How to Create a Data-Driven Digital Strategy

People tend to forget that marketing always relied on data. The fact that this data was far less structured, abundant and available doesn’t mean that we are doing something spectacularly new with big data mining, we are just introducing a new level of complexity and utility to an already known paradigm.

That is not to say that challenges of this kind of scaling are not formidable, but overcoming them eliminates most of the guesswork from your marketing strategy, allows you to identify opportunities you’d never even think of, and gives you a clear roadmap to success. If you want to find out why almost 7 out of 10 leading marketers believe in the data-oriented approach, and how you might go about formulating and executing your own marketing strategy, here are the main points to consider.

Setting your goals

Today’s marketers have the exact opposite problem of what their older colleagues have had to deal with, i.e. instead of never having enough data, we have much too much of it. People who are looking to adopt this approach and who are used to noting down every bit of potentially relevant information they can find on a particular audience, market or region, simply have to get used to the fact that their data mining has to be selective if it’s to be of any use. Think of it as observing the starry sky with a telescope – you’ll find a lot of interesting things by just looking around randomly, but if you are looking for something specific, you better make sure you know exactly where to point it.

In other words, it’s not enough to define your goal simply as improving your online visibility, as that doesn’t get you much closer to knowing where to look. Instead, you have to get more granular, by listing the individual objectives that can help you achieve that overarching goal. That allows you to focus your data mining efforts on those particular objectives and all the sub-branches of inquiry that they open up. It’s crucial to remember that while goals are relatively fixed until achieved or completely abandoned, objectives might change mid-campaign as you gather more information.

Finding the sources

Defining your goals and objectives tells you what kind of data you might need, so the next step is to find out where to go to find it. Again, the abundance of choice is a larger issue than its lack.

You need the data to be:

  • Reliable
  • Actionable
  • Targeted
  • Minable

This should already narrow down your choices considerably. While there are some universally acknowledged sources which provide a nice balance of these requirements, just remember that you shouldn’t immediately treat all the information coming from one source as relevant, just because you’ve found one segment of it useful.

Some of these sources are:

Visitor behavior analytics

Tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar afford you a profound and detailed insight into how your visitors are interacting with your website. Observing the relevant metrics can help you fix problems with UX and layout; identify and remove drop-off points with optimized calls to action; improve content performance and engagement…

Outside sources

Aside from looking at your own site, you also want to know what is being talked about you on other media channels. This includes social networks, TV, radio, podcasts, forums, blogs and web in general. The more versatile social media analytics solutions allow you to track, compare and compile data from all these sources at once, but you still have to know which segments of the available information to focus on.

Search engines

What you have been doing with analytics for your site, search engines have been doing to everyone, for a long time. That might be a slight exaggeration in some respects, but suffice it to say, they have a lot of information on people’s behavior online. Taking a look at keyword popularity trends; ranking changes and what they seem to imply; instant suggestions provided by the search engines, etc. can tell you a lot about the market you are trying to cater to.

Organizing the execution

It’s one thing to create a strategy, but executing it successfully is something else altogether. Some of the challenges will be easy to predict and avoid, but don’t underestimate the scope of the impact that this kind of strategy might have on the structure of your business model. From the way you will build your team to how you’ll organize them, both internally and in relation to your other teams or departments, you are already disrupting the organizational and hierarchical structures in your organization, so this is not something to be done carelessly.

Once you do have a team you can trust, it’s up to them to figure out the best way to go forward.

Of course, the only way for them to do that is to get intimately familiar with your current workflow, existing departments how they operate and what their goals are, etc. The fact that this tentative approach is needed when beginning to even think about executing a comprehensive data-driven strategy, is just one of the things that will be slowing you down, so make sure that you are ready to see the process through to the end before you initiate it.

Final word

The more effort you invest into defining your goals, isolating relevant data sources and building an infrastructure allowing you to get actionable insights from your research, the easier it will get to track the performance of this strategy.

Not just because its benefits will be more obvious, but because you’ll have a much better understanding of your position in relation to industry standards, your competitors and your desired audiences. As long as you keep focusing on the right segments of the information you are observing, finding ways to grow your business based on those insights shouldn’t be a problem.

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