In this article, Jasmine Martirossian VP of Marketing at TÜV SÜD Americas shares eight approaches that will help you effectively deal with the big data paradox being faced by marketing

In this era of advanced technology where every little variable is measurable, where mountains of data are generated, and where new data analysis roles pop up like mushrooms after the rain, marketing as a profession is in flux when it comes to how to approach this data.

As with any spectrum – think black and white – marketers of all stripes are clustered at the two ends of the spectrum – black or white. In data terms, this translates to either being so enslaved to the data mandate that, on the one hand, all creative work comes to a halt, or, on the other hand, it translates to being so overwhelmed by data and viewing it all as so complex that all analytics are ignored, and people fly blind.

In life, when you delve deep, very few things are black and white, and it is more shades of gray that we have to contend with daily. The same goes for data – it should not be an all or nothing proposition.

Being mindful of the eight approaches outlined here will help you become an effective marketer that makes data-driven decisions and achieves results.

1. Start Small

Yes, the way to deal with big data is to start small. It may sound counterintuitive, but this is exactly the right approach. The vastness of the amount of data may tempt people to build a big analytics program up front, staff up, add resources, build the shiny city on the hill. But remember, as trite as it sounds, Rome was not built in a day. In fact, Rome is a palimpsest (big word of the day to look up) of styles, alterations, experiments, and epochs. 

So, to become more data-driven in your decision-making, start small.  Specifically, identify an area of expertise or analytics that makes sense to you and can have a huge impact on your outcomes. Let’s take the number of sessions on your website. This is a metric you can find on your Google Analytics dashboard. In essence, a session is a visit to the website. Logically, the more visits your website gets, the more exposure your business gets. This helps expand your brand’s reach, provided you are thinking of your business as a brand (if you don’t, you should).

So, it stands to reason that you might want to increase the number of sessions on your website. Now, different actions you take elsewhere, say, in your email marketing or social media marketing, will have an impact on your outcomes in terms of sessions on the website. Teasing out the impact of these actions will make you become data-driven.

2. Know your objectives

You should be clear about what the data will help you achieve and why you would need to track and analyze it. Chasing data for data’s sake is a useless and self-defying proposition. You surely have some marketing objectives, such as increasing the number of marketing qualified leads, increasing conversion of leads to revenue, expanding brand reach and the like.

So, all analytics actions you take must be focused on helping you achieve your marketing objectives, improving your chances of attaining and surpassing them. Actions beget reactions and you should use the data to track if certain actions are begetting a certain reaction. Try to establish causation and correlation. Experiment with your actions, try A/B testing.

3. Establish a baseline

Whether you are actively measuring the impact of your work or not, you are surrounded by data in many forms. Some of that data might be in the tools you are using, while other data might need to be manually compiled in the beginning.

For instance, you should surely know how many email campaigns you are sending every week and month, you should know how many posts on social media you are making every week and month, you should know how much traffic is coming to your website, you should know how many leads are being generated every month.

It is important to know what the baseline numbers are. It isn’t hard to establish these baseline numbers; you don’t need special analytics qualifications to get to this point. But you do need to have acute awareness of knowing what your baseline is, as it will allow you to gauge properly the outcomes of current activity.

4. Look for patterns

Don’t be overwhelmed by the data, but rather look at it dispassionately to see if you find any patterns. For this, look at spikes and outliers in the data. Then try to establish if any actions or events contributed to these spikes and outliers. For instance, did one email campaign send your web traffic soaring? Did another email campaign fall flat? Are these different types of email communications? Repeat the type that increased the web traffic and see what happens (by “repeat” I don’t mean the exact one, but rather the type).

5. Measure what’s actionable

This is very important. We all have only a limited amount of time in a day, so how that time is allocated has a huge impact on our outcomes. To that end, stay away from tracking every measure in the universe, and focus primarily on those measurements for which you can take actions and make a difference.

Let’s go back to the example of sessions on the website. If that’s your focus, then you can take action, such as increasing the number of email campaigns that bring traffic to the website.

You can also engage on social media with content that interests people, once again bringing more traffic to the website, thus increasing the number of sessions. You can work on further optimizing the content on your website pages. You should delve deeper and see what type of content is driving greater interest and engagement, and then do more of that. This definitely is data-driven decision-making.

6. Spread data awareness

To improve your overall marketing outcomes, make sure that you are bringing your entire team into the data-awareness fold. Specifically, don’t think of data being the province or specialization of just one or two people on the team. Rather, everyone should be on the same page of what is being tracked and how to go about it. Try to demystify the role of data by speaking about it in plain English terms and using specific examples that showcase the impact of the data.

7. Choose your tools

There are so many marketing tools that we all use today. You can’t provide equal attention to every item in your toolbox, but you will be well served to focus on a couple of tools and delve into them deeply.

For instance, if you are using, say, Hotjar, dig deeply into that and drive continuous improvements to the pages and content on your website. This will lift up your overall marketing efforts and will deliver greater outcomes.

Having laser focus in some areas will yield better results than dissipating your efforts and focus all over the map.

8. Analysis Paralysis

Too much of a good thing can also hurt you, the same goes for too much focus on data to the exclusion of other efforts. It is important to be data-aware and make data-driven decisions, but it will completely impede your progress if you stop evolving and become paralyzed because a data point is missing. In that case, you will be held back, and data will get in the way of your progress and outcomes.

Also, remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. Specifically, what if you are measuring areas and types of activities completely overlooking other avenues and options.  To avoid the trap of paralysis from overanalysis, always ensure that you keep innovating, trying new things, and then measuring their impact.

Always create safety sandboxes for play. And be explicit about it. Without taking risks, no innovation will come to life. Only continuous experimentation will ensure that you are on a path of continued evolution and growth. Then you measure the outcomes.

By being cognizant of these eight approaches to dealing with data, you will move from the polar extremes of the data spectrum in marketing and will inhabit the land of the shades of gray where data are concerned, which is the sweet spot for your marketing efforts and informed progress.

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