Opinion: Is data the ticket to a seat at the boardroom?

23.03.2021

Is data the golden ticket to getting a seat at the boardroom table?

By Hayden Francis, communications ambassador, CIM Yorkshire 

Gone are the days of it being acceptable for marketers to stick a finger in the air to test the direction of the wind to influence their decisions on strategies and marketing tactics.

It has long been a necessity for marketing functions within an organisation to strategically use data, not just to record their performance or justify their budgets, but to also provide insights for senior management. Something that many marketers are beginning to wake up to.

Around 70% of marketers don’t use data produced from marketing systems to influence strategic decisions (Target Internet, 2021). As marketers, we spend a large proportion of our time planning communication strategies, researching events and spending money on advertisements. However, the information that is provided from the tools we use, showing the performance of the tactics we choose, is ignored. Coronavirus has been an indisputable macro factor that has caused many companies to adjust their marketing strategies to incorporate more of a digital approach. Which is why, more than ever it is important that as marketers we understand data and use it to inform our strategic decision making.

About data

Data is a collection of measured information based on dimensions or demographical characteristics, that are translated into a manageable form of performance metrics (Types of Marketing Data, 2021). Some tools we use as marketers will generate quantitative and others qualitative data. Data should be an essential tool for marketers, as it gives insight into customer behaviour on a tactic-by-tactic basis, enabling us to understand customer journeys and sentiment with a much more detailed perspective.

5 top tips for marketers looking to influence their marketing in the boardroom:

1.) The importance of data to the marketer

Statistics show 35% of marketing professionals do not have the quantitative tools to effectively analyse the impact of marketing spend and performance, and 57% of marketers lack the understanding to effectively analyse data, making the findings unreliable (Moorman, 2020). It is thought that almost 50% of newly acquired data have errors that could negatively impact the organisation (Nagle et al., 2021). This results in only 3% of executives finding their marketing department’s data within an acceptable range of reliability (Nagle et al., 2021).

Data is not only a means of measuring your own performance, but also that of your competition. I spoke to digital marketing expert, Dr David Chaffey from Smart Insights, a publication that provides marketing professionals with practical knowledge to take advantage of opportunities within digital marketing, for his insights into how the future of digital is shaping marketing, now. David believes “Data is particularly important for benchmarking against competitors to understand digital audience share and channel share (CS)”. Dr Chaffey continues to say “During the pandemic, digital channels have naturally become more important, so it's important to understand digital channel share and net promoter score / CS compared to competitors and more tactical measures such as share of searches and share of social. Recent research shows there is a correlation between share of brand searches and market share, so it's important to benchmark customer search intent within a market”. You can find more information on the above key metrics here.

2.) Measuring and monitoring tools

Knowing how campaigns are performing in real-time means marketers can react quickly if necessary. Thus, avoiding budgetary pitfalls or even PR mishaps.

There are many tools that are available to effectively measure and monitor marketing efforts both in real-time and through planned analysis sessions. Hootsuite is a popular tool that analyses data from social media platforms. Meltwater measures the reach of a brand by logging mentions a company receives online and how much traffic may have viewed each mention. Google analytics is probably the most used platform to measure website performance and monitor integrated campaigns. This can be an intimidating tool to use, which is why Google has a range of courses for beginners and more advanced users, with Google Analytics Academy.

An integrated approach of these analysis tools will enable efficient coverage of a marketing campaign, and help marketers to build more robust approaches to the monitoring elements within their marketing plans.

3.) The influence of data on multi-channel marketing campaigns

To entice potential customers through the conversion funnel, marketers are now using a combination of tactics. Some are used to get the customers attention, others to inform them of the service or product and certain channels are used to convert them. Data is used to assess the marketing attribution of tactics, assessing the weighting of their performance and distinguishing which channels are producing the highest bounce-rate of traffic, amongst other insights.

When it comes to marketing campaigns, knowing what channels and sources have generated the most impact and ultimately conversions, whether that be newsletter signups, leads or sales, should help determine how much budget should be allocated and where, based on performance.

4.) Marketing data to support organisational positioning

Data could be the golden ticket to getting a seat at the board room table, because the wider organisation can also benefit from effective data analysis. Google Analytics can produce insightful data on emerging market activity, that may influence the direction of a business. This could be in the form of increased traffic from a geographical location along with user behaviours, that could suggest a potential market for development. The key skill of the marketer here is the ability to interpret the insights attained from that data to communicate effective management information that can help drive business strategy.

By using data to attribute the proportion of goals achieved through marketing, marketers will be placed in a better position for marketing to become a valued cog in the business, gaining warranted interest from senior management.

It is important that data is not the only influence on marketing efforts, but it should be considered more than it currently is. With the line between digital and traditional marketing methods becoming increasing unclear, digital tactics are starting to dominate the balance between the two methods. Which is why we need to understand how data works now.

5.) Speaking the language of the boardroom

The role of marketing has become more important than ever for not just the survival and recovery of businesses but the race to digitisation has increasingly generated momentum over the past 12 months.

With an increasingly uncertain economic outlook and Brexit now taking force, pressure is building on boardroom decision-makers to make the necessary preparations. A new global study of employees by Arlington Research and the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has found nearly half of decision makers (49%) do not believe their company has a strategic vision. Having a robust strategy, backed up with insight and data, is only step one to success; you need your staff to implement the plan and deploy the appropriate tactics.

Without a clear understanding of how a strategy has been created and what it’s based on, your team won’t be 100% behind your approach. Marketing plays a key role in decision making to ensure organisations stay relevant to engage customers and drive productivity.

CIM is a member of the Data Literacy Project, which is committed to meet the growing demand for a data literate workforce, for more information, click here.

If you would like to improve your knowledge of data, CIM has a range of training courses including Data & Marketing Analytics and many others. For a full list of CIM’s training courses, click here.

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