Digital Marketing: Stop ignoring data and start learning

March Madness has been one heck of a ride so far, huh? This year’s NCAA tournament is pumping out upsets left and right as Cinderella stories rise and brackets burst.

But I’m a Florida Gators fan, and I have to admit, I’m liking what I’m seeing from all of the college basketball madness so far (knock on wood). After a less-than-awesome football season, I’m going to soak up an undefeated record and this No. 1 ranking as long as I can. I’m not above infusing this into my marketing writing, either.

Earlier this week, University of Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan dished out some words of wisdom off the court.

“For me, I’m always eager to learn, to get better and to improve,” he told reporters.

Gators fan or not, you should take a page from coach Donovan. I have. In fact, I’m putting that quote into play this week as I write this post from the Adobe Summit Digital Marketing Conference in Salt Lake City. I’m immersing myself in sessions, panels, interviews and networking mixers to learn, get better and improve as a young professional. (A special thanks to Adobe for footing the bill for my growth, too.)

 

As a member of the pampered press for the Summit, I was invited to a special session: “Interactive Panel Discussion: Reinventing the Marketing Organization.” Ann Lewnes, SVP and CMO, Adobe, moderated, and was joined by the following panelists:

  • Jeff Dotson, Associate Professor, Department of Business Management, Brigham Young University
  • Jana Rich, Managing Director, Russell Reynolds Associates
  • Pete Stein, CEO, Razorfish
  • Jeff Titus, General Manager of Digital Technology Solutions and Strategy, Audi of America
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Lewnes opened the discussion with findings from Adobe’s Digital Roadblock: Marketers struggle to reinvent themselves, published this month. The study was conducted by surveying 1,000 marketers and data was collected by ResearchNow.

One of the top takeaways: “Marketers recognize the importance of data, but aren’t widely using it to make informed decisions.” Here are the supporting facts and figures:

  • 76% of marketers agree they need to be more data-focused to succeed
  • 49% of marketers report “trusting my gut” to guide decisions on where to invest their marketing budgets
  • 72% of marketers agree that long-term success is tied to proving marketing return on investment

 adobe-research-data

 

Titus, who was also a keynote speaker at Adobe Summit, highlighted the data above when asked to give the audience some practical advice.

“Every marketer should understand when you put something out there, you should have the ability to measure it,” he said.

You must orient your team to that, Titus added, and don’t just look at your customer’s journey after the fact – seek those real-time results.

“Measure something – empirical data – that is really the most important piece of advice I can offer,” he said.

Titus offered how data can even drive risk taking in marketing, suggesting short cycles for testing. These are quick little investments that allow your team to see what’s working and what’s not in an efficient period of time.

“In engineering, we say ‘fail fast,’ Titus joked.

Or perhaps, learn fast. Learn what changes you can use to refine your campaigns and efforts. Data is a key piece to figuring this out.

Related:  Data Analysis 101: How a nonprofit used data to secure a critical business decision and help find 125 missing children

Dotson offered an academic perspective on the matter from his observations in the classroom.

Historically, he said, “marketing was the fuzzy major for students.”

“For example, if students liked working with people, they’d major in human resources. If they had an affinity for numbers, they’d major in finance. Marketing was the in-between, more or less,” Dotson said.

But nowadays, those students who were historically going into finance are going into marketing. Marketing is transforming into a more quantitative field. Marketers are using data for making decisions, and educators (at least at Brigham Young) are reshaping their marketing curriculums to re-emphasize that quantitative structure.

As far as Dotson’s own syllabus goes, he said he’s teaching his marketing students that they have to be lifetime learners.

Look likes Dotson and coach Donovan, although in different courts, are really onto something.

 

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