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FROM DATA TO INSIGHT TO ACTION discusses all the steps you should follow to organise and analyse data to produce valuable insights

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  • Solve the data puzzle
  • Learn to collect meaningful data
  • Find tips for managing data integrations
  • Discover what data means and what to do with these insights
  • Explore how to use data to drive growth

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Turn data insights into actions

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The importance of data in marketing and sales

The success of your marketing campaigns and sales teams depends on you striking up meaningful conversations with your target buyers.

This is as true of a sales call between a prospect and one of your reps as it is the messaging a visitor reads when they first visit your website.

Straight away, this is where the value of data comes in, shining a light on that which your prospects and customers actually consider meaningful in the first place.

Think about it: every aspect of your company's digital presence (website, content, social channels etc.) is full of buyer signals. The pages your prospects visit and move between, how long they spend on those pages, and where they click all leave evidence in the form of data that you can use to better understand what they value and what they find engaging.

Ask these questions about your own company:

  • Do you know what your top source of leads is?
  • What effectively converts people on your site? What doesn’t?
  • What happened to all of the leads you passed to sales this year?

If you’re using your data properly, you should be able to quickly and confidently answer all three of these questions. Without it, your campaigns and strategies are little more than (expensive) guesswork.

Read more: Performance Analysis: Don’t Wait Until Later to Make Use of Your Data

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What is data-driven marketing?

Let’s start with what data-driven marketing isn’t:

  • Data-driven marketing isn’t finger-in-the-air guesswork
  • It isn’t making sweeping generalisations about your customers or their preferences
  • And it definitely isn’t picking a small or isolated data set to back up a predetermined decision

Data-driven marketing is using rigorous data analysis to draw credible customer insights around which you can optimise your marketing and sales strategy for the tactics that are working best. It’s using data as the foundation of your decision-making to generate the results your team needs to hit its goals and drive business growth.

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How does this work in practice?

Data-driven insights enable you to target your prospects and customers with customised experiences (eg. personalised messaging, emails, content, and special offers). It means speaking with your target buyers in language and terms they understand, care about, and respond to, leading to the formation of stronger relationships as well as an ongoing understanding of how your customers connect and interact with your brand. Data-driven marketing is an essential part of what makes a successful inbound marketing strategy.

So where do you start when looking to take a more data-driven approach to your marketing and sales, and what challenges might you face along the way?

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The benefits and challenges of data-driven marketing

Data offers many clear benefits to today’s digital marketer or salesperson:

  1. By looking at the data, you can pinpoint trends, customer patterns, different avenues which have the potential to generate more revenue, as well as consumer behaviour and engagement levels, which can all point toward better-informed business decisions
  2. Having a solid data-marketing and sales strategy allows you to leverage data to obtain useful and relevant insights such as knowing what your buyers like/don’t like, adapting to changing trends, and knowing which business campaigns are or aren’t working
  3. Data enables you to optimise your marketing and sales strategies, improve personalised customer experiences, and increase customer satisfaction so you can better understand how to present and prove your value
  4. Data can provide insights across the business in various departments (marketing, sales, service etc.). The data you collect may not be relevant to your current campaign, but it can be of value to other teams to help them nurture prospects and delight existing customers.

Of course, achieving this is easier said than done. Data analysis is quite literally a science. 

You have to figure out what data to collect and from where. You need to determine which data is useful and understand how it all fits together. And you need data from every point at which your prospects and customers interact with your business to truly understand the journey they go on as a buyer.

One of the biggest sales and marketing challenges is when your tools and technology don’t speak to each other.

If your platforms aren’t speaking to one another, then they’re not sharing their data. And if they’re not sharing their data, then you’re not getting the full (accurate) picture. 

As we gather more and more data on our prospects and customers, and as more and more departments across your business turn to that data for insights, there’s a growing need for integrated marketing tools, software, and systems that can track and share the decisions your buyers make and the way they behave when they’re interacting with your business.

Without seamless integration, you’ll wind up investing a significant amount of time trying to make all your systems fit together manually. 

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Coming up with a data-driven marketing strategy

If you’re considering taking a data-driven approach to your marketing strategy but you’re not sure where to start, this section will help.

Below we’ve shared a brief breakdown of the key steps you should follow when planning your own data-driven marketing strategy. Each of these steps will also be explained in further detail throughout the remainder of this page.

  1. Have a solid CRM system in place (such as HubSpot’s free CRM), one capable of tracking customer movements and handling the complexities of your business operations. Make sure your technology and marketing tools are speaking to each other intuitively and that any other data sources and applications are properly integrated (look out for duplicates, information gaps, unstructured data etc.)
  2. Learn from your market and industry. What are the current marketing trends? How are your customers interacting with your brand? Who is your competition and what strategies and campaigns have they put in place to attract and retain customers?
  3. Define your goals and objectives. What is your marketing strategy striving towards? How are you defining success? With those goals in mind, your team can then start to appreciate which data sets will be most valuable to reveal how the campaign is performing, what steps you could take to improve performance and reach your goals, and how the data you collect can provide useful insights to other departments
  4. Assemble a team capable of handling data (communication and critical thinking are key skills to consider)
  5. Make sure you have the proper resources, people, and data processes in place to support your data collection and analysis
  6. Find which pieces of data are relevant to your overall goals and objectives (target, personalise, inform)
  7. Turn your analysis into insights that can be validated and actioned across departments (align marketing, sales, and service teams)

For a more detailed look at planning an effective data-driven marketing strategy, check out our latest guide: From Data to Insight to Action.

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How do you collect data?

Whether you’re in sales or marketing, you come into contact with data every single day.

So how do you wade through the abundance of information and figures to find what’s useful? 

Data handling requires you to be critically minded with a solid understanding of the different types of information coming out of the various platforms and systems your company uses. Does your team currently support these capabilities?

Review your employees for these skills: 

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Understanding data architecture
  • Risk analysis/process improvement

If you don’t recognise these skills across your team, it’s time to consider upskilling your employees (HubSpot Academy offers a range of data-related lessons), hiring for a dedicated data analyst role, or approaching a third-party service provider to support this gap in your capabilities. (Say hi!)

With a dependable set of data skills in place, go through the process of assessing the relevance and purpose of all the data you collect. Is it to target, personalise, or inform? 

Target: Data used for targeting can reveal lucrative new market opportunities for you to reach, revealing previously undefined audience segments and demographics.

Personalise: Each buyer journey is marked by different preferences. Personalised marketing can help you to grow better by forming stronger, more meaningful relationships with your prospects and customers.

Inform: This data will be used to inform other departments (marketing, sales, services etc.) across your business. It might not be directly relevant to your immediate campaign, but it could be of value to other teams in the business. 

In order to categorise your data this way, you must embed the right processes to ensure that you and your team are well equipped to handle the large sums of data coming in. 

  • Do you have the right people in place to carry out timely and accurate data collection? 
  • Are their resources in place to support your team in this activity? 

Remember: you aren’t collecting data for the sake of it. There has to be a reason. From here, your data needs to be analysed and turned into insights that can then be actioned. 

Read more about collecting data in How to Choose the Right Data Categories for Your Needs

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What are data categories?

Data categories can be anywhere from industry and location data to revenue, technology and job role information.

But before you gather this data, you have to think about how it will benefit your business in the long run and whether it can be turned into actionable insights. 

Before gathering information from data categories, ask yourself four fundamental questions. These questions will give you a solid foundation for looking at the kinds of data categories you need, forming the baseline for your data-driven marketing and sales strategy.

  • What problem are you solving?
  • Who is experiencing that problem?
  • What type of business are you?
  • What does your sales cycle look like?

When you know who you’re targeting, you can figure out the signals that indicate if someone is the right persona and whether they’re experiencing the problem your business solves.

These signals in your data might come from engagement categories that indicate the success of interactions with content and social media posts, as well as technographic data, which identifies the technologies your target companies are using. 

For more information on choosing the right data categories for your needs, read this article. 

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Managing data integrations and tools

The sheer volume of data that many organisations gather can leave them drowning.

The key is to find a way to cut through all the noise to determine which data you can use. 

If you have data specialists, they will be quick to tell you that one of the first parts of the process involves eliminating any duplicates. Your data needs to be clean. If an integration isn’t set up properly, repeat information created from other applications can skew your data and lead to inaccurate findings. Structured data can also help to keep your records clean and tidy.

If you’re an enterprise, an especially complex business, or recognise that your different departments use a range of technologies and systems, one of the most effective and advantageous decisions you could make is to consider investing in an integrated platform for marketing, sales, and services. An integrated platform means that all the data your company generates is stored in one place and can be accessed and analysed across the business.

It’s having that single view of everything, regardless of the channel. It’s so powerful. We're running three sites, an e-commerce store, and our sales all in one place. Every person in our HQ manages everything through HubSpot and attribution isn't so scary anymore. Christopher Perry, marketing technologist

Suites of integrated sales and marketing tools join the dots from a first-time visitor to a lifetime customer. You can do a whole range of actions like calculating the cost of customer acquisition, reporting on ROI, and optimising your most effective tactics or channels over time.

Read more: Integrated Marketing Tools: Why Your Technology Needs to Talk

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What does your data mean?

Remember: on its own, data means very little. It’s the insights you pull from it that you use to inform your next marketing campaign or iterative optimisation.

To see how you might use data to draw insights that better inform an inbound marketing campaign, consider the following example.

Data insights example:

Your integrated technology platform has been in place for three months, over which time you’ve built up a considerable amount of customer data across marketing interactions, sales deals, and service conversations.

Reviewing this data, you can draw some interesting findings about the way your customers are engaging with your website, the kinds of topics they’re most interested in, and their biggest pain points.

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Using these insights, you could review your buyer personas. The data you’ve gathered indicates that your buyer personas have evolved or that your existing persona profiles aren’t as accurate as they could have been. Maybe you weren’t aware that they were gravitating toward other types of content. To further validate your insights, you could ask questions on social media and conduct persona validation interviews for additional feedback and surveys.

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Using data to prove ROI

Data-driven insights and the resulting actions you take are your key to proving marketing ROI.

But for this to happen, you need more than an integrated technology platform. There must be full collaboration and alignment between sales, marketing, and services.

Getting alignment across multiple departments charged with varying responsibilities and staffed by teams made up of very different people can be challenging. We recommend setting up an SLA (service level agreement) between the three as an effective way of showing each department’s commitment to taking the actions as part of a unified strategy.

Remember that not everyone speaks the language of data. You might be reporting your analysis for others on the team to take action or you might even be taking action yourself. If others are going to be implementing your action, you need to make sure they understand your analysis.

Translated your hard-earned insights into action? Discover how to calculate ROMI and prove a return on your marketing spend.

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Data management best practices

Data can quickly become outdated and messy if you don’t monitor its health, which means the information and records in your database need to be consistently validated to make sure everything is accurate.

Data quality and upkeep can be maintained with a few best practices: 

Data cleansing: Track and maintain the health of your data. Figure out which contacts are still active, confirm the contact information is correct, clear contacts with a history of bouncing and make sure everything is up-to-date. 

Performing a CRM audit: A CRM audit is helpful, especially if you want to see more leads that close, gain a fresh perspective on improvements that can be made, and see a bigger ROMI.

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Filling in the gaps: Are your pre-existing and new contacts categorised properly? For example, are you using both free-text fields and drop-down lists to categorise job titles? There can be many variations of the same job title if someone is filling out an unstructured free-text form instead of a structured drop-down list (this is why drop-down lists are preferred because they allow for easy categorisation). Luckily, the HubSpot workflow automation software organises all your data (pre-existing and new, structured and unstructured). 

Getting the most out of your contacts database: Link each contact to their respective company and create a contact record for everyone you speak to (this is a complete record of all interactions with that organisation). To help you find which contacts to focus on, filter all contacts in your database by contact owner, job title, and lead status using drop-down fields.

Email extension tool: By linking directly to your Gmail or Outlook account, it allows you to see how well your email is performing. It will also notify you every time someone opens your email so that you can reach out to contacts while you’re still top-of-mind. The email extension tool pulls out customer data from the CRM so you can always make sure what you’re sending is relevant and personalised to their interests. 

For more information on managing the health of your data and contact records, read this article on HubSpot CRM Best Practices and Pro Tips

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How to grow your customer database

The bigger your database of quality contacts, the more opportunities you have for this.

The size and quality of your database is an important part of your content distribution and inbound marketing strategies, making it possible for you to reach, engage, and strike up meaningful conversations with new prospects and existing customers alike. 

One of the most overlooked ways of building up your database is consistently creating insightful, well-researched content. This applies to both your blog posts/articles and the premium content you gate on your site behind a form. To develop an email database, you have to start with good content and a strong reason for them to give you their email address.

Understand your personas and fill your database with quality contacts. With valuable content, you can convince visitors to sign up to your emails and prove that in doing so you can help fix their pain points.

Read more: How to Organically Grow your Email Database 

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How is data shaping the future of marketing?

As technology and data continue to evolve, so will the role of the marketer.

As a marketer, you’re constantly learning new ways to reach customers in an effective way and finding solutions which will bring more people towards your brand. Customers evolve quickly, and you have to adapt to those changes.

Tech and data advancements better inform marketers which leads them toward insights that are both creative and sophisticated:

The evolution of technology and data is allowing us marketers to come back to what we’re good at and double-down on what we’re supposed to be doing – caring about our customer and caring about how we engage with our customer. Leah Pope, CMO at Datorama, Interview with The Drum

Our job as marketers is to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and dig deep into what makes them behave as they do. Many marketers still do this via guesswork or by trial and error, but to really understand your customers, you must practise a combination of research rigour, curiosity, and willingness to test new strategies and ideas in the field.

Read more on how to be a better marketer.

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Download your free copy of our data-driven marketing guide

Across your business, departments such as marketing, sales and customer services are collecting large volumes of their own data that should be taken into consideration to produce meaningful insights. 

We hope this page has helped you to understand the concept of data-driven marketing as well as coming up with a proper data-driven marketing strategy based around data collection, data analysis, and the application of actionable insights grounded in the way your customers are really interacting with you and your business.

For more in-depth information on some of the topics we covered above, download ‘From Data to Insight to Action’, our free data-driven marketing ebook offering a closer look at data use so you can better respond to market changes, remain competitive, and turn data insights into actions that’ll further your goals and generate your company revenue.

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