In 2017, marketers need data. You need data to track performance, to identify new opportunities, to determine what’s working and what’s not so you know how to best allocate your efforts and to understand how changes in efforts impact key metrics — there’s just no getting around it.
But data on its own is useless. What you really need is analytics.
Data vs. Analytics: What’s the Difference?
Have you ever looked at raw data? It’s not pretty. And unless you’re a highly skilled data scientist, it’s not very useful either. That’s because in order to gain any value from data, you need to understand the story it’s telling and be able to glean insights and trends from it. Most importantly, you need to be able to put those insights into action.
When all those pieces come together, you can then become a truly data-driven marketer who makes well-informed decisions and acts very purposefully based on data-backed intelligence.
The key to reaching that state lies not necessarily in having access to data, but rather having access to analytics about that data. So what’s the difference?
Data is the actual details you collect in their raw form, for example number of clicks and number of leads, whereas analytics sit on top of that data to help you understand how it all comes together, for example by surfacing trends within the data and overlaying different points to allow for analysis and comparison.
In other words, while data might reveal that you had 500 new prospects sign up for your newsletter one month, analytics will track that group over time to help you understand how those prospects are interacting with your newsletter and how well you’re retaining them. See the difference?
How Analytics Can Help You Become a Data-Driven Marketer
So how exactly is having access to analytics the key to becoming a data-driven marketer? Analytics make all the difference by allowing you to:
- Keep a pulse on what’s happening at all times: You shouldn’t have to spend days or even hours understanding what’s going on. With analytics, you get a quick, easy-to-understand snapshot that you can access at at any time so that you always know how you stack up.
- Track key performance metrics: Analytics allow you to easily determine how you’re tracking against goals and other key performance metrics in order to understand ebbs and flows over time, identify areas of strength and weakness and quantify success.
- Identify opportunities and find new trends: With the right analytics in place, you can pinpoint areas where you’re doing particularly well and capitalize on those areas to turn small successes into even bigger ones. Additionally, analytics should make it easy to drill down into the data to find new trends (e.g. is there a lot of activity on a certain channel that indicates something new happening there?) and capitalize on those opportunities quickly.
- Collaborate across teams: An analytics dashboard should help you better understand how certain inputs from one team or channel affects outputs for another team or channel. This understanding can then help you improve collaboration and get a more complete picture of what’s happening.
- Better allocate time: Analytics should also make it much faster and easier to identify what’s working, what’s not (and why it’s not) and where the biggest opportunities lie so that you can focus your efforts on areas that will drive the biggest results.
- Understand your business like never before: Finally, analytics can help you truly understand the levers you need to pull to make things happen and help you get to know how your audience reacts to certain things. In turn, this setup should give you deeper insight into the business and put you in a strong position to report to your executives about what’s happening and why.
How to Unlock the Power of Analytics to Become a Data-Driven Marketer
Okay, we get it — analytics are beyond valuable. But how do you actually unlock the power of analytics and get all that data you’ve been collecting to work in your favor? It all starts with these four steps:
- Prioritize data quality: The insights you get from your analytics are only as good as the data on which they’re based, and that means you need quality data. If your data is off, your insights will be too, which is sure to create a domino effect of ill-informed decisions and actions.
- Pay attention to your data sources: Develop a clear strategy for what data you’ll track and the systems from which it will come. Specifically, it’s important to make sure you have all the data you need to get a full picture of what’s happening, but you also don’t want to track unnecessary metrics, as too much irrelevant data can create noise. Once you decide which metrics you’ll track, take the time to identify the best places from which to pull those numbers so that you put the highest quality data into the system and avoid having duplicate information.
- Clearly outline your metrics and goals, then start obsessing over them: What exactly do you want the analytics to tell you? And what do you hope to get out of them? These are questions you need to answer from the very beginning. And once you do answer them, you need to use them as your north star, staying true to the path you set and agonizing over whether or not you’re on track (and if not, what you can do to get back on course).
- Focus on what’s actionable: Yes, analytics are powerful, but all the knowledge they can provide won’t do you any good if you can’t do anything with what you learn. As a result, you need to focus on not only gathering insights via data analytics, but also on putting those insights to work by taking action based on what the data tells you.
Start Marketing More Intelligently
When you have all those pieces of the data and analytics puzzle in place, there shouldn’t be anything else to do but start marketing more intelligently than ever. After all, once you’ve done the analytics legwork, everything you need to make more informed decisions, quickly answer questions about performance, identify new opportunities and take action should never be more than a click away. And ultimately, that type of analytics setup should afford you more time and more confidence to put winning marketing campaigns into action.