Building your marketing data strategy for beginners

The importance of having a marketing data strategy

Do you have a marketing data strategy?  By that I mean a plan to manage the data within your business.  With GDPR on the horizon, 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.  Because you lack a marketing data strategy you aren’t taking advantage of the great information you collect everyday.  

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.


Businesses with 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 deals with a lot of things, but it’s all information based, and that’s data.  In the simpliest terms, Google, give people a tool that allows them to search for what they want.  That data was then by giving advertisers a 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).



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 are 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



AirBnB have transforming the way the travel industry works, definitely not through pretty hotels, but by creating a marketplace driven by understanding and managing customer data.  



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.


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.

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.

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 that would 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

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.


We tend not to use the term CRM has it has so many meanings to different people.  So by CRM we are talking about the system that holds your customer database.  

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.  However, the data may appear in a number of places, so your job will be to identify where the data is collected and how.


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.

So make sure the data you collect is in the correct format.  Especially if you are collecting dates.  A few examples

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.

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.


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.

Focus on the data that you need to drive your marketing strategy.

Don’t ask questions that ‘might be useful one day’.

You can always add more data, 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.


Data Consistency – Garbage in, Garbage out

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

At each point of data collection make sure you have clear and defined rules for the data that you collect.

websand email marketing signup

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 you marketing data strategy in place, it’s incredibly rewarding 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, get in touch.

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