Why is data-driven marketing so hard and what the heck does it mean?


By now, we are all familiar with the Gartner prediction that CMOs would have a larger IT budget than CIOs by the end of 2017. It’s too soon to tell whether that prediction was accurate in absolute terms, but regardless of the outcome, Gartner was prophetic in its premise that incredible advancements in marketing technology would revolutionize the marketing industry. With this increase in martech spend has come the incredible growth of marketing data now at marketers’ fingertips. It’s no wonder data-driven marketing is not just a trending topic but is also a very clear expectation of many companies investing so heavily in their marketing operations. So if the technology and data is there, what exactly is data-driven marketing and why is it still so hard?

Why is leveraging data so hard?

1. You purchased a martech stack comprised of disparate systems that don’t automatically speak to each other. Making sure you have your website, marketing automation platform, CRM and other martech tools integrated and working together as you plan and execute your marketing strategies feels like a full-time tech job. It takes time and patience to set up your campaigns to consistently and accurately measure their effectiveness across marketing platforms.

In my current and past company, it’s easy as the CEO to only focus on the outward facing aspects of marketing – headlines, images, catchy copy, interactive tools. The C-Level suite may not need to understand in detail how the metrics are tracked, but they do need to give their marketing teams the time, resources and tools to ensure it happens.

2. Effective marketing requires testing and experimentation which is difficult to track Finding that right message or combination of touch points requires constant iteration. If you are lucky enough to have a marketing operations team member, you may be able to dedicate an appropriate amount of time for capturing and organizing test data to gain real insights. However, if it’s an ad-hoc part of the team and not a formalized process, this needs to become part of the job and not a scramble to report on marketing efficacy when sales goals are missed and the quality and quantity of leads from marketing come into question.

Ask my marketing team and they will tell you I love to experiment. I’ve gotten those smiles from my marketers that read, “Oh great, he’s giving us something completely new to test.” Last year, I started my own “survey campaign” for two purposes: Research and lead acquisition. I pulled resources from both my sales and marketing teams. Each iteration we tracked and measured email open rates, click-throughs, survey completion and other data points to decide how to improve performance on the next round. Each variant of the survey needed to be tracked, measured and compared to optimize the campaign.

3. Marketing changes fast and so must the metrics that are used to measure it. Just when you think you’ve found a sweet spot, there’s a shift. Whether it’s a new channel, a change in an existing channel or some new “bright shiny object” to implement, the state of marketing is always evolving. (What marketer hasn’t googled: How will Facebook changes affect marketing?)

facebook-googleAsk any marketer, bright shiny object syndrome is real. It’s kind of reminds me of the “snake oil salesmen.” If you just [drink, buy, use] this [product or service], all your marketing woes will fall away. Some of these bright shiny objects are legit, while others will be fleeting fads. Only a data-driven marketer will be able to develop metrics around new marketing trends to prove out their long-term viability and effectiveness.

So what’s a marketer to do in this ever-changing world of 2018 in order to be more data-driven? While it feels overwhelming, I suggest you start with the basics and implement a strong foundation for capturing full-funnel metrics. From there, ramp up your success as you and your marketing team mature into a team where using data for insights is innately part of your planning, execution and iteration. You can scale up and use the data to optimize and improve marketing ROI and move from being just data-driven to high performing.

1. Build a foundation for full-funnel, data-driven marketing

To quote Napoleon Bonaparte, “War is 90% information.” The same can be said about building your foundation to capture data and to capture it along the entire buyer’s journey – not just top-of-funnel metrics.

Technology’s impact on marketing has forced many organizations to formalize the marketing funnel and map out the process for customers entering and moving through the funnel and eventually become qualified for sales.

When I work with new clients or talk with prospects, they are all in various stages of what I call the Revenue Funnel Science Maturity Model. Meaning, some have the buyer’s journey mapped out and well documented, while others have it loosely defined. Some are in the process of changing it. No matter the status, it’s good to map out both the marketing and sales funnel processes together and ensure the buyer’s journey is aligned and both teams agree to measure the flow of prospects in the same manner.

Marketing metrics that matter (down the sales pipeline)

Once you have clearly outlined your entire buyer’s journey, you need to consider what metrics to track and monitor forward progression throughout that journey. Ensure there is a common thread to track those metrics across the relevant systems used at each point in the buyer’s journey. This can be a big shift for some marketers who live by click-through rates, website visits and content downloads. Those are valuable KPIs (key performance indicators) that need measured and monitored, but the foundational funnel metrics I’m referring to include net new movement, velocity, conversions and aging.

Data-driven marketers are not only measuring at the top of funnel, they are measuring through the sales stages and, ideally, even the customer success stages. Sharing and reviewing these metrics on a regular basis helps to tear down the silos between marketing and sales and helps both teams understand which campaigns and through what channels not only achieve a high volume but achieve high conversions and accelerate pipeline velocity.

So to recap, merge your marketing funnel with the sales funnel into a Revenue Funnel and clearly define the metrics used to measure progression at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

2. Campaign and channel optimization based on marketing efficacy

Once you have a solid foundation for measuring the full funnel, a data-driven marketer can now focus on becoming a high-performing one. You do that by determining what campaigns and channels should be optimized based on more than just lead volume. If you are working with sales and viewing your campaigns by channels, products, target audience, regions or any other meaningful data segment, your data will tell you a story, such as which leads:

  • Moved most quickly to a marketing qualified stage
  • Kept converting to closed won
  • Sat in which funnel stage for too long or never budged from the top
  • Disqualified mid-funnel

I’ll use my “survey experiment” as an example. My goal was to research how organizations view their marketing and sales funnels, as well as lead generation. We tracked, measured and iterated both the marketing and sales processes, but we didn’t hit our revenue targets for that campaign. So we stopped. This can be difficult. There was emotion tied to it. We were getting great information and having great conversations from the survey, but it wasn’t finding prospects who were a good fit for our product. Our iterations focused on improving campaign performance and even helped create marketing qualified leads, but our full-funnel metrics showed us it had no impact on revenue.

Even if you are measured by marketing qualified leads, I highly recommend measuring marketing’s impact all the way to closed won. Marketing’s ROI is dependent on sales. Revenue responsibility is everyone’s responsibility.

So take that full-funnel, data-driven approach and use it to not only optimize marketing, use it to pinpoint the leads and accounts that are a better fit and more likely to convert to opportunities and customers, then optimize the programs that are proven to generate those types of leads or accounts.

3. Multi-touch attribution with stage-by-stage analysis

The next way to leverage data to improve your performance as a marketer is attribution. You need to demonstrate your influence with each one of your touches that happens in the buyer’s journey to validate marketing’s spend. It’s important to take your full-funnel view and not only model attribution for marketing, but build a sales attribution model, where marketing helps sales kick the ball across the goal line.

attribution stage-by-stage analysis

Understanding which marketing touches at which time and place successfully moved a prospect forward is essential for being a data-driven marketer. Marketing teams won’t be able to just rely on attribution to deliver a personalized experience along all stages of the revenue funnel, they’ll need to understand which campaigns were most effective at the top, middle and bottom of the funnel. They have to serve up targeted interactions and it has to come at the right time. That’s hard to accomplish without data. A marketing and sales attribution model brings three benefits:

  1. Marketers get credit for their touches in the sales stages.
  2. Sales can determine which marketing messages and campaigns will help close a deal.
  3. Lastly, they have a “model” for working and collaborating together.

My marketing and sales team work closely together and literally, work next to one another. Before we leveraged stage analysis attribution, it was more conversational. The sales development reps would provide feedback on which pieces of content were well received after meetings or calls. Now, it’s a viewable report where they can prove out which campaign or piece of content is most effective at each stage of the funnel.

Our marketing automation tracks campaign success, syncs with Salesforce and then integrates with our attribution reporting, allowing us to see the leads and contacts who were successfully added to campaigns AND WHEN. We can even see it when a sales rep might forget to attach a contact to an opportunity. We are trying to make it easier for our data-driven marketers to get credit for their hard-earned investments and enable sales to know what marketing campaigns can help them reach their quotas.

Attribution is a necessary tool that will only continue to help marketers develop the laser focus required to build upon past successes and deliver them at the right time in the buyer’s journey.

Data-driven marketers are really just high-performing ones

As marketers gain clarity and insight from the story the data their full funnel is telling them – and optimizing and collaborating with sales – they’ll become high-performing marketers who are enjoying the results of high-performing revenue funnels.


Price tag is too high to not align with sales

I want to reinforce one point: The price it too high for

marketers to not align their data with sales. According to HubSpot, businesses with effective sales and marketing alignment achieved 208% higher marketing revenue than organizations with disjointed teams. Where is that revenue getting lost? In the handoff between marketing and sale: 79% of marketing leads never convert, and of the ones that are passed to sales, 73% are never contacted.

Keith Richey, a senior director of Global Marketing Communications for LinkedIn, predicts we’ll see a “convergence between sales and marketing technologies” in 2018 because having this single view enables collaborative strategies. And those strategies will be driven by data that connects their activities.

– Matt

Marketing and sales alignment is a major cause for missed revenue goals. FunnelWise conducted a survey about the handoff stage between marketing and sales and published the results late last year. I’d love to hear your thoughts and how to improve this area of the funnel where companies commonly lose revenue.


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