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What Does It Mean to be Data Driven?

Nowadays, people everywhere are talking about data: big data, data visualization, data mining, data security - one might go as far as to say data is the new black. As Marketers, we are constantly told we need to be “data driven”. But what does “data driven” really mean? When I leave work today, is my Uber going to be powered by machine learning? Not quite.

Common perceptions about “data driven” marketing are a bit flawed. To many it means creating pretty charts to appease their boss, or foregoing their instincts completely to blindly follow the results of said charts into the wilderness. Many even get so overwhelmed by the data that they ditch it all together. But, it’s not their fault!

The term “data driven” is misleading. It implies that you are going to swim in the vast sea of data and the current is magically going to pull you in the direction of greatness. The reality is, more than likely, if you dive blindly into that data you will be lost at sea forever searching for a giant whale. Before you can set sail, you'll need a map to guide your thinking. Here are a few tips that will help you become a more data driven marketer:

  1. Ask the right questions first.

    The journey to data driven marketing starts by defining the right goals. You need to know what success looks like before understanding what you need to measure. Is the goal generating new leads? Is it getting prospects to convert? Existing customers to renew? The answer to that question will change the metrics you need.

  1. Don’t settle for one size fits all metrics.

    Success is different for different types of marketing. If we were measuring the success of a football team and tried to score the defensive line on touchdown passes we would fire them all on the spot. Those metrics would lead you to the wrong conclusions, and so would trying to measure prospect focused events on net new leads, etc.

  1. Make it actionable.

    Even the best prettiest charts aren’t going to help you if they don’t align with the decisions you are trying to make. Before spending a second building models or measuring - ask yourself what you are going to do with it first. You’ll spend less time bogged down and more time making the decisions you need to get back to the marketing - doing an even better job than you could have before.

  1. Make it easy to measure.

    Pick metrics you have the tools to track in a sustainable way - you are never going to use the data if it takes you ages to pull it. And, don’t forget, more accurate data isn’t always better - if one set of data is bringing you in the right direction, but takes you 10 times as long to pull - make sure you think about whether it will change the answer or not.

  1. Don’t let your intuition fall overboard.

    Data doesn’t negate your marketing experience. Data can be flawed, and biased assumptions can often lead you in the wrong direction. Before you show the data to anyone, or use it to make any decisions - ask yourself “does this seem reasonable?”

Let’s take a traditionally hard to measure channel - event marketing - as an example of how we would apply these concepts in a real-life scenario.

  1. Ask the right questions: The primary goal for this particular event is happy attendees.

  2. Don’t settle for one size fits all metrics: We'll evaluate app engagement and attendee sentiment to determine success.

  3. Make it actionable: To do this, we'll compare metrics like speaker cost to overall attendee ratings and feedback to determine how satisfied our audience was with our content.

  4. Make it easy: We'll choose an app with event performance dashboards that ranks speakers based on attendee engagement and feedback, and is intuitive to pull reports from.

  5. Don’t ditch your business judgement: We'll gut check the results with our own assumptions of how the content performed - do they make sense given our experience at the event?

There you have it. Set clear goals, have a plan for using the data, and get the tools you need to gather it easily and painlessly!

How do you make data driven decisions around your events? Let us know in the comments below!

By DoubleDutch Insider | December 16, 2015

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