How to do data-driven marketing right

Akamai, Monster and others found creative ways to put piles of corporate data to work for their marketing teams. Marketing pros for these companies share valuable lessons learned from their successes, along with tips and best practices for data-driven marketing.

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8 tips and best practices for data-driven marketing

1. Marketing collaboration with IT is key

Akamai's marketing team meets regularly with its IT department to devise new data-driven marketing projects and efficiencies, according to Akamai CMO Rinklin, who spoke to following the MarTech USA event in March. The marketing and IT teams jointly present new project proposals to the executive team, he says. IT is "always a partner of ours, and we're always sharing credit for successes. It's a win for both departments." 

2. Make sure data is accurate 

"You want everything to be as close to perfect as possible, especially when people are using you as the source and possibly building case studies or reports off your information," says Amy Medeiros, a marketing manager with BroadbandSearch, which strives to give consumers easy access to information about their local ISPs and cable operators.

"The worst thing you can do is get a lot of press about your data, then have a competitor or a major publication say your data is crap," Rinklin says.

To avoid such a scenario, companies can engage a respected third-party, such as a professor at MIT or Stanford, a data scientist, or an industry analyst, to review findings before releasing them to the public, according to Rinklin. Vetting data with a third party is especially important if your findings go against what has been reported elsewhere in the media, he says. 

3. Plan marketing data projects well in advance

It's a good idea to plan data collection and sharing projects months in advance, according to Stacey Miller, a senior communications manager with Cision. "Create an editorial calendar so you can figure out what you want to collect, when and why," she says. "Then identify the people who will help with each component: the collection, the analysis, the visualization, [and] the dissemination." (Cision uses data from its own social network and media intelligence software to provide perspective on national events, such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars.)

4. Focus, and don't try to do to much with data

With so much data available today, it can be difficult to decide what to share and how. Organizations should focus their efforts on data sets "that prove your value as a company and your thought leadership," and make your data-driven reports "tight and understandable at first glance," according to Rinklin.

"It's nice to throw around numbers," says Asaf Darash, CEO of Regpack, a company that makes online registration systems. "But you need to explain what those numbers mean, what the implications are, and why the numbers matter."

5. Develop strong relationships with media and analysts

"Nurture relationships with the press before you share anything with them to increase exposure," says Real Mobile's Davis. "Cold emails to reporters convert at a low rate."

Companies should also work with industry analysts and reporters to find out what types of data they can provide to support areas of focus, Rinklin says. Serving as a reliable source to analysts and press can lead to increased coverage and positive exposure for brands.

6. Prioritize data for marketing vs. product growth 

For small businesses in particular, the biggest challenge of sharing data publicly is the need to manage resources, according to Davis. Reveal Mobile "is a small company, and we had to consciously decide to invest in 'data for marketing' instead of building features for customers" or focusing on other tech priorities, he says. "Fortunately, the beacon map was an interesting and exciting project to work on, and getting buy-in across the company was relatively easy." 

7. If you don't already have data, create it 

Organizations don't need to invest money in expensive data-gathering technologies, according to Solar Power Authority's Nally. Instead, they might create surveys about their industries or fields of interest using Google Forms or other online survey tools. Once you have enough responses, the findings can be used to create one or more pieces of content and contact people who might be interested in the results. "Not only are you getting exposure for your brand, you're getting people interested in your data findings," Nally says.

8. Don't forget the target audience

Constant data collection and analysis can quickly lead to "data fatigue," according to Jamie Barnett, CMO of Netskope, which issues the Netskope Cloud Report. It's important to focus on data-driven research that will have the most impact on key audiences and give them actionable best practices and ideas.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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