5 Things You Should Know About Data in Digital Marketing

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Kissmetrics recently posted an article titled “How to Get the Non-Technical People in Your Office Excited About Analytics.” It’s an interesting article (I highly encourage you take a minute to read it), but not exactly news to anyone in the agency world.

Arc Intermedia is a digital (only) marketing agency. We are big believers in data, but many times our clients need to be convinced of data’s value and overall relevance when it comes to making decisions. Clients typically have preconceived ideas of what works and how to best address their audience, and many times they’re right. And why wouldn’t they be? They have spent years cultivating this audience, building a brand, improving a product, and pouring their heart and soul into a company. The problems arise when their heart and soul are not enough to successfully market a product and they don’t understand why.

As an agency, and an active partner in our clients’ success, we don’t want to stomp on what they have worked so hard to build. If their website is not driving results, does that necessarily mean we should scrap it and create a new one? No, not always. We never want to recommend change just for the sake of change, and we never want to recommend a change without data to support our decision.

We use data to make strategic, measurable recommendations to our clients. Why? Because data is not up for discussion, it’s not an opinion, it’s not a knee-jerk reaction. It is a fact. Data tells a story, and each of our team members use it to enhance their recommendations and solidify their strategy for success.

We work to coach our clients to make data driven decisions, in order to ultimately make better decisions. Here is a list of five things the Arc team believes you should know about data.

1. See what effort led to results and calculate return on investment

I’ve met plenty of people who approach analytics with tepid weariness bordering on fear. Particularly creative types with a searing aversion to numbers and math.

But then I explain the numbers and what they mean, and suddenly their website and marketing efforts come alive before them. Seeing what effort led to what results, calculating true return on investment, understanding why users visit a page and what they’re after. Once people truly buy into accepting the importance of analytics, their job doesn’t just become easier, but can actually become more fun — now there’s a through-line of what actions cause what results and how marketers can pull the right strings.
Matthew Ulmer, Director of Client Services

2. You know very quickly if something doesn’t work

Conversion rate optimization is the name of the game. If you can make more sales by analyzing your performance data and using it to inform new marketing initiatives, why wouldn’t you?

I disagree somewhat with the assertions about the underlying reasons some companies bristle at becoming more analytics-minded. Certainly the mandates of a position play a role, and time management is a concern for everybody from the C-suite on down. But if you dig a little deeper, the underlying issues usually winds up being fear of change or, worse, fear of mathematics.

Parsing analytics data can often feel like taking a crash course in statistics, and adjusting to a data-first approach can be a bit of a learning curve. Seeing things in hard numbers can be disillusioning for those accustomed to creative contribution and “big idea” planning. You know very quickly if something doesn’t work. That’s a scary concept to many people because proper attribution brings accountability to one’s role. It shouldn’t be; it should inspire us all to grow professionally and avoid complacency.

The often-espoused “Math People vs. Creative People” notion is a false dichotomy. We all need a balance of both, no matter our titles. The payoff to a professional, office-wide commitment to analytics is that the path to sales growth becomes much clearer.

Let’s face it: the marketing world changes rapidly. If you don’t incorporate data science simply because it’s disruptive to your current approach, an analytics-savvy competitor is waiting in the wings to steal your business.
Ron Sansone, Director of Search & Analytics

3. Data provides a safety net for your decisions

As marketers, we sometimes live in a bubble. We know our product, the benefits, the pricing, the competitors – but do we know our audience? Data gives us the opportunity to step back and take the temperature of our audience, to see what is working and what needs improvement. It allows us to make informed, unemotional decisions. It also provides a safety net for when things go wrong.

Data, although a wonderful tool, is fallible. Algorithms can be incorrect, trends can skew results, and tools can be proven wrong. It’s the harsh reality of living in a constantly evolving technological society. Things go wrong. It happens.

If this happens to you (and I say if because, like you, I would like to believe my data is always correct), you have a safety net. You cannot and should not be blamed for making what appeared to be an informed, factual decision. Data allows you to justify all the (wrong) choices you made. These were not emotional choices, you were not playing favorites, you didn’t just take a guess. You made the best decision possible with the resources available, and anyone in your shoes would have done the same.

Informed decisions are the best decisions – even when they are wrong. It’s always better to follow the data than to follow your gut.
Katie Schieder, Inbound Marketing Manager

4. Understanding data is half the battle

You know, a client with data’s a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it!

When non-technical people first get started with analytics, they usually run into one of two issues: Either they’re so overwhelmed by the deluge of data that they ignore it all together (instead relying on their instincts), or they get so wrapped up in analytics they spend all day checking the numbers from every conceivable angle. Sure, the data can be really interesting, but before you know it, you’ve spent your whole day analyzing and not getting any actual work done. Whether you’re overwhelmed or in love, it doesn’t amount to much if you don’t understand why you’re reviewing data.

The solution for both the fearful and the enamored is simple – show them how to interpret the data and bring it from the world of analytics into reality. By demonstrating the effectiveness of analytics to a non-analytical team member or client, you can both work together to drive higher-quality, data-driven results. And having another data advocate in your corner is always a good thing.
Patrick Coyne, SEO & Social Strategy Manager

5. Data takes the guesswork out of decisions

“My gut tells me” and “based on my years of experience” are two common mindsets of senior level executives when it comes to positioning a product, rolling out a new initiative, or how customers will receive their offerings. It’s that alarming collision of when good data shows that their gut is absolutely, stone cold, wrong. It begins with disbelief and ends with humble pie. It’s happened to every decision-maker, including me.

That’s why at Arc, the egos have been put in check and our recommendations for initiatives and pivots are based on data and analytics. It’s the only way to operate in today’s world.

Having real data, carefully analyzed by our team of diverse perspectives, allows us to guide leaders to make informed decisions with real conviction. Something they can stand on. So, don’t fear the data, regardless of how non-technical you may be. Use it to your advantage.
David Sonn, President

 

Are you ready to let data guide your decisions, but unsure where to start? Read Matt Ulmer’s blog post, Vital Tips for Website Analysis in 2017.