In the near future, all marketing will be data-driven

Building a brand in 2016 is an arduous and often overly complex process. What makes it challenging is that at any given time, there are no doubt dozens of different directions you could turn when it comes to marketing your business. Today’s modern technology offers so many options that it’s difficult to know where to turn first.

data1What about you? Are you focused on a better website, a stronger social media campaign or more mobile apps? Or are you still loyal to old-school advertising methods like print and broadcast advertising?

The bottom line is this – just making an educated guess is no longer good enough. These days, the best companies are choosing their marketing strategies based on cold, hard data. Once they have factual evidence of what their customers want and how to deliver it, they can proceed with confidence.

Data-driven decisions for a better business
Everyone running a business of any size wants to be one of the best. How can you make your tech startup into the next Google, or your e-commerce operation into the new Amazon? There’s reason to believe your efforts should begin with more data.

According to VentureBeat, the best businesses are already making data-driven testing a big part of their marketing strategies. Adobe recently conducted research on this idea, separating businesses into the most successful 20 percent and the other 80. The findings showed a stark difference – 70 percent of today’s best companies say that data-driven testing is a priority, versus only 46 percent of the rest of the pack.

Michael Krypel, executive director at Adobe, says this reflects a need on the part of all marketing leaders to optimize their strategies.

“Leading companies prioritize optimization,” Krypel told VentureBeat. “They invest time, resources, and budget, giving the top 20 percent of companies a conversion rate 1.7 times the average rate.”

The ultimate goal in marketing, of course, is conversion. You don’t just want to create more awareness of your brand – you want to turn people from mere readers of content into actual paying customers. It always helps to have comprehensive data on how that process works.

Good data fuels intelligent content decisions
data2One of the first questions you need to answer is this – how will your business’ content choices affect the direction of your marketing efforts?

Content is rapidly changing the marketing landscape as we know it. People are more likely to respond to an interesting article or video they find online, actively, than just some commercial they passively happen to come across on TV. So in order to optimize your ad spending and make sure you’re barking up the right tree, you need data on what types of content will best get through to your audience.

According to Forbes, the near future will be driven by a great deal more data on multimedia content. Gil Press, managing partner at research and education consultancy gPress, anticipates that analytics on images, videos and audio content (such as podcasts) will become far more important within the next year.

“Rich media analytics will at least triple in 2015 and emerge as the key driver for big data technology investment,” Press predicted. “Already half of large organizations in North America are reporting use of rich media (video, audio, image) data as part of their big data analytics projects, and all large organizations will analyze rich media in five years.”

You’ll need to know your audience and think about what types of content are most likely to motivate them. Obviously, in this effort, data will help.

Data for online and offline marketing activities
The perception that most people have of data-driven marketing is a fairly straightforward one. It goes like this – data marketing and online marketing are one and the same. Data is collected on the Internet and used on the Internet, nothing more.

This doesn’t necessarily need to be true. A separate Forbes report explained that what we’re seeing nowadays is a merger between online and offline marketing efforts. The way social media guru Drew Hendricks puts it, big data is no longer limited to the Internet.

“As the technology continues to grow in usage, businesses are finding ways to measure their real-world activities as well,” Hendricks noted. “Stores are gathering data on purchases and store visits each day, using sophisticated technology to gain information they’ve never before been able to capture.”

Where are your customers located? Where are they going? What products do they need? How much are they willing to spend? All of these little tidbits of information are applicable both online and off. Once you understand your customers better, you can apply that knowledge in a wide variety of ways.

Identifying goals and taking action
data3So you’ve decided you’re ready to take the plunge. You’ve heard everything you need to know about data-driven marketing and why it’s so valuable, and you’ve reached the conclusion that the time is now. So how do you begin?

The world of “big data” analysis tools is massive and still growing every day. There are tools for gathering data and for organizing it, storing it and analyzing it. It’s difficult even to know where to begin.

According to Enterprise Apps Today, the first step is to get a solid handle on your goals where marketing data is concerned. Technology and engineering expert Drew Robb asks the all-important question – what exactly are you trying to accomplish?

“This means working back from the actual problems they are trying to address as the starting point for any big data strategy,” Robb explained. “Are you trying to upgrade from Excel and need a simple visualization tool? Do you need to analyze gigabytes, terabytes or petabytes of data?”

No two businesses are alike. They all vary in their size, scope and specific goals. Once you know what you’re hoping to get out of your marketing analytics plan, you can execute a plan for getting it.

What about you? What’s your plan? What do you stand to gain from using better marketing data?

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