We’re neck-deep in the age of ‘Big Data.’
No matter what aspect of marketing you want to measure, there’s a tool to help you track it. In fact, ‘powerful analytics’ is probably the most highly-touted feature for most of tools we use as online marketers. We have access to so much data, so many metrics that… we’re drowning in it.
Gone are the days of data for Big Data’s sake. Marketing analytics are only as valuable as the insights we pull from them and the strategy we build around those insights. Let’s talk about how you’re going to better integrate this wealth of metrics and data into your marketing strategy.
Key Marketing Analytics Terms to Understand
Before you can put marketing data into context and use it to drive decision-making and strategy, you need to know what you’re dealing with. It’s hard to make sense of changes in your conversion rate if you don’t actually understand what conversion rate measures. First, we’ll dig into the meaning of a few key marketing analytics. (If you have a good handle on these, feel free to skip to the next section.)
Oftentimes when we say “analytics,” we think of web analytics – the kind of data we find in Google Analytics and other platforms (like those we use for email marketing, for example). These are just a small part of the data that pertains to marketing activities, but they’re important nonetheless.
- Traffic: Simply put, traffic measures how many times a particular webpage is viewed. It’s a good indicator of how effectively your marketing efforts are driving people to your website.
- Engagement: Engagement can encompass several data points (including bounce rate, time on page, pages per session, etc.), but it’s generally a measure of how and how often people interact with your web content.
- Open Rate: Of the people who received your email, how many actually clicked and opened the email? This is a good measure of the effectiveness of your email subject lines, as well as your subscribers’s engagement with your brand.
- Click-through Rate (CTR): When you run a digital ad or include a call-to-action (CTA) on a webpage or email, CTR represents the percentage of those who clicked on your CTA versus all those who saw it.
At the end of the day, the core purpose of marketing is to drive leads – people within your target market who may be interested in what you have to offer. Knowing how many leads you’re getting enables you to understand the effectiveness of your marketing at actually growing sales opportunities.
Conversion rate is broadly defined as the percentage of users who take a desired action. More specifically in the world of online marketing, it measures the percentage of website visitors who buy something on your site. Conversion rate can help you optimize things like your web design, copy, CTAs, and other elements to make the most of the traffic you drive there.
Sales growth is the end-all be-all of marketing. Is your marketing strategy and activity driving more leads, qualifying more sales opportunities, and generating more revenue than it did last month or last year?
Data, meet Insights
Since the idea of ‘Big Data’ burst onto the scene, we’re all tracking these metrics. I can tell you what the exact bounce rate of a particular blog post was on November 18th, 2015 – but what value does that bring to the table? How does that information help me better understand and reach my target market?
What does all this data mean?
The value of marketing analytics lies, not in measuring them, but in contextualizing them. Translating the numbers from just that – numbers – into insights, learnings, and next steps to improve your marketing.
Putting Data into Context
The first step to contextualizing data is to understand what each of these metrics truly means. It’s one thing to know that conversion rate = total conversions / total clicks. It’s another thing entirely to understand the real life side of analytics.
What does it actually mean to have a 3.7% conversion rate? Well, it means that, for every 100 clicks on your ad, between 3 and 4 of those people became a customer. It means that 3.7% found your product, web design, and copy compelling enough to trust you to solve a problem for them.
When you put data into a broader context, a story begins to emerge.
Look at how your conversion rate has changed over the last week, month, and year. What are the marketing actions that correspond with those peaks and valleys? Identifying how specific marketing tactics and campaigns have affected key metrics allows you to translate data into a performance evaluation of sorts – did last month’s email marketing campaign have a positive impact on sales growth?
Having a clear picture of how different tactics affect conversions, sales growth, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) empowers you to make decisions about how to proceed. If you can connect the dots to determine that email marketing boosted sales growth from 3% to 7% month over month, it’s easy to see that the campaign was a success. That means you can make intelligent decisions about where to invest your time and budget going forward to enable the best returns.
Another way to pull insights out of data is to go farther in the direction your analytics point you. You know that the email campaign improved sales – think of this datapoint as the X marking the spot, and dig here. Talk to your subscribers. Test different variations of copy, email design, send time, etc. Find out what aspect of the email made it so effective. Insights like that take it a step further, giving you new learnings to not only improve your current campaigns, but to help build an even better strategy the next time around.
Crafting a Strategy Around Insights
As Google notes, many of us limit the potential of our data by using it to support decisions we’ve already made, instead of to drive action. We’re all familiar with the idea that you can find statistics to back up almost any argument you can think of – it’s just a matter of what stats you use and how you present them.
It’s the same with marketing analytics. If you go looking for data to backup your decisions, you’ll most certainly find some. But to craft a strategy that truly capitalizes on the insights available, you have to let the data lead your decision-making and planning.
To build a strategy around your analytics (instead of the reverse), follow these tips:
- Learn to live with being wrong. Part of letting the data drive your strategy is letting go of initiatives that simply don’t move the needle (or move the needle enough to justify the investment).
- Approach data from a number of angles. Unless you’re Beyonce, you aren’t infallible. There are likely a number of ways to interpret your marketing data, so bring in a partner or a few to help make sense of it all and ensure you aren’t missing any key perspectives.
- Test, and test some more. Marketing analytics give you a picture of how things are – to find out how things could be, you’ll need to test your tactics and theories.
- Above all, listen. At the end of the day, the number one mistake you can make is to ignore what all of your valuable analytics are telling you. Let the data speak for itself, and listen.
Let Analytics Drive Your Marketing Strategy
The marketing analytics we have access to these days are an incredibly valuable resource. They have the power to drive more revenue than you’ve ever had and enable your business to grow. Practice drawing powerful insights out of the water and using them to improve your marketing, making it more effective than yesterday, last month, and last year.
There’s an ocean of data out there waiting.
About the Author: Kiera Abbamonte is the Content Marketing Specialist for Grasshopper. She loves a good baseball game and finding new ways to make content awesome. Catch up with her on Twitter @kieraabbamonte.