The value of data: how research can help power strategy

Marketing is in the middle of a data driven boom where research is the key to helping businesses understand their customers.

The data boom has created a new marketing paradigm, where for example CMOs are receiving an increasing slice of the technology budget, which is usually the CIO’s territory. Technology is driving the change, with marketing teams not only using technology for messaging development, but in understanding basic consumer motivations.

Data driving differentiation

There’s huge value in understanding customer buying behaviour, as it can help shape the direction of a business. Trends that often took months or years to recognise and react to, are now happening in weeks. Particularly in B2C markets, where consumer sentiment shifts are just a Twitter hashtag away, marketers can use data to understand everything about their customers – from buying behaviour, to decision-making preference, social media usage, brand recognition/support and so on.

The smartest organisations are harnessing this data, not only to react to trends, but also create or lead them. It might sound a bit Orwellian and, as our big supermarkets found out recently, you can take a big public relations hit if you don’t have the appropriate security and ethical procedures in place to manage the data.

Increased consumer choice is making decision-making more complex. This is reflected in research findings in a report produced by CoreData for insurance comparison site Choosi:

  • 90% of Australians say there’s far more choice today, which is making decision-making harder;
  • Of all the decisions, we struggle with, insurance is the toughest with 40% of respondents ranking it first.

What does this mean for marketers? If you’re in the insurance game, quite a bit. How do you make it easier for potential customers to understand your offering? It also demonstrates that consumers feel there is little differentiation between insurance offerings, or worse, they’re being designed to make comparison difficult.

Data driving ROI

Marketing is now under more scrutiny than ever before, with CEOs and boards painstakingly reviewing the return on investment (ROI) of all marketing initiatives. For too long, marketers hid behind the veil of “awareness”, that activity alone would help sell their product or service. This was useful for traditional marketing where it was difficult to measure. If a product sold better than last month and advertising/marketing spend was up, marketing could claim a ‘win’, and the reverse if it was down.

Now data gives senior leaders more options for tracking marketing performance. Ultimately marketing needs to prove it’s delivering better data than ever before. For example, with effective monitoring of your digital and social platforms, you can see how potential customers are engaging with your campaigns and other assets. This data can help determine the level of interest and how far along the buying cycle a consumer sits. This information allows marketing to validate and score leads more accurately.

Data is crucial for strategy

If you’re not incorporating solid, fact-based research into your strategic planning, you’re going to struggle to compete. The best marketing organisations are using data to better understand their customers to position themselves in these hyper-competitive markets. They’re using it to better track and report on activity, which ultimately leads to better choices about where, and who you market to.