As marketers, we’ve become obsessed with data

As marketers, we’ve become obsessed with data

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As marketers, our obsession with data and the promise that this so-called “silver bullet” can deliver results is misplaced. In doing so, we’ve forgotten that data is just a tool to inform decisions. Consequently, data-driven decisions are only as good as the questions that we ask of it, and the tests that we run. In the last few months, I’ve found myself engaged in conversations with more and more organisations who claim to understand how to leverage data in their marketing operations, yet fail to articulate this when pressed on the matter. Don’t get me wrong, the quest to measure marketing performance should be championed. After all, it is proof that a marketer is responsible, accountable, and focused on impacting the growth of the business. At the same time, the ability to understand how to use data is what sets the good marketers apart from the great ones.

The value that marketers bring to the table

Impressions, clicks, followers, shares and conversion rates only tell us what consumers are doing with our marketing messages, rather than why they’re doing it.
What is it about the message that drives a response from a particular target audience?
As marketers we must be able to provide insights into why consumers respond, but unfortunately the common response is to simply “do more of what works”. This is because many marketers are letting data tell them what to do rather than using data to make better decisions by coupling what the data says along with common sense, logic and intuition. If business data were the answer to everything, we wouldn’t need marketing professionals to drive the marketing operations of a company. We’d get data analysts that understood how to read data, and pass instructions to a team on what to do with it.

Balancing data and emotion

Senior executives expect data to improve customer experience, enhance customer loyalty, and increase customer lifetime value. These are the biggest pain points to achieve growth for organisations and are incredibly tough metrics for marketers without the use of data. The trouble is, the data will never tell you how to do this, it will only guide your judgement by telling you what changes in customer experience are working, which ones aren’t, what tweaks in your marketing is potentially increasing loyalty, which aren’t … and so on. The data will never make decisions for you, so stop hoping that it will. That’s your responsibility.

Data at the expense of creativity

When we’re focusing too much on the data, we’re bound to optimise based on what’s worked in the past, fine tune it, and create a better version of it. That’s boring, and consumers don’t want to see something that’s fine tuned. They want something inspiring, something fresh, and something that sets you apart from the crowd. When brands end up doing things that have never been done before, the magic happens.

Re-capturing emotion

Some of the best marketing works purely on emotion. The best ideas are often based on brainstorms that spark a thought within one person, which is bounced off another person, and another, padded with an anecdote, coupled with an observation, and finally an idea that seems to be the right answer sees the light of day. We know it in our gut – it feels right… and data hasn’t found a way to measure what feels right just as yet. Until that day comes, marketers must remember – data is a tool that we use. It’s often flawed. It’s only as good as the questions we ask of it, and the way in which we use it. It’s not meant to replace us, nor is it here to make our decisions for us. It’s here to work for you, so put it to work for you. But never let it be totally in control. Matthew Anderson is a performance-driven marketing professional. He’s built marketing strategies and performance frameworks for brands on global and regional levels, across a variety of industries. He is currently helping businesses understand and interpret their digital marketing data. You can find him on LinkedIn.