A website or ad campaign isn’t good enough anymore – you need to USE your data.
There was a time when marketing worked a lot like radio. You just shouted your message out into the world and hoped that someone heard and responded to it. The only way that you knew it was “working” was that sales increased – presumably because you were engaged in successful marketing. Websites used to work the same way, honestly. You put your site out there on the internet and hoped that someone came across it and engaged with your brand on some level.
That’s a bit of an oversimplification, of course.
Marketers have had tricks for tracking success long before the internet existed and we’ve had basic website analytics for years. But, right now, we have access to more data and better analytics than we did even two years ago. The days of “marketing radio” are over. With the tools available to us, we can track every stage of a potential customer’s engagement with our brand – from initial touch point all the way past conversion to referrals and new lead acquisition. We can nurture relationships with customers and clients in a personalized and intelligent manner. And we can do it all automatically.
The sheer volume of data at our fingertips lets us see the whole story of how our customers meet our brands and live happily ever after (or don’t).
WHAT DATA TELLS US
There are a lot of tools that we can use to gather the data that we need to make great marketing decisions – and we’ll go over those. But those tools aren’t nearly as important as what they can tell us about our potential customer base. With the right tools in place, we can get detailed information about:
- WHO is actually engaging with our brand online? (Demographic information like age, gender, location, economic status, etc.)
- HOW they are engaging with our messaging online. How are users navigating through the site? What are the natural connection points between messages and users?
- WHERE are they coming from, where are we losing them, and where are they going next?
- WHAT do they care about? What content gets the most interest? What’s getting ignored? Who is sharing information and what information are they sharing?
- WHEN, in the process, are they making that all-too-important conversion decision? What triggers that “ah-ha” moment when a potential customer becomes an actual customer?
Just a few years ago, the only way that you could get access to this level of data was from voluntary customer survey results. Surveys are powerful data collection tools, but they tend to skew towards extremes – people who have either very positive or very negative experiences. The uncommitted, on-the-edge users are far less likely to complete a survey – but these are exactly the people who you want to engage and convert. With modern data tracking and website analytics, we can see and engage this crucial segment on a level that we’ve never been able to before.
GATHERING THE DATA
Most marketers and salespeople understand that data is power. It gives you leverage, conversation points, and direction when engaging a potential client or customer. But how do we actually get that data? Here’s a list of tools that will not only get you access to crucial information about your customers but which will also help you understand and use that data. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it is a starting point.
Every conversation about website data starts with Google Analytics. It’s easy to integrate, gives you timely and detailed information, and is constantly being updated with new functionality. It’s the industry standard for a reason and almost everyone has Google Analytics plugged into their websites. What almost nobody does is actually look at their analytics and use them to understand user flow on their websites. Google Analytics gives website owners free access to information on site visitor acquisition and behavior. Free data. You just have to use it.
Basic Email Metrics
Any decent email marketing platform will give you access to several key pieces of information such as open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, and send and unsubscribe numbers. Higher-level email platforms will tell you when emails were opened, what kind of device they were opened on, where users went next, what type of bounces you saw, and will track trends month-to-month for you.
If you’re ready to take both your website and email metrics game up a level, Marketing Automation is your next step. Marketing Automation Technology (or MAT) combines the two for powerful insights into your customer base. MAT allows you to not only assign lead-scoring values to specific user actions but to serve marketing materials via email that are specifically tailored to that individual user and their interests. It can tell you what companies and organizations visited your site and what products and services those companies looked at while there. In the hands of a knowledgeable user and a motivated sales team, marketing automation can completely change your company’s close rate by giving you access to warm leads that you would never have seen otherwise alongside the information that you need to have targeted conversations with those leads.
It’s hard to find a more persistent marketing buzz-phrase than “Social Media Marketing” right now. Everyone is talking about social media in the marketing space and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are selling more advertising than ever before. But what data can we actually pull out of this space? The obvious data points for marketing are the ones that you’d expect – engagement rates, conversion rates, cost per click, etc. The biggest data value for social media channels, though, is audience demographics. There is no better place to learn everything about who is engaging with your brand than through channels like Facebook. This is because people tell Facebook pretty much everything about themselves – who they are, where they grew up, what they like to do, what they like to buy, who their friends are, what they’re eating day-to-day. When you run a Facebook ad campaign of any kind – and there are several – you get access to some fairly impressive demographic information which can tell you exactly what audience your marketing efforts are engaging with.
Many businesses these days use some sort of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. CRM software platforms like Salesforce, Oracle, or Insightly allow you to track lead engagement and client interaction from marketing and initial contact, all the way through to support. It is a powerful tool for understanding where a client is in your business cycle and where your salespeople are in your business development process. Much like marketing automation, CRMs allow you to score client interactions and identify milestones so that you can quickly see the potential value of a customer and determine the likelihood of a lead becoming a client.
YOUR D.O.R. – WHY EVERYTHING SHOULD BE CONNECTED
There is one big, missing piece to all of this and that’s a Database of Record (D.O.R.). A database of record is, in a practical sense, your definitive and centralized source of data. For example, if you have a client in both your MAT and CRM systems but they have different phone numbers in each system, which one should be assumed to be correct? If you’ve established a database of record, the answer is easy – whatever the D.O.R. says.
In an ideal situation, your database of record is a separate database which speaks to all of your other systems. It’s integrated with your CRM, MAT, and email systems. It’s gathering data from your website and social media channels. It’s tied into every single source of data and – here’s the trick – it knows how to put all that data together in a way that is both accurate and actionable.
Standalone D.O.R.s can get expensive depending on the level of integration required and the complexity of information that they need to make sense of. You don’t have to go that route. Some CRM or MAT platforms will allow a certain level of integration with outside systems and can operate as a functional database of record for less complex business situations.
The key is, in order to be effective, your database of record HAS to be connected to all of your other data-gathering systems. The data coming in from your website, email, or social media channels is powerful, but it all exists in separate silos. Siloed data gives you small-picture insight; it gives you a chapter of your customer’s story. When everything is connected and you have all of your data in one place, you get big-picture insight into your customers and potential marketing audience. You’re not reading individual chapters, you’ve got the whole novel in your hands. Suddenly, instead of seeing demographic information here, average page visits there, and email opens over there, you’re seeing a top-down, holistic view of a person’s path from potential customer to repeat customer to customer referral source in their own right. You can see their entire journey across your email and website platforms, their interactions with your sales team, and beyond – including where they may have gotten derailed or disengaged.
Frankly, this should be exciting to you. This level of visibility is astounding and empowering for marketers, salespeople, and business owners. But it’s not just good for businesses – it can also be really great for customers. Instead of being bombarded by intrusive or unwelcome advertising, they can be nurtured and engaged by a company who understands them, who communicates with them in the manner that they prefer, and who talks to them about things that they actually care about.
But, in order to deliver this level of customer experience, you have to use your information, not just collect it.
USING THE DATA
One of the coolest things about actually using this level of data is that there are no more happy coincidences. Every, single positive or negative customer interaction becomes the result of measurable and trackable action on your part. This means increased accountability internally, of course, but it also means increased repeatability and more informed tweakability for your marketing campaigns. When everything is measurable, you not only know whether or not something works, you understand why it worked so that you can create new and innovative campaigns that are also immediately effective because they are based on verifiable facts instead of educated guesses.
If you’re ready to start exploring what a data-centered marketing and sales model can do for your business, the very first thing that you need to do is to claim your data. It’s out there just waiting for you to start gathering it. If you don’t have Google Analytics tracking code installed yet, install it. It’s easy to do and it’s free. If you’re using an email marketing platform, figure out how to pull reports out of it – whatever those look like. If you’re running Facebook ads, do the same. You need to see what kind of data you have to work with.
The next thing to do is establish a database of record – your central hub – and get it connected to everything. You will need to decide if one of your existing business solutions can fit the bill or if you need to create a standalone D.O.R. in order to effectively get all of your data in one place. This takes some strategic thinking. You want to be sure you understand the data coming in, that you are organizing it efficiently, and are structuring the D.O.R. in such a way that you can make effective use of that wonderful information.
The fun really begins once your database is established. This is when you can start to read the story of how your audience is engaging with your brand and brand offerings. You can start picking apart the big-picture information and start seeing the patterns.
Once you really understand the story that your data is telling you, that story becomes a choose-your-own-adventure book. You get to decide where the story will take you – and you’ve got the information that you need to get the results that you want.