6 Questions to Ask When Building a Data-Driven Marketing Strategy

From the end of third-party cookies to proving marketing influence on your pipeline, data is the hot topic in marketing this year. It allows you to target your campaigns, automate your efforts, drive higher ROI, and demonstrate the impact of marketing on your company’s business goals. If you haven’t made the switch from traditional marketing to a more data-driven marketing strategy, you’ll soon be left behind.

Building a data-driven marketing strategy doesn’t have to be a daunting task. As with any business plan, it is important to define your target market, performance metrics, goals by marketing channel, and a realistic execution timeline. Get started by answering these six questions.

1. What performance metrics will your data-driven marketing strategy track?

Are your marketing metrics tied back to business goals? Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you analyze performance across the funnel. If you have a lead tracking system in place, consider not only tracking how many leads you obtained but if they are marketing qualified (MQL) or sales qualified (SQL), the potential revenue size, and where they are in the sales process – the information needed to give you both a short-term and long-term view to help you better optimize your data-driven marketing strategy.

Oftentimes, large purchase decisions aren’t made quickly and aren’t made by one person. Make sure to track metrics that determine how far they are in the buying process like key page views, repeat visitors, account based/company tracking, etc.

It’s also important to understand what you are comparing results against. New campaigns may not have an equivalent reference point from last year but you can track KPIs such as cost per acquisition (CPA) and return on ad spend (ROAS). You can’t set goals without first knowing what metrics your executives and team want to track and why.

2. How well do you track your performance metrics?

Metrics are fantastic, but no data-driven marketing strategy will succeed without the systems in place to track them. Whether you are using Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Optimizely, Marketo, or Salesforce, make sure all KPIs are being tracked correctly. This may mean building out campaign tracking parameters, confirming goals, and defining events within the customer journey. Set best practices and governance models for standardizing tracking procedures.

If you aren’t already, consider tracking phone calls and online chat activity. Make sure you can track performance holistically across all marketing channels and efforts. Look at cross-channel performance and establish an attribution model that makes sense for your company. Logging in to each platform individually and trying to connect the dots is time-consuming and difficult, so consider investing in a data aggregation and reporting platform that can attribute marketing to sales activity.

3. Are your customer personas defined and is their buying journey mapped out?

Defining your existing customer base and putting them into representative groups based on demographics, firmographics, purchase history, and behaviors is an important step in being able to better support them. Use that list to develop your ideal customer profile (ICP) and target account list (TAL). Make sure you understand their buying journey and identify any supporting influencers that may not have made your primary persona list.

As you map out the buying journey, start thinking about their needs and the solutions they need from you at each step of the process. Mapping the customer buying journey is essential to any data-driven marketing strategy.

4. Do you compare YOY performance?

How are your current efforts performing compared to last year? There will always be variables like market condition changes, budget cuts, focus on different marketing channel allocation, and strategy shifts. You should be prepared to provide the qualitative insights, but comparing the YOY hard data, such as sales growth, pipeline size and velocity, MQL generation, and so on, is still important.

If there are gaps in what you tracked last year or it wasn’t a clean look, see if you have what you need going into the next year. Check to see what worked in the past and what systems you have in place to improve your data-driven marketing strategy for next year.

5. Have you researched all the available digital marketing channels?

It is important to have the above questions answered first to understand your goals for each marketing channel, KPIs, and your customers buying journey. Then you can evaluate each marketing channel and determine if your efforts have paid off. Don’t just do paid search, for example, because you have in the past!

A good starting point is to list all of your marketing channel options, even if you haven’t used them before: paid media, SEO, content marketing, influencer marketing, social media, account-based marketing (ABM), and predictive analytics to name a few.

As you test these channels, you can establish new benchmarks to use in forecasting for the next year and refining your data-driven marketing strategy. Don’t just assume what was successful in the past will work in the future. As technology and buying behaviors change, be sure to consistently test your new tactics live in the market even if you only have a small budget.

6. Do you have the right MarTech stack for a data-driven marketing strategy?

Finally, address your marketing technology stack. Having the right technology is critical to planning, executing, integrating, and tracking your efforts. There are many options available, so you’ll need to narrow it down.

Start by auditing what you have and identify any duplicative tools and how often each tool is used by your team. Then list the features you are missing and research the top vendors. If you can identify the right technology stack, one that meets your business needs better, and even cut unnecessary software you have now, you’ll have a much better chance of getting your budget approved.

At the end of the day, a good data-driven marketing strategy is about storytelling: telling a compelling story to your customers and also to your internal teams.