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Why Data-Driven Marketing Outperforms Traditional Marketing


“Data-driven,” “innovative,” “360-degree marketing,” “thought leadership,” “smart content.”

Have your eyes glazed over yet? We all know that feeling of boredom that creeps in when we absorb material that’s heavy on the latest marketing jargon. Most of us are guilty of using it too.

In the world of 21st-century marketing, every marketing team and agency wants to believe that they are “innovative” and “data-driven.” And because most marketing teams and agencies do have metrics and numbers to work with, it’s easy to think that your marketing efforts are based on more than just your best guesses, surface analysis, or gut instincts about what has worked and will work for your organization and audience.

But the tough reality is that data-driven marketing is to traditional marketing what an IMAX screening of Avatar is to Avatar on your iPhone. While you’re dealing with the same basic material and concepts,  data-driven marketing is a richer, deeper, bigger way of seeing the world of your marketing.

Keep reading as we explore the key differences between data-driven marketing and traditional marketing and talk about why marketers need to challenge themselves to become data nerds in order to see big success.

Data-Driven Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing:

Data-driven marketing is all about  insight , seeing deeply into the heart of what your numbers are telling you and making marketing decisions based on the right interpretation of the data. This approach to marketing is closely tied to accurate goal and metric setting;  you have to understand the data you have in front of you in order to look to the future and make predictions about what matters to your success and what does not.

Traditional marketing is much more of a guess-and-check approach. Campaigns are planned based on the gut instincts or surface level analysis of a couple of team members, and then the results are examined to find out if those instincts were good ones. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. In many cases, the “results” are inconclusive: Because you and your team didn’t know what the important numbers and metrics were in the first place, you can’t draw helpful conclusions from the new information you do have.

Data-Driven Approach vs. Traditional Approach to Blogging:

Data-driven marketing can eliminate much of the inefficiency and uncertainty that comes with traditional marketing, and in an increasingly competitive marketing environment, few companies and organizations can afford to waste time and resources on mediocre results.

Let’s dive into a concrete example of how a data-driven marketer might look at a marketing channel standard like blogging.

The Traditional Marketer:

A traditional marketer knows that blogging is valuable and may keep a close eye on data like the number of views a post gets, what sources are driving the most traffic to the post, and how the post performs over time. If a post gets a lot of views, a traditional marketer will say, “Aha! Our audience likes this topic. Let’s post more around this theme.” They will then proceed to spend team time and energy creating more content around this popular topic.

Nothing that the traditional marketer has done in this quick process of analysis and conclusion is  wrong, but it’s a surface level analysis at best. The decision to put time and energy into content creation in this area  may not actually move the needle on their defined goals .

Let’s look at what a data-driven marketer would do.

The Data-Driven Marketer:

The data-driven marketer knows that their blogging goals are to increase site traffic and demonstrate thought leadership, but more importantly to drive traffic to deeper landing pages with more offers and information.

The data-driven marketer likes to see posts get a lot of views, but they are much more interested in finding out which posts successfully drive conversions and further exploration into the site.

Here are some of the questions they dig into:

  • Which posts have the highest percentage of CTA clicks?
  • Is there a post with low views but an insanely high CTR?
  • Looking at the blog posts that have the highest views AND the highest CTR, what are the common denominators for word count, topics, type of post, blog titles, dynamic content/images, etc.?
  • Is the average CTR for blog posts as a whole improving this year? Was it stronger last year? If so, what topics and offers were being used then versus what’s being used now?
  • Which type of content offers get the most clicks?

If the CTR on blog posts for a product or topic that the data-driven marketer’s organization has deprioritized is incredibly high, the data-driven marketer begins to wave their hand and say, “Hey folks, I think we underestimated the audience interest in X topic/product. We should revisit our product strategy based on these new insights.”

As you can see, as soon as the data-driven marketer begins to look at blogging, they are asking different kinds of questions than the traditional marketer.  They are looking at the data in more complex ways and trying to draw strategic insight from their data analysis.  This is a deeper way to think about the role data plays in your marketing than the surface-level, traditional guess-and-check approach.

Today's Marketers Need More Data Confidence:

We looked around the industry recently and noticed that  there is a profound need and hunger for data-savvy marketers and communications professionals. And this makes sense because data has never been more plentiful or more potentially powerful, and yet too many marketers are frightened off by the ghosts of their past statistics and math courses to want to touch data with a ten-foot pole.

West Virginia University’s Data Marketing Communications program is the nation’s first online master’s degree explicitly focused on the impact of data on marketing communications. We spoke with industry leaders to learn what skills today’s marketer needs to make data-driven marketing decisions. The M.S. in Data Marketing Communications program was designed to fill the defined talent gap identified through those conversations.

You don’t need to be a mathematical or statistical whiz kid to succeed in our Data Marketing Communications program or in your career more generally, but you do need analytical skills to interpret data in order to drive messaging, assess metrics, measure productivity, increase ROI, and develop integrated marketing strategies.

Are you eager to fill the talent gap and develop skills that are desperately needed in the marketing and communications industry?  Contact us today to learn more about how you can begin to make a difference in your marketing career and for your present and future organizations.