Data: You can't live with it, and you can't live without it. At least, that's how a lot of marketers feel. In fact, the affair between marketers and their data is often somewhat of a love-hate relationship.
Data can help you be a much more successful, analytical marketer who makes decisions based on facts rather than hunches. But wrangling together all that data — and then properly analyzing it ? It can give you quite a headache, and frankly, it can get pretty overwhelming at times.
But even though data can come with its challenges, successful marketers understand that it's a necessary evil, and most even learn to love data because it makes them better marketers.
When I first started working at HubSpot, I'll admit I wasn't the most analytically-minded person. But boy, has that changed.
So be empowered, marketers! Learning how to be truly data-driven can be extremely rewarding, helping you be more effective and achieve much better marketing results.
It's no wonder data can be such a headache — you need to have the right tools in place to collect it! And for many marketers, their analytics live in silos, making it difficult to compare data and metrics across channels.
For example, you might have analytics for your email marketing over here, social media marketing analytics over there, there ... and there, and blog analytics hanging out in an entirely different place. Furthermore, if you don't have this data connected to your customer relationship management (CRM) system, you're also missing out on some extremely valuable closed-loop analytics that can truly report on the ROI of each individual marketing channel — and your marketing strategy as a whole. You can imagine how all of this disconnected and incomplete data can make things awfully difficult to handle.
So if you're not happy with your current marketing analytics solution and its ability to integrate all your marketing data, searching for a new solution is a great place to start. We wrote a blog post to guide you through the process of selecting the perfect marketing analytics solution for your needs. It highlights important questions you should ask potential analytics providers (including HubSpot!) before making a purchase.
Now that you have a reliable, integrated, and all-encompassing analytics tool in place, use it to its fullest potential. Measure everything you can possibly measure. Believe us, as a data-driven marketing team, we know there really is no shortage of metrics you can track — just check out this introductory marketing analytics ebook for some great ideas to get you started.
The best way to divvy up the measurement work is to hold individual members (or teams, if your marketing department is on the larger side) accountable for specific metrics. Identify the most important metrics you'll use to measure the success of each particular marketing channel and prioritize them by importance.
Then assign the tracking and managing of these metrics to individual team members. For example, you might assign your social media manager/team with the task of monitoring high-priority metrics such as customers, leads, and visits generated from social media overall, as well as those same metrics segmented by individual social network, plus even more granular metrics like engagement per social network (think "likes," comments, shares, etc.).
Not only will this ensure you have all your important metrics covered, but it will also hold your teams accountable for regularly keeping track of and reporting them.
What are your company's typical email click-through rates? How many "likes" do you generally get on an individual Facebook post? What is your average landing page conversion rate? Setting benchmarks helps you not only understand what your business' marketing "norms" are, but it also gives you a standard that you can work toward meeting — and exceeding — incrementally. That being said, setting benchmarks is easier said than done. How are you supposed to know what "good" is to begin with?
There are a couple of ways to approach this:
Use those as your initial benchmarks, and make it a priority to improve those benchmarks over time.
Now that you've some set benchmarks for your business' marketing, you can establish metrics-driven goals. Each marketer (or team) in your marketing department should not only be responsible for tracking and reporting on their key metrics, but they should also be assigned specific goals to achieve. How else will you know if your marketing is successful if you don't know what "success" is? In other words, setting goals helps you define success for your marketing.
The goals you set for your marketers will depend on a number of factors, but should mainly be based on the overarching goals of your business. This will likely involve meeting with your company's management team to determine your business' growth projections so you can understand how Marketing fits into this bigger picture.
For example, if your company is looking to grow by 5% in revenue in the following quarter, you’ll need to figure out how many leads you’ll need to generate in order to close 5% more customers or revenue. Based on this overall goal, you can then start to assign individual team goals based on those marketing channels' benchmarks. In other words, if you know that your email marketing typically contributes 20% of your business' overall new leads and your blog contributes 10%, you'd logically assign a larger overall leads goal for your email marketing team than you would your blogging team.
To help you with your goal-setting, download our free calculator for determining your monthly traffic and leads goals.
Don't just set and forget your goals. Make it a priority for individual marketers to base their strategies and tactics on the monthly goals they're required to meet by reporting on their progress regularly. Do you hold weekly and monthly marketing meetings?
At HubSpot, we report on the progress of our most important marketing metrics (such as traffic, leads, and the status of our marketing SLA) at our weekly team meetings. And tracking traffic and leads is easy to do in HubSpot's software, where all you have to do is input your lead generation goal to easily track the number of leads you generate each day, week, month, or year.
We also have longer monthly meetings during which each individual team reports on their month over month progress and more niche metrics like email unsubscribe rate, social media reach, or blog subscriber growth.
In addition to reporting on these metrics within your marketing team, share a monthly marketing report that highlights the results of individual teams — and the marketing department as a whole — with the rest of your company. Not only will this keep your team more accountable for being data-driven (you want those metrics to look good, right?), but it will also prove to the rest of the company that Marketing does way more than the stereotypical party planning and arts and crafts all day.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you refer back to the chart at the beginning of this post, it's a little less surprising. You're collecting all this marketing data, sure, but you need to actually do something with it. In other words, to really be a data-driven marketer, you can't just collect and report on the data. You need to actually use that data to drive your marketing decisions. This requires you to hone your analytical skills. It requires some critical thinking and problem solving.
For example, let's say you've been doing social media marketing for several months because that's what you've thought you needed to do. But now that you're actually tracking the success of your social media marketing with your marketing analytics tool, you realize that there are certain social media channels that just aren't performing for you. Maybe you've been spending equal amounts of time on Facebook and Pinterest, yet your analytics are telling you that Facebook has 5X the ROI of Pinterest. Wouldn't it make sense for you to reallocate some (or all) of the time you're investing in Pinterest to Facebook? By using data to back up your marketing decisions, you'll not only make smarter decisions, but you'll also improve your marketing results!
Learn how to think more analytically by checking out this post about nine terrific ways to make your marketing analytics actionable .
Truly data-driven marketers find ways to measure seemingly "unmeasurable" things. For example, one of the teams in HubSpot's marketing department is the Editorial team, which is responsible for HubSpot's branding. And you can imagine how measuring something like branding isn't really as cut and dry as measuring something like leads generated from social media, or the clickthrough rate of email marketing, right? But that doesn't mean our Editorial team is exempt from being analytical. So they measure things such as direct traffic to the HubSpot website and branded search term volume.
Furthermore, one of the challenges our Product Marketing team has is making sure people realize that HubSpot sells software. In other words, they need to figure out people's perception of what HubSpot. Not exactly an easy feat. As you can imagine, measuring their progress toward achieving this goal isn't something you can just take a look at a dashboard to gauge. So they administer brief, multiple choice surveys of our audience placed on various thank-you pages for our non-software related marketing offers such as educational ebooks and webinars. This survey simply asks respondents to select what HubSpot does. Their goal is to increase the number of people who select "software" vs. other things like "services" or "marketing content."
One of the best ways to get your marketing team on board with a data-driven culture is to incentivize them. Consider giving out a monthly award for the member of your marketing team that achieves the most impressive record-crushing results based on their specific metrics-driven goals. On HubSpot's marketing team, for example, we identify a marketing "champion" every month, who gets to attend a Champions Dinner hosted by one of HubSpot's executives and attended by other "champions" from other departments.
And don't stop at just incentivizing those record-setting achievements with tangible rewards. Recognize them publicly in front of the entire company, too. Sometimes the most rewarding incentive for your employees is public recognition of their hard work. You should also keep track of employees' individual metrics-driven achievements and incorporate them into your annual review process.
The benefits of data in marketing don't have to be limited to your marketing analytics or making better marketing decisions. Data can also be used in a number of other ways in your marketing, such as improving your marketing content, including blog posts, ebooks, and other written collateral. In fact, incorporating a little data can go a long way, making your content much more high-quality, credible, authoritative, and interesting. Just be sure you're selecting trustworthy data and properly attributing it to the original sources .
There are quite a few ways you can go about spicing up your marketing content with data. Some techniques include demonstrating change/consistency over time, providing benchmarks, showing connection/correlation, proving a point, emphasizing why readers should care, backing up opinions, showing discrepancies, including social proof, showing success, offering clarity, showing scale, highlighting original data, and portraying data visually. To learn more about how to use any of these above techniques, read our comprehensive post on using data in your marketing content .
The savviest data-driven marketers are always looking to get better data and to improve how the analytics look for the metrics they're responsible for. And what's one of the best ways to improve the looks of your data? Optimize your marketing with A/B testing, that's what!
A/B testing enables you to experiment with how different variables affect things like traffic, click-through rates, and conversion rates, and allows you to optimize your marketing efforts using the variables that contribute to the best results. Luckily, there's no shortage of variables you can test in your marketing , and you can also conduct A/B tests in practically every one of your marketing assets. Check out our complete ebook on A/B testing to get started.
If you're doing all that A/B testing we recommended in our last tip, chances are you're going to come away from those tests with a bunch of great takeaways about what works — and what doesn't — for your particular business and its audience. Don't hoard that data ... share it!
At the very least, the rest of the members of your marketing team could probably really benefit from those lessons learned. It will make them better marketers, and it will also probably teach them a thing or two about how your prospects respond to different marketing tactics. Encourage members of your marketing team to present lessons learned from specific A/B test they've run during your weekly marketing meetings so everyone can benefit.
Chances are, the rest of your business — even departments outside of Marketing — might appreciate this insight into your marketing lessons, too.
At HubSpot, we have a popular internal wiki, which the marketing team often uses to share the results and lessons from its A/B tests with the rest of the company. Marketing members also regularly present at meetings in other departments to share valuable marketing insights.
Not only is sharing these results educational to them, but it also shows them that the marketing department doesn't just sit on our butts and act on hunches! Marketing regularly tests its tactics and acts on proven data to make its decisions.
This is sure to boost the R-E-S-P-E-C-T of your marketing team, and it will probably even contribute to more marketing buy-in. And who doesn't want that?
Editor's note: This post was originally published in September 2012 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.