You don’t need me to tell you that Data is important to marketing. Any pundit, expert, and business strategist will say you need to develop your data strategy – from how you’ll nurture the collection of first-party data, to what your MarTech solutions should be, to how to activate that data to drive marketing and reporting.

However, data is not insight, and data alone won’t and can’t help you. Just because you collect data doesn’t make you or your organization “data-driven”. Unfortunately, from what I see, so many companies are “data rich, but insights poor” – data is in massive supply, but is worthless since it’s not leading to actionable insights.

So here are a few thoughts on how to become truly data-driven – and to pivot your data approach towards insight development over data collection.

  1. Collecting data is not the end-goal
    It is a worthless endeavor to spend money and time building a data collection infrastructure if you haven’t similarly invested in organizational capability for finding meaning in your data. Data itself is worthless without data-science and analysis expertise – plus having a bias and hunger for digging into it to leverage it.

    Thus, operationalizing data collection isn’t being data-driven – it’s simply a route to data-overload. For example, I worked at a luxury automaker some years ago who installed a top-of-the-line CRM system. They collected an enormous amount of data on customers across the entirety of the customer journey. Yet no one was focused on crunching the mountains of data to find useful insights for marketing. So when we asked them which behaviors or characteristics correlated with their most valuable customers, they didn’t know. Without that bias for insights, you will end up with petabytes of un-used data, and millions of dollars in under-leveraged MarTech.

  2. Unless your data is unified and normalized, you aren’t truly leveraging it
    Having data strewn across your organization is a clear sign that you are simply collecting data vs. truly leveraging it. I’ve worked with companies who have dozens of separate databases that aren’t unified and don’t communicate with each other. This can be a problem, as it impedes the ability to create a single view of your customers, as well as prevents stakeholder alignment around a holistic business truth. It’s important to start the hard work of unifying your data – technically and operationally – in order to garner the types of business and customer insights you need to drive modern marketing. Clean, unified, and normalized – that’s how you need to start thinking about your data.

  3. Evaluative data is not helpful in and of itself
    Most companies begin their data journey by beginning to measure the results of their efforts and setting KPIs and benchmarks for their marketing. But knowing your efforts delivered some number of clicks, leads, or even ROI is only somewhat helpful. These evaluative data points provide little further insight to optimize or guide future efforts.

    It’s only through deeper diagnostic analysis can you derive the types of insights that drive broader improvements. For example, can you leverage data to identify what aspects of an effort contributed to its performance? Were there geographies, segments, user types, or behaviors that correlated better with success or failure? What aspects should be continued, discontinued, or further adapted. This is the type of data that will drive you forward.

More data has been produced in the past 2 years than the prior history of humanity. And with the impending deprecation of the 3rd party cookie, the race to collect data will only accelerate. So, now’s the time to take the steps necessary to become a truly data-driven organization – by demanding that the data you collect begins driving the insights and actions your business needs.

*Originally published in MediaPost’s Marketing Insider 3/1/23

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