It used to be you’d fly in to a new city, pick up a car or hop a train and you’re on your own – without a roadmap you’re lost and lonesome. These days GPS Sat-Navs and mobile networks provide the tools we need to navigate more effectively than ever before.
Data can be the Google Maps of business. There’s no need to run marketing strategies on instinct when digital innovations provide the tools you need to get your business from A to B. Miss a turn? No problem, it’s easy to get back on track. You always know where you are and where you’re heading, and can even pre-empt bad traffic.
Eliminate the guesswork
Business used to be typically run through intuition – some succeeded and many failed. Sure, you’ll always need great intuition to develop great services and products. But until you truly understand your market and your audience, and how these apply to your business, you’re limiting your potential. Data can help you eliminate the guesswork and develop a path to where you want to be.
Gone are the days of committing $X amount to billboards and $Y to TV commercials that come with no real measure of ROI. By utilising the data your customers give you, you can maximise the resonance of your products and services.
Know your audience to create opportunities
Marketing is ultimately about testing a hypothesis: ‘We think the market needs this’. And these are validated through sales. Digital allows you to flip this way of working. By learning about your customers first – their needs and desires – you gain the knowledge to refine your product or service based on what they actually want, not what you think they want.
Traditionally you’d use things like market research to test your assertions. Digital allows us to learn about the user, target messaging and attribute spend to measurable outcomes. You can also develop understandings of what will resonate with different audiences, which can influence your products and services.
It’s no longer about what happened yesterday: ‘X number of new visitors arrived and we sold the same as the same day last year’ – so what? That kind of information is pretty unactionable. The big promise of big data is that you’ll be able to draw meaningful insights or prove a hypothesis that informs your next moves.
The story of Netflix is the story of data taking flight. They had a popular service that provided externally produced content, and through a ratings system they developed a sophisticated understanding of their audience. They knew which actors, directors, plot-lines and themes resonated and they cobbled this together into what became House of Cards. Theirs was an informed vision. They listened to their audience. The intuition was always there, but they got creative about how they use data to create opportunities.
Test the market in real-time
The biggest benefit of digital marketing is the increased ability to measure certain points of relevancy. Now you can put up 15 ads and not just measure the click-through rates of each, but also attribute certain traffic to certain activities. By doing this you answer questions like: ‘What products were most effective for certain demographics? And ‘Where is your audience coming and converting from?’
From here you can adjust your messaging to get the right ads in front of the customers you want – fine-tuning your marketing in real-world, real-time situations; testing without the need for ‘market testing’. It may be that your annual sale leads to increased purchases. Great! But what products were most effective? And for whom? Instead of thinking of a conversion as an end point, you can break down all of the data you’ve accumulated to measure the effectiveness of product against certain attribution – collating information to form future roadmaps.
Conversion isn’t everything
This feeds into the idea of the marketing lifecycle: through brand awareness potential customers consider the products and services on offer; this hopefully leads to sales, and great user experiences create brand loyalty. But what if someone comes to your website, clicks and leaves? They might not convert straight way, but they might sign up for your newsletter, or download a white paper, and they will probably give you information about their needs and desires simply through the products they browse. So through segmentation, targeted communications and remarketing, you can make use of all of the data you’ve gained to encourage future conversions.
As an example, if you browse ASOS and spend your evening looking for a new pair of pants, ASOS don’t need to ask you what you want, you’ve already told them. In fact, on a site like ASOS, the first thing you’ve done is tell them if you’re a man or a woman – instantly halving the demographic for more targeted advertising. And with each step further down the customer experience, a clearer picture forms of what each individual actually needs.
A lot of businesses focus exclusively on getting people through to purchase, but there’s a bigger gain than that. By pooling all data from initial contact right through to purchase and repeat visits, you can build profiles of your customers and the types of marketing they respond to.
Identify the right leads for you
The ability to identify certain buyer personas has potential to allow you to trigger certain actions. It may be that a user’s downloaded a white paper, or you know they regularly open your newsletter – now might be the time to reach out and say: ‘Hey, we saw that you did this. If you want any more info, here’s a list of our prices.’ If the person opens the follow-up email, perhaps it’s time to give them a call.
Through a process of ‘lead scoring’ you can use the information you’ve gained to qualify if individuals are actually useful for your business, and disqualify them if they’re not. Why invest time if they don’t fit the profile types of your audience? It may be that 300 people visited the website but only 15 of them are qualified leads, or 20 of them fit your target demographic. Once you can identify your buyer personas, you can break down the data to ask: ‘Is our marketing spend on track?’ ‘Are we hitting our target audience?’ ‘How effective was our effort?’
Give the people what they want
You can even retrofit data use to existing businesses to increase customer satisfaction. As an example, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has been running for 25 years and comprises a whole bunch of events run by different organisations. Until recently ticket sales occurred offline; they had limited insight to measure the success of external events, or who was attending what – handing out surveys and taking people’s details got them only limited part of the picture.
A switch to digital ticketing allowed them to discover people’s preferences, identify target audiences, and curate events to be what they knew people wanted. By combining great intuition with great data, they took the guesswork and stress out of planning, ultimately offering a far better customer experience, and taking the festival from good to great.
Create a feedback loop to inform future decisions
Traditionally the role of the marketer was to have knowledge of a product, put it out to market and have some kind of insight into where that will resonate. But this process also works in reverse. It may be that you believe the most important value you offer is range. But if your audience actually just wants black, why waste money creating 15 different colours?
Once you’ve identified your customers and their needs, and are converting this to sales, suddenly every skerrick of data you’ve gathered about these people becomes even more valuable. You can now use the data to inform the types of services and products you offer, specifically cater to what people really want, and retrospectively optimise how you get the right products in front of the right people.
This is where data gets exciting – it actually starts directing us to what we should be doing next.
Better experiences builds better business
When you listen to your customers through data, apply this to your business thinking and improve their experience, you’ll ultimately create loyalty. If a customer’s sending information to their friends, that advocacy brings new people in to further drive your awareness, eliminating the need to spend. Now you’re getting new customers coming in through your existing clients’ networks. And you can afford to recognise your advocates.
You don’t need to spend money on growing loyalty if you can cultivate user experiences that prevent ‘anti-loyalty’. Improve the way you offer your service through the insights gained via your customers. Brand awareness influences consideration to purchase, user experiences influence conversion rates, ease of purchase influences loyalty – and round and round it goes. If one of these keystones is ineffective, it comes at the expense of the others. Each part of the cycle needs to be oiled well to feed your satisfied customers back into the loop. So if you’re not harnessing data to inform your digital marketing roadmaps of the future, your customers and your business can expect a rocky road.