Marketing is one of those professions where people guess a lot. They think marketing is easy because it involves creative thinking. Unlike accounting or operations, many people think they can contribute to the marketing conversation, but often they contribute based on their own personal bias or opinion.

I’ve spent enough years in marketing — as director of communications, director of marketing, VP of marketing, VP of sales — to know that there are certain departments that are very quantifiable, where success directly correlates to numbers and revenue. Marketing should be the same – it should start out with an assumption. Then goals and tactics should be set to prove that assumption true or false. Most companies fail to do this. They don’t start with an objective in mind. They bring someone in to run the department and they’re really just making it up.

Time for an evidence-based approach to marketing

The reason I know this with certainty is that I used to be one of those people who would make it up. And I had some flexible, courageous, entrepreneurial bosses who let me spend time and money trying to figure it out. But through this I learned that there is a better way. We have to stop guessing. And that’s actually what led me to build Marketing CoPilot.

There has to be a process in place to determine the type of content that goes on your website, in your email newsletter, or through your social media channels. You’re choosing to communicate with an audience and you can’t just take your product brochure and stick it online and think it’s going to work.

There’s been this huge, monumental shift in how we market today in terms of how the buyer does their research before buying. Because of this, we’re being forced to be much smarter about what kinds of content we choose to produce and which channels we choose to populate. One of the great things about marketing now versus a few years ago, is that we have data available to us to help us make better decisions.

Two parts science: One part art

While marketing is still a bit of science and art, it’s the science part as marketers we have to adopt more. We need to be a lot smarter about using data. We need to stop guessing. It all breaks down into a simple progression: map the buyer journey so you can decide what to do, then track how it’s performing to decide what to do next. There’s never been a better time as a marketer to rely on data as a way to tell us what can be improved.

I had a customer recently whose login page for their customer portal was littered with social media icons. When I asked them how many people click on the icons as a way to communicate with them, share about them, or follow them, they didn’t know. Then they changed their mind and said, “very few” once someone called up the data. They didn’t know how many people clicked from those icons to their homepage. They didn’t know how many of their actual customers followed them on Facebook. Their thinking was that having those icons made them look like they were in the game.

What we discovered was that they were failing miserably with their social media strategy – in fact, there was no strategy! They had no traffic coming from Facebook to their website. Nobody was using the social media icons on their website to do anything. Nobody was following them as a result. They weren’t using these accounts to communicate with their customer base, so there was no reason to follow them. Would you?

We were able to look at the outbound and inbound data to the site to determine that, even though they were posting huge numbers of people visiting their website, there was zero traffic and zero lift from their Facebook account. So one of two things had to change: decide the objective of their Facebook account. Or simply get rid of it.

This client was not using their data. Because if after having those social media icons there for a month, three months, six months, and not one person is using them to share, then those icons are just a distraction and they serve no purpose.

Data is everywhere today

You have all this data available to you to help you make better decisions. There have been other instances where I have looked at clients’ social media sites and we’ve been able to use Google Analytics to determine how well they are performing. You want to make sure you have a purpose for every tool you choose to use and that the tool is working.

You might discover that you are actually getting good traction in Twitter and that you’re getting great prospects coming to your website or to your online store and that customers are doing the things that you want them to do. Data is there to help you track that behavior and make decisions.

In today’s modern market, we know that people don’t want more choices, they want fewer. They are overwhelmed by too many choices and they want to be led. The best-case scenario for a customer is that they land somewhere that resonates immediately, with a solution that can help them, and with a very clear path for taking the next step. They don’t want to have to sort through drop-down boxes and confusing navigation. They want simple, direct, and transparent information. Data helps us create that experience because it allows us to stop guessing at visitor behavior on a website.

Context and Insight

The challenge with digital marketing strategy today is that unlike marketing in the past, where you went to a trade show and met people or you were out networking or used telemarketing, now there’s a browser and a screen that separates you from a potential customer. This makes it harder to know a person’s true intentions and to understand their buying journey. It’s tough because you can’t look someone in the eye anymore while they learn about you. You don’t get to ask them questions. What you’re trying to do is use well-placed content to understand them and guide them. When you use data to track their intentions, you get a better understanding of what works and what does not.

In the end, our friends with the Facebook icon on their homepage decided that it was important for it to remain there but that they would be more thoughtful about the type of content they were posting. And they rethought the placement of the icon, opting to put it in the footer of their site rather than somewhere where the customer would just ignore it.  It might end up that it’s for a very specific subset of their customer base.

You don’t need to be everywhere. You just need to be in front of the people who care in a relevant and consistent way. Inherent in every web analytics tool is data that suggests where you should be spending your time. We can’t be everywhere in this day and age. It’s impossible. So go spend your time in the places that you’re going to have the biggest impact as a business. Stop guessing.


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