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4 Ways Marketers Should Incorporate Data into Their Decision Making

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Two weeks ago I wrote a post on ‘Eliminating Bullsh!t from Marketing.’ The point of the post was that in order to become better marketers, we need to learn to incorporate data and testing into our marketing arsenal and move away from basing our decisions solely on past experiences and intuition.

Now that you have consciously made the choice to incorporate data into your marketing decision making, the questions is how. I’ll be honest—it’s not easy.  You are going to be retraining your brain to think in a different way.  You are going to have to educate your creative and marketing teams to approach projects from a different angle.  You will probably have to battle some inner politics within your company about the way things have always been done.  It’s hard work, but the results can be astounding.

Small Marketing Human with Magnifying Glass

Discipline is key
Testing is extremely exciting.  Especially the first win.  One of the most important things you and your team will need to remain focused on is staying disciplined in your strategy.  You want to make sure you start any testing strategy with goals in mind and a long-term strategic roadmap. Just because you change something on a product page and see big lifts doesn’t mean it stops there. Does the lift continue all the way through to the purchase?  Did the change increase conversions but cause a loss in your average order value (AOV)?  As others in your company start to buy into testing and see the revenue and learnings gained, there will also be pressure to move faster.  This pressure may come from your superiors.  You must be patient.  Educate and help them understand that based on your website traffic and KPIs, valid testing can take time. It’s extremely important to take the appropriate time to run tests and evaluate the data so that winners are determined with true confidence.

Trying to swing for the fence is not always best.
Pressure to test faster brings me to my next point.  We have written several posts on this blog about re-designing portions of the website with a ‘Swing for the Fence’ (see here and here) approach.  I know as a marketer it’s sometimes easy to get wrapped up in a beautiful new design with strong, motivating copy; especially when your creative team is excited too.  However, you need to remember that just because you and your team think it will perform better doesn’t mean the user will like it.  I can’t tell you the number of A/B tests we have run with the most gorgeous design elements that have lost in a head-to-head competition with a less sexy control design.  That doesn’t mean that your new concept won’t work, it just means you need to be careful and test it.  Run an A/B/N test when considering major changes within your website.  Run your control against a challenger with a small, but strong element change rather than a swing for the fence option.  This way, you won’t risk losing a ton of conversions if it fails.  Use the data to determine what your next best steps are. Often, a small change is just enough to skyrocket conversions over a complete redesign.

Don’t be a data glutton
Ok, so you’ve bought into data, testing and the benefit of allowing it to guide your marketing decisions.  Be careful.  There can be a dark side to data as well.  First, data needs to be analyzed from many different angles.  Just because a test is leading to higher conversions, doesn’t mean it isn’t hurting your AOV.  You want to make sure to evaluate your numbers from multiple angles and look at all of the options.  Also, make sure not to fall back into the reactor role and change direction with every test and set of insights.  What works in one channel of your website may not work well in another.  You must learn to look at the higher-level picture of your data and insights to determine which data points to use in your making your overall business decisions. As I mentioned in my last post, the successful marketers of the future will be the ones that are able to hone in on data insights that can truly impact overall revenue goals and incorporate them into successful, comprehensive marketing strategies.

Get your creative team on board with data
Our Creative Director of Design, Matt Berglund, wrote an insightful post on ‘Marketers and Designers Living Happily ever After.’ He highlighted a great point on a commonly seen disconnect between marketers and creative teams, noting a significant disconnect between the world of UX-driven design and the revenue-driven marketing department. There is a tension between “the right way” to design, and what management believed would drive in dollars for the organization.

Like Matt, I have experienced this disconnect firsthand.  The creative team wants to design something beautiful and functional and the marketing team is concerned with whether it will achieve business goals.  One of the most important first steps you can take is getting your creative team on board with data and testing.  You need to take on the responsibility of educating them about data, testing tools and what testing really means.  You already have a talented and amazing creative team. By empowering them to design with testing in mind, you will provide an opportunity for your teams to truly begin to collaborate and possibly achieve huge gains for your company… as a team.

When embraced and used in the right way, data can be a powerful thing to incorporate into your marketing team.  It can make you smarter, stronger and more valuable to your company.

This post covers just 4 ways to incorporate data and testing into your marketing decisions.  There are obviously a lot more.  How do you incorporate data into marketing?  Let us know in the comments below.