January 31, 2021
Facts Over Feelings: Putting Marketing Data to Better Use in the C-Suite & Beyond
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in February 2017. It was revised in January 2021 with updated statistics and new information.
Bill is a real person, a farmer in Western Canada. We’ve kept his real name and other identifiable information private for the purposes of this chart. In addition, all of the information used to build this chart was publicly available and attached to Bill only after he provided our client with his contact information.
In 2018, while working with our client, a farm equipment manufacturer, on the launch of their newest innovation, we used data generated by Bill, other farmers like him, social listening tools and our own marketing analytics, to help us inform, adjust and optimize the campaign, as well as verify that the personas we had built were aligned with the customers we were actually reaching.
Every action Bill took, both online and off, to interact with the brand and the campaign created data that allowed us to understand the journey that farm equipment customers were taking on the path to making purchasing decisions. Bill represented a specific segment of our persona, a grower who was excited about our client’s new offering and the innovations they were bringing to market – but ultimately opted to replace his existing equipment with a model that was already in our client’s product line in December of that year (not pictured).
It’s unlikely that the actual consideration phase of Bill’s buying cycle was 11 months long, but repeated engagements with the brand ensured that when he was ready to make his decision, our client was front of mind. Bill’s journey, laid out in this way, demonstrates the power that data has to validate and strengthen your marketing decisions.
Big Data is Bigger Than Ever Before
Every day, internet users generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Collectively, we’re sending billions of emails, uploading hundreds of millions of photos, and streaming a lot of video – 1 billion hours a day on YouTube alone.
Data is one of the world’s greatest resources and one that most companies have access to, but they’re struggling to put it to good use. While 98.8% of organizations indicate they are investing in Big Data and AI initiatives, many are failing to capitalize on the data they collect. Forrester reports that 60 to 73% of data collected is never used. Underused data is usually unused for one of two reasons: companies that don’t have the tools to access and analyze the data they are collecting and those that don’t realize they’ve collected the data at all.
What this means from a business planning perspective is that countless decisions are being made based on gut feelings, or on “close-enough” data from other industries or aggregated research, rather than with insights drawn from quantifiable data from actual customers.
Marketing Data In the Boardroom
Over the years we’ve spent working with agriculture brands across North America, we’ve fine-tuned our ability to put data-driven insights into the driver’s seat. By applying data at every step of a marketing plan, we’ve been able to closely tie marketing tactics to business outcomes. For our clients, this has translated into a deeper understanding of how marketing plans deliver on ROI, sharper insights into products and innovations that will deliver increased value to their customers, and smarter tactics that actually convert.
Imagine the power of a well-crafted data story weaved into a presentation to your board of directors. Business outcomes, and the marketing and sales plans to support them, can be woven into a memorable, persuasive and engaging story that has real data to support proposed goals, tactics, or campaigns. It can be hard to convey the value of data by simply presenting charts and graphs with final tallies. Extracting the value from the data collected involves uncovering insights and translating them into action. What does the data mean? What prediction can you make about your customers based on their previous behaviours?
By analyzing data in this way, much of the guesswork and gut feelings are removed. Data can provide the often requested proof that a strategy is working – or insight into why it isn’t.
Telling Better Brand Stories With Data
In addition to the tremendous value data brings to internal teams, it can also help you craft more compelling messages for your customers. With every click, tap, and swipe, your customers are telling you what messages they find most engaging, and which they’d rather skip. In this case, smartly combining data points is important. If two pieces of marketing content are performing equally well, dig deeper to see if they are resonating with different segments of your audience, or at different times. Examine the devices they’re using to interact with your digital properties. A farmer on his phone while out in the field needs content served to him differently than when he’s back in the office on his desktop computer.
These insights can help you verify that your customer personas and segments are properly defined, that the key messages you’re delivering are relevant to them, and that the mediums and channels you’re employing to distribute them are the right ones. This will allow you to optimize more quickly, rather than waiting for a weak Q4 report to let you know your strategy didn’t work.
Building Credibility With Validity
Another application for properly collected and analyzed data is proof. From customer results to third party trials, real numbers are among the most persuasive messages a brand can deliver. Conveying this information to your customers doesn’t need to be dry. Data storytelling can help guide a structured approach to communicate results data using visuals and narrative. Similar to regular storytelling, your data stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Highlighting the real experience of a demo customer humanizes data. Few people are as invested in a chart full of numbers as they are in a good story about a real person that also conveys quantifiable data to back up product claims.
Collected data is an opportunity that ROI driven brands can’t afford to leave on the table any longer.
At WS, our team works every day to collect and analyze real-time data, from customer behaviour across multi-channel campaigns to the specific touchpoints that drive sales, influence repeat purchases, and build lifetime customer loyalty. To learn more about our approach, explore our case studies.