Digital transformation is revolutionizing business today, forcing all companies to redefine and upgrade their tools, skills, and strategies based on quickly-evolving digital technologies. Already, diehard disciples of data, marketers were among the first to adopt such digital principles. 

Data is what drives digital transformation, and digital marketing is one of the areas that can make an immediate impact on your company’s success by actually gathering data, discovering the customer journey and then acting on it. Here are three essential data-driven best practices that can help innovate your business while you improve your marketing. 

1. Collect Your Data

A lot of precious information lies right at your fingertips: data about your customers, data about your website visitors and data about your keywords. The more you understand about your customers and how they find you, the more effective your marketing will be. You can collect data in a number of ways:

  • CRM Tools. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems make great stockpiles of marketing ammunition. One of the best places to look for information about future prospects is by looking at your existing customers. 

    Dynamic CRM systems continuously and automatically track information about your customers’ and prospects’ activity and preferences at every touchpoint: your website, your sales contacts, your email campaigns and so on. 

  • Lead Forms. One of the easiest ways to collect prospect data is by “gating” your downloadable content using lead forms on your landing page. 

    If the visitor to your landing page already exists in your CRM or marketing automation system, basic data (like name and email address) may even pre-fill much of the lead form. This digital convenience lets you collect details in additional fields (such as age, region or some other key demographic or preference information) with less friction.

    When designing a lead form, understand that fewer fields are preferred, so be very strategic in what you ask for. Ask yourself what one or two types of information would be most useful to you in targeting future digital marketing efforts. 

  • Keyword Seed Lists. One of the best things you can do is to acquire keywords. There are many ways to do this, including online keyword research and competitor spy tools, your own Google Analytics data and even your AdWords or other paid search campaigns. Another way of getting keyword data is by tracking internal search keywords from a search box on your website.

    Keywords are the soil that your digital marketing grows from,” says Matt Bailey, best-selling digital marketing author, keynote speaker, and Simplilearn course advisor. “If you understand what people need, and how they search for it, the words are going to naturally flow in all of your digital communications—in every part of your digital marketing funnel.”

2. Analyze Your Data

Your data tells a story. Examine the entire customer journey across your organization. “These are people looking for something—mainly an answer to a problem,” notes Matt Bailey. “Where did they come from? What device did they use? What did they see? Did they find the answer? What did they do afterward?”

Bailey says that it’s always interesting to look at page views prior to conversion, especially on content and lead generation sites. What pages are part of your customers’ decision-making process? You may be surprised. As McKinsey & Company advice, “Companies can profile web users based on their web history and then customize their digital advertising as needed. Experience shows that the approach offers 250 percent greater efficiency than current practices.”

Also look at your keywords, including your website analytics, paid search hits, and on-site search form data. Don’t limit your inquiries to just the top keywords. Look at the long-tail search phrases—they may tell you a more detailed story about what your customers need, and that can lead to new opportunities and messaging. 

The first thing you should do is put your collected data into a spreadsheet software. Bailey calls Microsoft Excel “The greatest digital tool mankind has ever created.” Spreadsheets give you the freedom to selectively sort, slice and dice, chunk and even chart all the data you’ve acquired. Visualize the data through different sorting or presentation formats to find the relational aspects.

The number one thing you can do to improve your digital marketing is to spend time segmenting, grouping and learning. The more you analyze your data, the more connections, context and motivations you’re going to find.

3. Utilize Your Data

Once you know the context of your data, you can use those patterns to create segments and develop strategies. For example, if your keyword analysis shows a lot of search phrases that include the word “compare”, then you can recognize visitors who are in the mid-stage buying decision process. That could point to the need to develop competitive charts for your website, include comparison-related terms for SEO, or initiate competitive paid search efforts.

When you find the motivations that have caused your prospects to visit, click or buy, your job becomes so much easier because now you’ve got a scenario. Now you can set up problem/solution-based landing pages, create popular content, develop email and social media campaigns and more. 

Big data is the fuel for digital marketing. Numerous technologies enable you to harness this data (either yours or the publishing medium’s) to target and deliver content most effectively. For example:

  • Marketing automation software makes it especially easy for you to leverage your data to take control of your outbound marketing. Messages can even be triggered automatically based on customer/prospect actions, such as subscription expiration or shopping cart abandonment. 
  • Remarketing and other programmatic advertising are data-driven power tools that every marketer should master. Programmatic buying enables you to position targeted display ads in front of a defined audience on a website or social media platform that sells advertising space. Remarketing actually follows your previous website visitors as they browse elsewhere around the internet, serving them ads based on your offers they had previously viewed but not converted.

With all this data at your fingertips, you can also discover innovative ways of putting your data to work. IKEA uses the learnings derived from Google Analytics to rename their own products to match highly-ranked search terms, such as IKEA’s “My Partner Snores Bed”. The added advantage of this new branding is that people who search Google for advice are met with results of IKEA products that not only name the problem but claim to improve it. IKEA even analyzes social media and search data to invent brand new products that solve common problems, for example, “Apple juice” furniture that wirelessly charges your smartphone.

Of course, the final yet essential part of utilizing your data for digital marketing is to test and measure your results. Collecting this data brings the process full circle, giving you even more powerful data to make marketing decisions. 

Basic Takeaways For The Digital Age

With digital transformation, today’s marketers need to think about their technology stack—what tools they want to leverage and then how they’re going to get the training skills to use and manage them.

Regardless of how technology transforms, the basic principles that have worked for decades can serve marketers long into the future. Digital technologies simply make these practices much more efficient and effective. Big data, CRM, marketing automation and other marketing tools of digital transformation enable you to consistently achieve the once-elusive recipe of perfect marketing—sending the right message to the right person at the right time.

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