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Building your marketing data strategy. A guide for beginners

Blog post revised and updated: 18 April 2020.

The importance of having a marketing data strategy for your business

Do you have a marketing data strategy?  By that I mean a plan to manage the data within your business.  With GDPR now in place, that’s probably a pretty relevant question for your business at the moment.  But where do you start? 

You’ve probably got a lot of dashboards and a lot of reports, but what are you really doing with the information you hold?  

Do you forward the reports on to become a part of a bigger report or are you using the data – your data – to get better results.

The thing is most people think they’ve got rubbish data, in the majority of cases that’s just not true.  The fact is you are in marketing, not IT.  You aren’t a business planner you’re a marketer.  So you probably haven’t got a plan in place to deal with the data that you hold.

And that’s a real shame because when lack a marketing data strategy you aren’t taking advantage of the great information you collect everyday.  

Websand Data Driven Marketing Dashboard
Websand Customer Dashboard Screenshot

Getting a clear understanding of the data you hold, will help you put a plan in place.  To create marketing data strategy to manage and use the data you collect.

Your data plan will recycle rubbish data into gold dust.  Because, when you’ve got great data, getting great marketing results becomes soooo much easier.

Your data plan will recycle rubbish data into gold dust.  Because, when you’ve got great data, getting great marketing results becomes soooo much easier.

Give your business a clear data strategy

We are in the age of data.  Look at the ‘unicorn’ companies, they are all built on data, and they have a clear marketing data strategy, it underpins everything that they do.

Google

Google deals with a lot of things, but it’s all information based, and that’s data.  In the simplest terms, Google, give people a tool that allows them to search for what they want.  

As things evolved, that search data has then been monetised.  Giving advertisers and marketers tool that allows them to sell to people based on what they want.  That’s a lot of data management, and customers on both sides of the fence (b2c and b2b). 

Without a data strategy none of this would be possible.

Amazon

Amazon is a huge data company, disguised as a shop.  For B2C, they use customer data to sell more through a recommendation engine that screams  “Hey, you’ve bought that, so you’ll love this”.  That’s using customer data to build more opportunity.  They’ve taken that to the next level with Prime – but that’s another story.   

For B2B, they are a market-place, a marketing and logistics engine to make online selling easier.  Again, all driven by customer data.  

Amazon understand the power of customer data, if you are a reseller through their market place, the one piece of customer information you’ll never get is the email address.  

That’s not a data protection issue, it’s because the email address is an incredibly valuable piece of customer data.  If a customer buys from Amazon, whatever the marketplace, they are regarded as an Amazon customer.

Uber

Uber helped transforming transportation, not through mechanics, engineering, but by understanding and managing customer data.  Using travel patterns to manage marketplace demand, but understand more about you through your travel patterns.

A strategic concept driven by a data strategy that has been repeated multiple times by their competition.

AirBnB

AirBnB have transformed the way the travel industry works. But how did they do that? Not through pretty hotels, they don’t have any. What they do have is customer data, lot’s of it. All created by a marketplace driven by understanding and managing customer data.  

Facebook

Social media is data, lots of random data, but highly personalised data (which is a marketers dream).  However, if people don’t put data into facebook, the facebook doesn’t exist.  

Data is all they do, lots of it, and managing that data into channels for advertisers is how they make money. They’ve been so effective at their data strategy, despite ongoing privacy concerns, they just keep getting more and more powerful.

So you get the idea.  Data can be an incredibly valuable asset.  So let’s share some tips on how you get the best from the data you collect everyday.

So how you start? What comes first the data or the marketing.

The real answer is it doesn’t matter.  As a business you are going to have data, even if it’s one customer.  So the question is what is can you do with that data, that will be the basis for your marketing data strategy.

Let’s look at some examples of different types of businesses.

E-commerce stores

If you are in e-commerce or selling online, you are collecting the data equivalent of diamond dust from your customers every day (and yes diamond dust is more valuable than gold dust – I’m trying to make a point here!).

But it’s not just for e-commerce folk.

Event management marketing

If you run events using a tool like Eventbrite, you’ll be collecting who has signed up, when they signed up, what they signed up for, as well as any profile information that you’ve specified as ‘mandatory’ for that event.

Whether ecommerce or events, in both examples, in the data collected, you’ve got information on what people have bought, and when they bought it.

That’s powerful for every transaction, but when you hold this for each customer this data gives you the foundation for building customer loyalty and managing customer retention based on the individual customer value of each of your customers.

A quick note on B2B

If you are B2B, then you’ll have a company based database with loads of notes and conversation history.   

That’s useful for 1-to-1 sales conversations and useful for the sales manager to manage the performance of the sales team.

Valuable to know, but what marketing support does the sales team need?

Is it nurturing leads, is it retaining customers, is it building loyalty?

Find that out, and that’s your starting point for your B2B marketing data strategy.

What data do you really need

For your marketing data strategy, you need the following elements within your data.

You need to be able to link your customer to their activity

If you can’t link your transaction activity to your customers then you are going to be limited in what you can do.  So understanding how you could connect this information could be the first part of your marketing data strategy.

customer data driven marketing
The typical data you collect about your customers

You need to be able to communicate to each customer

How do you communicate with your customers, social, email, SMS, direct mail.  Make sure you have the data you need to communicate to your customers in the most effective way.  If you are going to use email marketing as a key marketing channel, then you need to make sure you are collecting email addresses.  

Get permission from your audience

Data protection legislation (GDPR) will soon dictate that you need to be able to demonstrate ‘opt-in’ from your audience.  So at the point of data collection, please future proof yourself and make sure you adopt an opt-in not an opt-out.  

Using a tool such as our wordpress subscriber plugin will help you to be future proofed at the point of data collection.

Where do you get your data from?

This can be a bit of a maze, and depending on your business you’ll hear the term that makes most people in business go white with fear, CRM.

Even though our platform can be considered to be a Marketing CRM, we tend not to use the term CRM. The primary reason being that the term has it has so many meanings to different people.  

So to give some clarity. By CRM we are talking about the system that holds your customer database, and by Marketing CRM we are referring to the use of customer data to power your email marketing activity.

Avoid the maze by being focused.  For your marketing data strategy, your data will come from two sources.  Sign up and sales.

Sign up is the first point of data collection from an individual or company.   Which as a marketer you’ll probably already control and be responsible for.

Sales refers to the data that shows who has bought what and when.  If you are in e-commerce, this information will live in your e-commerce platform.  

Make sure your data consistency is rock solid.

Data consistency is so important. If you data is inconsistent it’s likely that your business reporting will be wrong, and your targeted marketing is less likely to hit the target.

The customer data you collect may appear in a number of places and systems. You want to ensure that an update in one system is reflected in the relevant places otherwise you’ll have duplication and inaccuracies.

For that reason, Websand is an ‘end-point’ system. You can’t edit data within the platform, that should update through the API from your primary data systems. That helps make sure that your data is consistent.

Consent. From where, when, and for what purpose has your data been collected.

With GDPR now in place, you’ve now legal requirements around how you collect, retain and share the data you’ve collected from your audience.

It’s always been best practice and a key part of any data strategy to identify where the data has been collected, how it has been collected, and for what purpose. But it’s now a legal requirement and you also need to keep a record the individual consent have you collected along the way.

Make sure you collect data in the correct format

Data in the wrong format is probably a key reason why you think you’ve got rubbish data. It’s the most common problem we see with customer data.

So it’s worth making sure the data you collect is in the correct format.  Especially if you are collecting time/date stamps.  

Here are a few examples

Using date fields

You want to run a birthday email campaign.  That will be automated based on someone’s birthday or date of birth.   The problem is people write dates in all manner of different ways.  So you need to fix the format.  Make sure that your audience either uses a calendar or use named month as a dropdown.  That way you’ll get consistent data, and your birthday campaign will be a roaring success.

Using free text collection

Be wary of free text fields for data collection if you want to use that data for anything other than ‘personalisation’ or shelf knowledge.  You can’t control it.

In most data cleaning exercises, it’s formatting that is the issue.   Your marketing data strategy should specify the format requirements for the data you need.

Data retention. You can have too much customer data

Keep things simple. Think of your marketing data strategy as your recipe and the data you have are your ingredients.

Keep things simple by focusing your efforts on the data that you need to drive your marketing strategy. The data that you absolutely 100% cannot do without.

You can always add more data at a later point, but remember the more data the more complicated things can get. So keep things simple. It’s quality of data that’s important, not the quantity.

Don’t keep data that you don’t need. That’s those people that signed up ages ago but have never opened any email marketing you’ve sent since. That data isn’t going to ‘useful one day’. That time has passed. And whatsmore, under GDPR, retaining that data could be considered dangerous

So please make sure you have a process to deal with the data that you need to remove, as well as the data you want to collect.

Data Consistency – Garbage in, Garbage out

This is key to the success or failure of your marketing data strategy.  Your data needs to be consistent, otherwise understanding customer behaviour and applying segmentation can become very difficult.

As a rule, collect the minimum amount of data you need from your audience.

At each point of data collection make sure you have clear and defined rules for the data that you collect and the consent you need to remain compliant.

Getting the benefits from a clear marketing data strategy

Developing a clear and coherent data strategy can be tough, it’s something a lot of businesses struggle with, and if often pushed down the to-do-list.  

That’s a shame because once you get a marketing data strategy in place, it’s incredibly rewarding. You’ll be able to see key data about your performance and can unlock some serious opportunities for your business.  

  • Personalisation and targeting. If you know your customers, you can service them better.
  • Scalability.  A good marketing data strategy gives you the foundation to create a scalable marketing process.  
  • Joining the dots. Customers now expect a seamless user experience. Your data underpins the ability to service customers via the channels they may choose to use.
  • Simplication. When your marketing data strategy is in place, decision making on which marketing channels you need to use become cost/benefit decisions based on customer behaviour.  Invest in the channels that create your most valuable customers.
  • Accessing your data. The development of the marketing data strategy means getting your hands dirty and understanding where the data exists within your business.  In some cases, this can lead to the simplication of the business, the structure and the processes.
  • Customer focused Culture. A marketing data strategy will be focused around understanding more about your customers.  About creating growth by communicating with more relevance and about better servicing of customers.  So make sure everyone is on the same page and prepared for a few changes for the better.

Getting your marketing data strategy started

Your marketing data strategy will not be an instance one-shot magic wand across your business.  It will be an evolving piece of work.  Unless you are a start-up and starting with a blank piece of paper you are going to have some legacy issues to deal with. You need to be prepared for that in your planning.  

Start with the data collection and work backwards from that point.  That way you’ll be collecting ‘good’ data as soon as possible and you can start demonstrating the benefits of your new approach.

If you’d like help putting your marketing data strategy in place, click here to book a call or fill out the form below.

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