted to mirror customer preferences: improving relevance and results.

Adopt an agile approach

Once the initial building blocks are in place, marketers have a foundation they can expand on to drive innovation and growth. That is, as long as their strategy is formulated with flexibility in mind, so marketing strategy can be easily adjusted in line with industry and organisational shifts.

Development can flow in multiple directions, depending on original objectives. For example, brands that have implemented MTA to boost incremental sales might take evaluation up a notch by tracking keywords: sorting high-performers from low and using the insight gained to modify advertising budget. Or those centred on continually improving customer experience may reinforce CDP-fuelled tailoring with media mix modelling (MMM) — a technology that uses artificially intelligent (AI) algorithms to predict future marketing resonance based on past campaign data, empowering longer-term marketing strategies.

Amid constant pressure to keep pace with technology, it’s easy to understand the urge to persistently revamp marketing, and the way data is used. But transformation is not a one-and-done process; there will always be new developments and tools to accommodate.

As a result, the best policy for effective data-driven marketing is to start small, and move one step at a time. An agile approach that begins by addressing the biggest problems a company faces will lead to better attribution and performance measurement, and better, more unified, customer understanding. This will enable brands to flex, and take advantage of changing markets and trends and be proactive as well as reactive.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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