If you're a marketer (or anybody in business) and you haven't heard the words "big data" recently, then you best pull your iPad out from under its rock and step out of your cave, because data-driven marketing is taking over the entire world. SEOs, inbound marketers, and social networkers who fail to embrace it are going to find themselves riding steam engines in the world of the maglev train.
A bi-annual study conducted by BlueKai reveals that over the past six months, data-driven marketing has seen a growth of 227 percent. A third of marketers say that at least a fifth of their marketing efforts are data driven.
And it's not just about those retargeted display ads anymore. Oh no. Modern marketers are looking for ways to "customize the entire user experience based on what they know about their audience." All creepiness aside, such data-stalking seems to be paying off dividends for marketers who are listening to the finger-clicks of their audience, and harnessing the power of scientific tools to give people experiences that they actually want as consumers.
Inbound marketers, SEOs, and social media marketers are used to being the cool kids on the block, but if you don't learn to take advantage of this massive shift in marketing, I'm afraid you're going to look a bit dated in just a few years. Let's dive in:
1. Accept That Statisticians Are Sexy Now
Nobody ought to have known better than SEOs that statisticians were going to be sexy, considering that Google's Chief Economist warned us of exactly this way back in the dark ages of 2009. Unfortunately, I think a lot of us in the industry missed the memo.
If you want to understand your customers, you need to start by realizing that a brief glance through Google analytics won't teach you crap. And that goes for most analytics packages. KPIs and primary metrics only tell you how well things are going and whether you're meeting your goals. They don't offer any insight about your customers and your marketing strategy.
They don't tell you what's working, how to segment and target your customers, or how to do any actual optimization.
And it's getting more complicated, because even conversion rate optimization is starting to look dated. The old idea of creating an optimized landing page, well, it needs to be replaced with the idea of creating an optimal landing page for each type of consumer.
And boy is that hard.
Without some understanding of correlations, testing, and data-digging, it's a near impossible task.
2. Strap On Your Tool Belt
Let's face it; you're just not going to compete in this environment without tools.
You're going to need user-centric data, which means you'll either need to learn how to do some serious Google Analytics hacking to get first-touch attribution, among other things, or you'll need to sign up for something along the lines of KISSmetrics or Adobe Analytics Premium.
This has to be about understanding how your customers and users behave, both as individuals and in aggregate. It's no longer enough to know that this landing page has a higher conversion rate then that one. You want to know whether it will have a higher conversion rate for this user or that other one, so that you can send users where they will be most satisfied.
3. It's Time for Data Boot Camp
A recent Wall Street Journal article suggests that Don Draper style marketers ought to be uneasy, as us in the digital marketing world have known for some time. Thankfully, most of us are already better versed in analytics and data than our predecessors, so we do have a leg up on them. But let's not assume our sheer youth as an industry is going to make it easy to compete with Big Marketing once it fully embraces Big Data, especially when we consider the dramatic pace it's currently doing so.
The aforementioned WSJ article suggests marketing agencies retrain their teams and ask some important questions. I think most of them apply to us as well:
- What is the overall role of analytics in marketing?
- Why is marketing shifting toward digital advertisements and promotion?
- How do you measure ROI in marketing?
- How do you solve the "attribution problem" in digital marketing?
- How do we navigate the crowded landscape of digital marketing software?
- What role does rigorous testing play in modern marketing?
- Why does marketing need to work closely with IT?
It's just not enough to follow "best practices." If you want a competitive advantage, you need to embark on discoveries. Discovery is a creative process, to be sure, but it is also a scientific one, and you must fully embrace both sides of discovery in order to get a leg up on your competitors.
Image credit: Duncan Hull