[Research] How to Build a Data-Driven Marketing Strategy
Being data-driven in marketing is no longer just an option, it’s a must. More and more marketers agree that running their projects according to a data-driven marketing strategy is essential to keeping the business ahead of competitors. And they have plenty of reasons for saying so.
We’ve decided to dig deeper into the topic. In the last several weeks we interviewed 157 experts in the industry – senior digital marketers, CMOs, growth and marketing directors, as well as business founders, and CEOs. We asked them about the role data plays in their organizations. They told us about the challenges they face, the use cases that worked great for them, and the tools they employ to monitor their data. So, in this article we’ll provide a summary of our research with useful insights from industry experts, and we sincerely hope that you get the most out of it.
What is a data-driven marketing strategy?
Organizations that employ a data-driven marketing strategy use data as a base for all their marketing messages to customers. They tap into website analytics to find the behavior patterns of their visitors. Often, they analyze past interactions with customers and use their demographics to prepare more targeted campaigns. Commonly, marketers also use historical data to predict where the best traffic comes from, which approach will most likely yield the desired results, and much more. In other words, they use data to drive their marketing decisions.
This differs from the traditional marketing approach that prioritizes experimentation and relies on making hypotheses and validating them. It’s a valid approach too and has proven to be successful long before data-driven marketing became a thing and also afterwards. Traditional marketers use data too – they set out goals for their campaigns and use data to measure the results. Based on that, they decide if something is worth continuing or if a different approach may be more promising.
In reality, modern businesses use a blend of both approaches. Focusing solely on stats wouldn’t leave much space for experimentation as the uncertainty could discourage trying out new approaches. On the other hand, ignoring the data in the decision-making process would force marketers to rely more on a gut feeling, without much understanding of who their audience is.
Benefits of making data-driven marketing decisions
There are several reasons why the data-driven approach is gaining more traction and popularity among marketers. Here are some of the main benefits of data-driven marketing according to the marketing teams we’ve spoken to but also from our own experience.
It provides you with valuable insights about your customers
Every interaction with customers generates data about their behavior, the problems they’re trying to solve, and the things that worked or haven’t worked for a particular audience. Using that to your advantage can help you create better, more targeted campaigns, and tap into the audiences you haven’t been able to infiltrate before. You can also improve the customer experience in the process.
For example, by monitoring different segments of new customers, you may notice that one particular group has a visible higher lifetime value (LTV) than the other customers – they buy more expensive products, are more likely to upgrade to a higher subscription plan, etc. Going forward, you may want to focus more resources on targeting that particular audience throughout their customer journey and, subsequently, improve your revenues.
It helps you make informed decisions
Data can help in every stage of marketing decision-making. Knowing what worked in the past can help you decide between different versions of an ad, different banners you’ll put on social media, or different copies on the CTA buttons. It helps you in becoming more agile and adaptable as you implement your marketing ideas, refine them and polish them to perfection.
For example, by monitoring the heatmaps of your existing landing pages, you can get a good idea of where visitors click, and which areas of a page they tend to overlook. Combining it with the conversions data from the dozens of pages you’ve built before, you know precisely what works for your audience and so you’re able to design potential new pages with all that knowledge in your mind.
It helps optimize expenses and prioritize channels
Relying on data-driven marketing strategies can also help with attribution and the prioritization of marketing channels. Tracking every interaction customers have with a brand can help measure the effectiveness and ROI of each marketing channel. In turn, you can then prioritize higher spending on one channel while deprioritizing another.
For example, by examining your data, you realize LinkedIn drives a higher quality of leads than other social media platforms. You end up creating more ads on this network and increasing the budget to attract more high-quality customers to your product.
How to build a data-driven marketing strategy
Would you like to become more data-driven in your marketing efforts but don’t know how to get started? Based on our experience, we’ve gathered several main points you should consider.
Set objectives for data-driven decision marketing
As the first step, you want to determine the goals for your efforts. In other words, you should decide what exactly you want to use the data for. Perhaps you want to improve your presence on social media by analyzing how users interact with your content. Maybe your Google Ads don’t perform as expected and you want to revamp your copy and call-to-actions. Or maybe it’s the website or its particular pages you want to optimize for more conversions. You may just want to focus on the basics of providing a better customer experience and learn more about who you’re dealing with.
You’ll most likely be wanting to do all of it and much more but realistically you can’t do it all at once. So, it’s worth prioritizing particular projects and adding more and more as you go.
Gather the marketing data to analyze
Once you know what you’ll be doing, the next essential step is finding the data that will help you to get there. Possibly you already have plenty of the data you need – it could be website analytics and insights offered by every marketing tool you use. Chances are, however, that you need to acquire more data to make informed decisions later on. This could mean setting up additional tracking of your visitors, or perhaps combining data sets from different sources.
The former is particularly common in marketing. You probably use many different tools for marketing and each generates useful data of its own. However, it’s only when you combine data about users from different points of interaction that you can get a really good picture of your target audience. A common scenario, for example, would be to combine data from an email tool (e.g. MailChimp), an all-around marketing platform like HubSpot, and advertising channels you use (Facebook Ads, Google Ads, etc.).
While it can be in theory done manually, it’s far more efficient and error-proof to automate such marketing reporting. Many marketers use Coupler.io – an all-in-one data automation and analytics platform that can be used to automatically fetch data from all sorts of marketing tools, with no coding required. You set it up once and the data populates your dashboards and reports on the schedule you choose.
Through Coupler.io you can also hire a team of data professionals to set up any custom data reporting for your organizations. It could be data collection from various sources, setting up the right infrastructure for your data, configuring the automated data flows, and building any custom, interactive dashboards you need. If this sounds like something you could take advantage of, feel free to reach out for a free consultation.
Put data to use
Once you have all the data you need, it’s time to organize it, visualize it if you’d like, and start using it on a regular basis. Here are several things you want to ensure at this point:
- The data in the form of dashboards or reports are accessible to all stakeholders at any time. They know how to use the tools, understand the metrics, and can customize the data to extract the needed insights. The metrics are clear and relevant, and there’s no space for ambiguity.
- You have a plan for incorporating the data into your company’s daily operations, including the green light from the stakeholders if that’s something you need. You want to make sure that the data is actively used when decisions are made and it gradually replaces the ‘gut feeling’ thinking the organization may have prioritized before.
- There’s a person or a team responsible for collecting, cleaning, and maintaining the data you use for your decision-making. You want to have someone that will ensure the data is consistent and up-to-date at all times and will troubleshoot any problems should they arise.
Don’t forget to review your data-driven strategy periodically to make sure it’s always in line with your business goals and the ever-changing market conditions. Curious about how frequently other marketers review their strategies? Read on to find out.
How to build custom marketing dashboards?
No business is the same and many marketers feel limited by only using the analytics built into their marketing tools. As you’ll find out later, over 70% of marketers opt for using custom marketing dashboards so they can make better decisions. There are different approaches to building one.
One way to do it is by exporting the relevant data into Excel, Google Sheets, or a similar tool. There, you can calculate the relevant metrics yourself or hire someone to extract the insights for you. The calculation capabilities of such apps make it possible to aggregate data, build interactive dashboards, and even forecast future marketing trends. For more advanced marketing data analytics, consider using data warehouses like BigQuery or Redshift which are more suitable for handling big data and can even offer some artificial intelligence capabilities.
If you’re looking for a more visual dashboard, you may want to look into BI tools like Looker Studio, Tableau, or Power BI. Each offers advanced marketing data visualization techniques and abilities to build beautiful, self-updating dashboards with data flowing from many different sources. Coupler.io offers native integration with Looker Studio, which allows you to set up automated data imports from your favorite apps, such as HubSpot, GA4, Airtable, Facebook Ads, and more.
Here’s an example of a near real-time set of advertising dashboards built by the team at Coupler.io. Feel free to check it out for your own use.
And now, without further ado, let’s discuss the results of our survey.
The role of data-driven marketing strategy and analytics as seen by marketing experts
Now, let’s talk about more practical aspects of data-driven marketing strategies. But this time, we’ll hear what others have to say. As we mentioned earlier, we asked 157 marketers about their strategies, challenges, and approaches. Here’s what they said.
How often do you analyze marketing data?
When it comes to the frequency at which marketers do their data analysis, we can see different approaches.
- Most (55%) review their results every week, regardless of the type of data they look into.
- 21% of respondents choose to check the numbers every day while 16% do so only once a month.
- Interestingly, only 5% of the participants rely on a mixed frequency, checking some data more frequently and some less so. The vast majority stick to a single schedule.
At Coupler.io we stick with the majority here. We find the weekly schedule to be frequent enough to react to the changes, and at the same time long enough to spot the trends in the first place.
Who analyzes the results of marketing activities?
Next, we asked who is the lucky one to analyze the results of marketing activities (respondents could choose multiple answers). Three answers garnered roughly half of the votes. Most commonly, it’s the specialist for a particular channel that monitors the results which makes a lot of sense – after all, they’re the ones who need to learn from the results and improve things going forward.
In nearly half of the companies, marketing managers look into the results, commonly accompanied also by C-level executives or product owners/managers. Fewer respondents (35%) indicated that data analysts at their companies analyze the results, in search for patterns and improvement possibilities.
In our case, each channel responsible monitors the results of their own actions as it gives them the best insights into the effectiveness of their work. On top of that, Inna, our Head of Marketing, reviews the results for each department, supported by our data analysis team when she needs to dig deeper or look at a certain campaign from a different angle.
Which tools do you use for data-driven decision-making?
In the following question, we were curious about the main tools marketers use to analyze their data. Here, the vast majority indicated that tools from the Google ecosystem are their main source of analytics. This commonly includes Google Analytics but often expands into Google Sheets or visualization tools like Looker or Looker Studio.
In the second place are the tools from the Microsoft network – Azure, Excel, and Power BI. They were mentioned by 31% of respondents.
Many marketers also use Ahrefs as the main tool, often in combination with other SEO tools like SEMRush, SpySERP, or Similarweb. 12% of survey participants rely on a custom solution built specifically for their needs.
We use plenty of these tools but those coming from Google are certainly at the very top of the list. Virtually all of our data is brought into either BigQuery or Google Sheets and then visualized on Looker Studio dashboards.
What are the main channels for your marketing data collection?
More than half of respondents (55%) indicated that their website is the main source of data for their analytics. And no wonder – there’s an array of extensive data there that’s relevant for so many different areas – SEO, advertising, conversion rate optimization, content, and more. In the distant second place are advertising platforms of all sorts (14%) followed by email marketing tools like Mailchimp or MailerLite (9%) and HubSpot CRM (5%).
We would also side with the majority here, as a website is our biggest source of traffic. We publish tons of educational materials that users love and it’s critical for us to be monitoring that traffic and constantly find new ways to convert it into signups.
Do you monitor your data-driven marketing strategy with custom marketing dashboards?
Separately, we asked if marketers use any custom dashboards to monitor their progress. The majority (71%) does indeed, most of them opting for a separate dashboard for each marketing channel they use – for example, content, advertising, link building, etc. Fewer respondents use an all-in-one dashboard to track marketing as a whole.
Among those that don’t use a custom marketing dashboard, most rely on static reports generated for each channel. About the same number of participants check their results directly in the tools that collect the analytics.
At Coupler.io custom dashboards are the main reference point for every team and every project inside of it. We maintain auto-updating dashboards for each source of traffic we receive. On top of that, the data is also aggregated into a general overview dashboard for marketing and for all projects within the company. Whenever there’s a question that data could help us with, it’s clear where to look for answers.
How often do you do a marketing strategy review?
Now, what about reviewing the marketing strategy itself? Here the opinions differ. Many marketers choose to review their strategies every quarter (45%), while 31% do so every month. Less than a quarter of respondents choose to review their data-driven marketing strategies once or twice a year only.
In our case, six months is just about the sweet spot. We may opt for a quarterly review if things aren’t going as planned but under regular circumstances, reviewing marketing strategy twice a year works just fine.
What are the biggest challenges when making data-driven marketing decisions?
Let’s now hear from some of the participants about the main challenges they face. Among all answers, there were several common patterns we need to talk about.
The first revolves around attribution. In digital marketing, there can be many touchpoints between a customer and a brand – a post on social media, an email newsletter, a visit to a homepage, or an interaction with a chatbot or support team. It’s often difficult to tell which particular touchpoint convinced a person to make a purchase or sign up. Thus, businesses find it difficult to prioritize particular activities due to uncertainty about their impact.
I believe that all decisions within marketing should be backed by data but since attribution, in general, is rarely accurate we cannot solely rely on it. We need to add more qualitative measurements (e.g. customer interviews) together with gut feeling and from that make a hypothesis about how to move forward.Adam Holmgren, GetAccept
In digital marketing, there are often at least a few customer interactions with a product before a conversion happens. This makes it difficult to track which marketing channel is the most effective in terms of return on marketing investment (ROMI).Nadiya Bezhnar, BSG
Despite all the analytics tools we use, we still don’t know exactly at what point a user decides to use a product – when they read our article that was found in SERP, or when they saw an expert’s post on LinkedIn mentioning our product, or perhaps when they directly found our tool in Google.Elena Osipova, GetProspect
Marketing is constantly evolving and so are the preferences and habits of customers. New products spring up, and new possibilities open up all the time. This makes it difficult to run the same data-driven marketing strategy over and over again and forces businesses to constantly iterate to find the best approach at a given time.
The biggest challenge in marketing decision-making is the lack of certainty in the results due to changing consumer behavior and evolving marketing techniques. Yesterday’s successful strategies may not work tomorrow, and a perfect marketing mix for one industry may fail in another. So, accurate and automated analytics, continuous testing, and experimenting are crucial for discovering the most effective methods.Inna Shevchenko, Coupler.io
Overwhelming amount of data
Businesses overflow with data generated at each touchpoint with their customers. With such a wealth of information, it’s a challenge to organize customer data and turn relevant information into actionable insights.
The biggest challenges in marketing decision-making include sorting through vast amounts of data, overcoming biases, and achieving data integration across different tools and teams.Percy Grunwald, Hosting Data
In my experience, one of the biggest challenges with decision-making in marketing is the abundance of data available. This can lead to analysis paralysis and make it difficult to determine which data points are most important.Toby Dao, Tigren
Perhaps the biggest challenge is understanding and utilizing all available data before making a decision. In today’s digital age, there are so many data points to consider such as customer behavior, predictive modeling, market trends, competitor analysis, etc., that merging them into one comprehensive view can be difficult. So, it’s important to recognize what information is relevant for each strategy.Carlos Barros, Epos Now
Lack of meaningful data
Having lots of data doesn’t automatically mean that it will bring about meaningful insights.
I believe one of the biggest challenges with decision-making in marketing comes from not having access to meaningful data or enough quality insights. That’s why investing in analytics tools is so important—they can provide real-time analysis of customer behavior and help marketing teams make data-driven decisions for more effective campaigns.Tomasz Niezgoda, Surfer
Budget and time-constraints
While data can help make decisions, it doesn’t guarantee the desired outcome. This can become challenging when the budget or time is limited and one needs to prioritize certain decisions over others.
So, a balance between hypothesis testing without data and data-driven decision-making is needed. That is, we cannot expand our marketing presence without experimenting, but we cannot guarantee how successful those experiments will be. This test/measurement cycle can become a problem if there is no proven revenue-generating strategy to be able to run all these experiments.Eugene Odyntsov, Mailtrap
Time pressure is the biggest challenge and a constant obstacle to decision-making processes. Needing to make a lot of decisions in a short amount of time can be extremely overwhelming for some.Stefan Chekanov, Brosix
Communication inside teams has also often been quoted as a challenge when making businesses data-driven.
The most challenging part of becoming data-driven was enabling teams, learning how to gather meaningful insights regularly, and convincing stakeholders that we need both quantitative and qualitative data. Everyone needed to understand that we need to conduct research, monitor NPS, conduct interviews, and collect customers’ feedback.Lesia Polivod, Expandi.io
Our biggest challenge with decision-making in marketing is ensuring that all opinions are considered and that our entire team is on the same page. Brainstorming and communicating openly help us see the big picture and be aware of all perspectives. While it can slow us down sometimes, it nevertheless allows our marketing strategy to evolve and produce better results.Corina Leslie, ZeroBounce
How using data-driven marketing insights helps your business?
Last but not least, we wanted to know how being data-driven helped the businesses we had a chance to interview. Here are some of the most interesting comments we received.
When we run experiments, data analytics helps us decide how successful they are and whether they have the potential for us. That is, we can decide whether or not to scale each individual channel/content funnel, etc. based on our goals: improving conversion rates, increasing brand awareness, or attracting more potential customers.Eugene Odyntsov, Mailtrap
You can learn a lot about your customers from analytics. What’s the right message or visual that will get their attention? Which goods are they currently purchasing or used to purchase in the past? What advertisements or platforms are working for you? Personally, for us, all this helped us tap into the right channels and reach out to customers through the right platform. These platforms would actually make them buy from us.Ammara Tariq, Chanty
Analytics play a critical role in shaping marketing strategy. It’s always the starting point, from analyzing buyer personas to identifying areas for improvement in the sales funnel. I regularly monitor key business performance metrics to stay on top of things and offer recommendations if performance deviates from expectations. Relying on intuition alone for decision-making can be costly for an organization, as advertising and marketing expenses may go to waste if not properly evaluated.Inna Shevchenko, Coupler.io
They say that you can’t improve what you don’t measure, and that applies so well to modern marketing. Our analytics paint a clear picture of what our target audience most responds to, so we can provide more of that. For instance, we noticed that our email subscribers engaged much more with an e-book we sent out than with other types of content. So we realized this is something they find useful, and as a result we started to create more e-books.Corina Leslie, ZeroBounce
Investing in analytics tools is so important — they can provide real-time analysis of customer behavior and help marketers make data-driven decisions for more effective campaigns. In my experience, leveraging the right data analytics has helped us measure marketing performance accurately, identify growth opportunities faster, optimize our marketing efforts more efficiently, and ultimately drive better return on investment for our company.Tomasz Niezgoda, Surfer
Analytics allow us to define priorities, goals, and understand the effectiveness of everything we do.Dmytro Tkachuk, airSlate
With the right analytics, we can better understand our customers’ preferences and behavior. Also, it helps us refine their marketing campaigns and optimize their return on investment.Ostap Yaroshevych, mysignature.io
I adjust my strategy based on the previous results. For instance, recent data showed that there are more cost-effective landing pages to focus on in terms of SEO – so we made the necessary changes to our strategy.Anastasia Kotsiubynska, SE Ranking
Analytics has been a key part of our marketing strategy for many years, it allows us to identify the different types of customers that use our service and so we’re able to create personalized content marketing that targets those different customers. It has helped us to really refine the content that we produce, giving us much better engagement when we publish that content and thereby helping us improve audience retention.Carla Diaz, Broadband Search
Data analytics has improved our marketing efforts by providing data-driven insights into customer behavior and marketing campaign performance. This information allows us to make informed decisions about our strategies, target our audience more effectively, and measure the success of our campaigns. What’s more, we can optimize strategies for maximum impact, leading to improved marketing performance and better business outcomes.Camille Fortuno, UpCity
By making data-driven decisions based on past and current marketing campaign analytics, we are able to continuously improve our ROI by optimizing our advertising budget and significantly reducing client acquisition costs.Gatis Viskers, Ambition Digital
Data-driven marketing strategy – sum up
Those were some of the key quotes from the industry experts we interviewed. We hope that you’ve found their insights as well as our experience and research collated in this article useful.
To our interviewees, once again, thank you very much for participating in our survey. It’s been a pleasure learning from the best in the industry and sharing your invaluable knowledge with the world.
And to all readers – please come back again. At Coupler.io we’re on a mission to help companies become data-driven. We share plenty of our knowledge on this very blog and we hope you can make use of it in your own organization. If you’re struggling to use data to your advantage and could use some help, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for a free consultation. Get in touch!Back to Blog