A good motto for modern marketing would be, “When in doubt, check the data.” Perhaps an even better one would be, “When not in doubt, check the data to see if you should be.”
There’s never been a time when we’ve had such an ability to compile, collate, analyze and understand data around marketing. As businesses increase their abilities to collect data, to compare and correlate it from disparate sources, and to use analytical tools that are both more powerful and easier to use, marketing managers find themselves in a new and potentially disorienting position.
They can’t get by on intuition — even if it’s rooted in deep experience and personal knowledge. They have to go to the data.
While it may seem like a hassle, it’s really a new source of truth and a fail-safe against bad decisions rolled into one. It makes the occasional misstep all the more damaging, though, since a retrospective look at the data can reveal what should have been examined, or the negative outcomes the data might have predicted.
Quite naturally, the tendency today is to rely on the data — but can the pendulum swing too far in the direction of data? Of course.
The hazard of becoming more data-driven is that it can result in tunnel vision. Only the captured data can be understood, and thus only activities that generate data can be evaluated. It becomes easy to disregard activities that have value but that don’t generate discrete data points, even when those activities are critical for turning prospects into leads and for moving leads down the funnel.
The danger comes during the budgeting process. It’s easy to rationalize that the activities that generate easily captured data are the ones to focus on, because they affect the metrics on which marketing’s success or failure is based.
However, the real metric for marketing success is the success of the company. If the prioritization of activities generates great metrics but poor sales results, marketing is still on the hook.
Which activities is it dangerous to deprioritize in the data era? Following are examples of three types.
1. Ungated Content
New customers often need a bit of education to understand the complexities of their problems and the applicability of your solutions. This is natural, and it happens for virtually any company.
If you want customers to understand that you’re the best choice to fix their problems, they first have to understand the problems and then have to understand your solutions, in that order. The result is plenty of what often is referred to as “top of the funnel content” — material light on your products but heavy on the ideas behind your products.
This is content you want people to see and to use. If your products are a fit for them, then you want to deliver valuable information that leads them to seek more details from you, which improves the odds that they’ll buy from you.
If they aren’t a fit, those prospects should be able to de-select themselves — sucking them down the funnel is unlikely to earn a deal, but it is likely to waste sales’ time on customers who aren’t…