The phrase “data driven” continues to gain momentum in the digital marketing industry. Everyone (companies, marketers, and maybe even the woman who owns my favorite coffee shop) says they want to be data driven. It connotes building an online strategy around the data you collect, as opposed to hunches and gut feelings. Which is a good thing. I don’t call myself a “data dame” for no reason.
But data doesn’t tell you everything. In fact, data doesn’t “tell” you anything. Data simply is. You can analyze it from different perspectives. You can glean answers to specific marketing questions. You can use it to measure virtually any outcome you want to track.
In short, data is an absolute necessity in every marketer’s toolbox and needs to play a prominent role in the design and performance evaluation of your marketing plan. However, when it comes to establishing your organization’s objectives and goals or defining the purpose of your website, data can inform, but you must be the one driving.
Data-driven approach falls short
I first learned the importance of this several years ago while working with a client that seemed to be experiencing internal turmoil between marketing and sales departments. I was tasked with, among other things, analyzing website traffic flow and helping the web developer redesign the home page. So, logically (at the time), I looked at the data and began mapping things out for them, including referral traffic sources, behavior on site, and other metrics.
Beneath the site’s main navigation and header image on the home page were two very prominent buttons or pathways. Not surprisingly, my analysis showed most visitors were clicking on one of those two options.
At this point, I wondered if the data-driven approach was the right one for the home-page design. What if visitor behavior didn’t yield the results my client wanted? Did those pathways match up with the business objectives and goals my client had set? Were those pathways necessary? Did they actually hinder visitors and traffic flow?
I also wondered what my client’s business objectives and goals actually were. With my sense of the possible in-house issues, no one had ever addressed this, and I’m not sure I asked the right questions in those days. I was basically flying blind. How could we have not communicated about this?
Ultimately, I never got the answers I needed, but I learned some valuable lessons from this experience.
Make data more powerful: put it in its proper place
My biggest takeaway was data alone is not enough to steer your marketing efforts. You must look at data through the lens of your business objectives and the quantitative goals you’ve set to meet them. Communicate them to everyone on your team. When you set expectations at the beginning, there’s a better chance your team can work in tandem and will be able to meet them.
If you’re reading this and are a digital marketing consultant like me, I recommend not starting any project with a new client without knowing their business objectives and goals. If your client hasn’t established any, offer to walk with them through the process of establishing not only objectives and goals, but also marketing strategy, tactics, and what metrics will be used to assess the outcomes.
- Use data to benchmark.
- Use data to advise your digital marketing strategy and tactics.
- Use data to test.
- Use data to compare.
- Use data to gauge goal attainment and pinpoint areas that need improvement.
When data is used in its proper (and extremely important) place, it becomes incredibly powerful. It can propel your online marketing strategy to unmatched success—and you’ll have all the metrics to prove it.
Not sure how to set business objectives, goals, and a marketing strategy to match? Data Dames can help.
A digital marketing professional since 2011, Annalisa is a technical SEO with a Google Analytics certification and a passion for data. When she’s not helping clients improve their digital marketing strategy and website performance, she’s off on a hike, riding her bike (affectionately named Newton), or getting lost in a good book, article, or podcast with a cup of locally roasted coffee or craft IPA in hand.