For decades, marketing organizations relied on spreadsheets, educated guesses, and gut instincts to make decisions, determine performance and optimize spend. But in the last 10 years, the rise of advanced analytics tools has provided marketers with far better decision-making and forecasting capabilities.

Today, the most effective organizations inject data and analytics into every phase of their marketing process. These brands no longer ask “What is working?” and “What should I do?” but instead can say, with confidence, “This is what we are doing because we know it will drive quantifiable results.”

Can you say the same? Most likely, not yet. According to a CMO Club-Visual IQ study, Building Bridges to the Promised Land: Big Data, Attribution & Omni-Channel, 85% of marketers are either not measuring their cross channel marketing performance at all, or are using antiquated methods, such as last click attribution.

To help you become more data-driven, and as a result, more effective, I’ve outlined five key best practices below.

1. Align marketing success to business results

Marketing is regularly under fire because its tactics aren’t perceived as having a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. The number of website clicks, Twitter followers and Facebook likes don’t often resonate with a C-suite that wants to see results in the form of sales, revenue and profit. Successful marketing organizations prove their value by working closely with senior management – especially the CEO and CFO – to define, align and prioritize the metrics that are most relevant to the company and its business objectives.

2. Connect the data dots

New opportunities lie in the massive amount of consumer interaction data that’s generated every second. Unfortunately, most of this data lives in silos—leaving marketers with inconsistent and duplicate conversion data, as well as an incomplete view of their customers’ journeys. In fact, Aberdeen’s Big Data for Marketing: Targeting Success report found that the lack of integrated data sources is the biggest inhibitor to both the adoption of data analytics and the ability to get full-value from marketing data assets. The most effective marketing organizations use sophisticated data aggregation techniques to integrate all of their marketing data (from ad servers, email platforms, CRM systems, DMPs, RTBs, etc.) into a single data repository. This consolidation and integration of disparate data not only reveals new insights, de-duplicates conversions and uncovers hidden optimization opportunities; it also enables marketers to get the 360-degree view of their prospects and customers, which is a cornerstone of omni-channel marketing.

3. Turn data into insight

Combining multiple data sources is one thing, but intelligently interpreting that information is another. Successful marketing organizations arm themselves with robust measurement technologies that enable them to translate raw data into actionable insights. With advanced measurement tools, marketers can understand the performance of individual channels, campaigns and tactics; the influence that each has on the other; and their overall performance as part of an integrated marketing strategy.

4. Predict performance

To generate maximum ROI, marketers not only need to know what has been working, but also what is likely to work in the future. Using predictive analytics, marketers can perform a “what if” analysis to understand the potential impact of changes (price adjustments, discounts, budget reallocations, etc.) before they are made. Armed with this kind of forward-facing insight, marketers can create and implement more effective cross-channel marketing strategies. Moreover, they can do it faster– Aberdeen found that 64% of those using predictive analytics realized improved speed of decision making.

5. Automatically execute optimized buys

To truly be successful, it is critical that the optimization recommendations gleaned from the data get put into practice—that is, that they are implemented into daily operations and spend decisions. The most effective marketing organizations not only have a process for implementing offline recommendations, but also for automatically sending media buying instructions to execution platforms—including demand-side platforms, real-time bidding tools and trading desks—for more effective optimization.

Overall, embracing these five practices can empower marketers at any organization to put their data to work for more effective, accountable and predictable marketing.

Bill (color_crop)Bill Muller is the chief marketing officer of Visual IQ, where he oversees the marketing of best-of-breed cross channel marketing attribution software products. Prior to Visual IQ, he served as CMO at global performance marketing agency iProspect and as director of lead generation and database marketing at IT consulting and advisory firm Giga Information Group. He welcomes questions and discussion on LinkedIn’s Cross Channel Marketing Attribution Professionals group, and you can follow him on Twitter @bill_muller.

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