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How data-driven marketing leads to customer-centric experiences
It’s easy to guess what our customers want. But assuming we know them better than they know themselves can lead to failed campaigns, miscommunication, and churn.
Last updated25 May 2022
Without solid data, we have no way of knowing what’s resonating with our customers. We can take a stab at what they’re going to like or whether they’ll return, but we can’t ever know for sure.
So even though many of our customers are digital marketers just like us, we still can’t be certain about their likes, dislikes, wants, and needs.
But through detailed analytics tools and metrics dashboards, we have access to a wealth of data about who our customers are. We understand the customer journey. We know which platforms they’re arriving on our site from, what they like, and what they don’t like—and we can optimize accordingly. We have crucial information we can use to give them exactly what they want, exactly when they want it.
Data is (or it should be) the crux of every marketing campaign or marketing strategy. We’re not living in Mad Men times anymore—smoking and drinking in the office, for example, are not socially acceptable. Neither is the Don Draper (et al.) approach to marketing.
What do we mean by data-driven marketing?
Data is a very specific word. To many, data or data collection is, basically, just numbers. To me, it’s a whole way of thinking.
Data isn’t just quantitative, it’s also qualitative. It’s experimentation and trying new things, then iterating those things over and over again.
Let’s go back to the Mad Men era of advertising. They had gigantic campaigns and marketing efforts that they would sit down and create together. The campaigns would go on multiple media channels including billboards, TV, and radio. All the ads would launch at the same time in a huge, scattergun approach. It was basically a ‘hit and hope; activity with no room for real-time tweaks or optimization.
Those days of marketing are over.
We no longer sit down and think about these very public omni-channel campaigns. Instead, we’re moving towards a future where we brainstorm ideas while thinking about the smallest part, or the minimum investment of the campaign that we can test. This way, we are able to check that it resonates with customers before we go all in.
When the minimum viable part of the campaign has been tested and proven successful, then you can go big. Plaster it on TV, billboards, or wherever your customers are. Start much smaller, perform A/B tests, and check in regularly with customers to ensure what you’re putting out is resonating with them.
This is what I mean when I say data-driven marketing—it’s a data-driven mindset at its core.
It’s leading with humility and believing that the customer knows best. In many ways, data-driven marketing is customer-driven marketing.
Why data-driven (customer-driven) marketing is the future
Data is the fastest and most accurate way to see how our customers are responding and how they feel about a campaign, but many companies are confused about how to use it in their marketing strategy. In fact, 87% say that data is their most under-utilized asset.
Here’s why it’s going to be an absolute must-have in the future.
1. Campaigns your customers actually enjoy
Data is the key to unlocking a campaign’s potential. In fact, 40% of marketers plan to dramatically increase their data-driven marketing budgets.
Not only does data inform content creation for campaigns and advertising material (that is highly relevant to your customer), it also helps you reduce the amount of excess noise. You’re not just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. You’re using cold, hard facts to create campaigns that your customers truly enjoy.
Instead of assuming what our customers want, we serve them content and information they definitely want. We do this by understanding details like how many purchases they make a month, what times of the day they log into an app, or what social channels they prefer to use.
2. High-impact activities for your team
One of the biggest unforeseen benefits of data-driven marketing is that it’s better for the marketing team. Instead of wasting time on campaigns that don’t actually deliver results, marketing teams focus on the work that matters.
If you focus on the campaigns that are performing well, the team can channel all their energy into those areas and continue iterating those that get the best results. There’s instantly an improved work-life balance and sense of wellbeing. The team knows that their focus is on activities that are going to have a high impact.
What will data-driven marketing look like in the future?
Data will be at the core of everything brands do in the future.
It’s still a little bit peripheral, but moving forward, it will become critical, much like its role in product teams. Product teams consistently look at how the product is being used, where and why customers are dropping off the product, and what/where/how to improve the customer experience. We are doing exactly the same in marketing and will do more of it in the future.
That’s not to say we’ll lose the creative side of marketing. We obviously still need to stand out, but our creativity will be informed by data. Teams will no longer be running in parallel and never talking to each other, and marketers will have a baseline of data understanding that informs their creativity.
For example, in the past. writing a blog might have been done with zero data insights. You’d simply write a post and hope it works without recording its performance or the kind of traffic it drives in over a period of time.
We have in-depth content dashboards that tell us exactly what our audience has engaged with, what they haven’t, how far through the blog they’re reading, and what they want to learn more about. This data allows us to plan the next posts with the customer’s feedback in mind.
But most importantly, data-driven marketing in the future will combine both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to capture a big-picture view of what customers want. Going out there and, in so many words, asking the customer for their opinion is a surefire way to get an answer you can trust.
In action, using heatmaps to understand how consumers interact with a page or campaign gives us insight into what piques their interest and what does not.
Google Analytics data allows us to determine the content that resonates the most, how well each campaign is performing, and what the conversion rates look like.
Finally, qualitative research methods like surveys offer a broader understanding of what each individual customer likes about an ad or enjoys reading about.
How to be more data-driven with your marketing
We’re already leaning on data to fuel parts of our marketing strategies. Here are three ways to incorporate data into every part of your campaigns:
1. Choose the right agency partner
Make sure you’re talking with agencies that use data and actively incorporate it in a strategic way.
Bring a partner onboard that imbues everything they do with real-life insights. Ask potential agencies how they’d make sure that the new design is something that appeals to your current audience as well as your future audience and how they’d measure the success of their proposed marketing campaign.
There are agencies out there that are happy to validate what they’re doing with data. I would go towards those.
2. Practice minimum viable advertising
If your ad is a simple image or a static effort and it’s cheap enough to launch and see if it works, by all means, go ahead and do that.
But if you’ve got a relatively large-scale advert or campaign—such as a video ad, which is much more expensive to create—then it’s important that you reach out to your audience early on in the process.
This is what I mean when I say minimum viable advertising. Engage with your audience as early as possible. Check to see if they’re responding to the ad and understand the message you’re trying to get across.
One of the things we do is storyboard an advert before we go all in. We essentially make a virtual flipbook so the person watching it gets the sense of what the final ad will look like. We’ll do a very quick voiceover and then invite some people on a call to ask them what their key takeaways are.
Nine times out of ten, the feedback we get is insightful. We’re obviously working with the product day in, day out, so we tend to take it for granted, and we don’t always have fresh eyes.
For example, the feedback on the last storyboard showed that viewers didn’t understand what we were offering, so we added in a couple of screenshots of the product—something we wouldn’t have considered if we were working in a vacuum without the audience’s input.
3. Combine both qualitative data and quantitative data
I mentioned above that data for a lot of people is simply numbers, and this often translates solely into quantitative data. But, to get a 360-degree view of customer preferences, wants, and needs, it’s helpful to gather qualitative data, too. Surveys, interviews, focus groups, and user testing offer the context you need to make big decisions.
With Hotjar, for example, you can incorporate a pop-up survey on a blog post if you’re testing a new type of content. When you watch the replay, you can see exactly what the reader was looking at and you can ask them:
“Is this an article that’s interesting to you?”
“Would you like to learn more about this topic?”
“If not, what topics would you like to learn about?”
This quantitative data combined with the qualitative feedback from the survey adds context to the pure numbers, and that’s going to be really important in the future.
How Hotjar helps businesses make data-driven decisions in their marketing
Most marketers know what’s happening on their websites. They likely have Google Analytics, so they know how many people are coming to the site and even what pages people visit. They don’t necessarily know what’s going wrong or why it’s going wrong.
For example, on Google Analytics you can see bounce rate—how many people exit and the length of their sessions. You can’t see why people are leaving. That’s where Hotjar comes into play. We provide the ‘why’ behind the ‘what,’ and we give you empathic insights into what’s happening on the other screen.
You can watch a recording of someone trying to use your website and very quickly see that they click somewhere other than the link you thought they were going to click (and wonder, perhaps, ‘why it isn’t a button?’). They might get frustrated because it’s not what they expected, and then they ultimately leave the site.
When UK clothing brand Matalan migrated to a fully-responsive website, the team used Hotjar to capture customer insights before and after the new site launched—in an attempt to understand reactions to the change. By using data to drive the migration and listening to feedback from session recordings, the brand improved checkout conversions by 1.23% and delivered a 400% ROI.
Similarly, Zenprint uses Hotjar in tandem with Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides the cold, hard numbers, and Hotjar pinpoints on-page friction points that might be slowing down the customer’s journey.
Hotjar works well as a companion to analytics tools to give context to the numbers. Using it in this way hones in on specific on-page problems so that brands like Matalan and Zenprint can make changes to increase time on page and, ultimately, conversions.
Let the data speak for itself
It’s tempting to guess what our customers want.
But, assuming we know them better than they know themselves is an easy (and surprisingly common) mistake to make.
Instead of guessing what they want, let the data tell you.
Data is the fastest way to see how our customers are responding and how they feel about a campaign. Are you using it strategically?
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