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How to Develop a Data-Driven Digital Strategy

March 28, 2018

Do you hate gathering metrics? Do use you use the data you compile? In many organizations, gathering data to measure the impact of marketing activity is a slipshod task, if it is done at all. Often times marketing groups present the data in meetings or email reports at the end of every month or year for the relevant managers to wonder what it really means. There might be a brief flurry of questions and speculation before the group just moves on to some other hurried task. This is a waste of time.

A carefully planned and managed data-driven digital strategy will make the life of any marketer easier, more efficient, and successful. It might be uncomfortable at first, but once you measure your actions, you will begin to change your work routine to focus on the successful activities, which will then show up in your metrics. Soon, you will have a positive feedback loop that will make your entire department and organization more successful.

How to start? Break up this effort into three phases. The first phase is metrics planning, which I will review in this blog post. Next, start gathering and documenting data according to your plan. I will present this in the second post of this series. Lastly, after you have enough data, you will begin to interpret and analyze the data. I will present this in the third and final post of this series.

Metrics Planning

How often have you sat in meetings and heard terms such as goals, objectives, and tactics used haphazardly and conflated with terms like campaigns, activities, strategy? It is confusing. Here are the terms you need to know.

  • Goals-What your department is trying to achieve this year. This is usually requested by the head of your organization. Let’s illustrate using the example of a consumer genomics company. A goal might be to have the largest database growth in a particular year of any consumer genomics company in the world.
  • Objectives-A set of measurable milestones that when achieved, will result in the goal being achieved. Usually there are multiple objectives per goal, and these are different for each department in the organization. In keeping with the example of the consumer genomics company, some possible objectives could be to sell a certain number of kits to new users in a year, increase the retention rate of your current users, and/or sell a certain number of new kits to existing customers.
  • Tactics-Activities that you will do to achieve the objectives. These are what are tracked in project management spreadsheets. Possible tactics include running email marketing campaigns, launching ecommerce sales, or TV-commercials.
  • Operations-These are metrics you record to make sure the results of the tactics that you are measuring are in fact due to the tactic itself rather than some unknown activity. In the world of scientific research, these are often called controls.

In order to plan your year and the metrics you will need to gather, work backwards from each objective. For example, if an objective is to sell 700,000 kits in 2018, you should estimate to increase online purchases by 25%, which will require a 25% increase in website traffic, and a 30% increase in email sends. Your ability to estimate this chain of events will improve each year as you improve your data-driven approach.

Tactical Metrics vs. Operational Metrics

In the list in the previous section, probably the most important entries when it comes to metrics planning are the Tactics and Operations list items. This is what the bulk of the marketing team does during the year. If the metrics planning around your activity is poor, you will waste a whole year. First, let’s further clarify what questions these metrics answer.

Tactical metrics answer:

  • Did an activity happen?
  • How effective was it?
  • How effective was it compared to last year?

Operational Metrics answer:

  • How good was the execution?
  • Are you sure the results weren’t because of something else?

Operational metrics establish cause and effect. In the scientific world, they are called positive and negative controls.

In keeping with the example of the consumer genomics company, let’s state that one tactic being used are email campaigns with a call to action that sends people to buy kits from the company website. The metrics for this tactic are:

  • 30% increase in email sends (As reported by Marketing Automation system)
  • 25% increase in website traffic (As reported by Google Analytics)
  • 25% increase in online purchases (As reported by Ecommerce System and Google Analytics)

Now, we need to plan the appropriate operational metrics. To those people that are unfamiliar with operational metrics, think about them as ways to answer common arguments that undercut your position when presenting data. I call these the “yeah, but…” rebuttals.

Yeah but…. Metric to Verify
Our email content writers are the reason we are seeing improvements Track email open rates. Note: This will likely drop if you expanded your database.
Organic search is driving web traffic now Track web traffic from organic search. Note: This will likely improve with time
Our new European office is doing the heavy lifting Track web traffic by region or country
That new co-marketing agreement with company X is really driving traffic Track source of referral website visits

These are your defined tactical and operational metrics. You can have as many tactical and operational metrics as you want, but there is no need to overextend yourself when beginning this exercise. Define what you need to measure the success of your tactics, and then define what you need to rebut any doubts you have in your own mind and the comments you will face from colleagues and move on to data gathering. We will explore data gathering in the second post of this series.

By Keith Osiewicz, Vice President of Business Development at Ingeniux Corporation, and Editorial Board Member at SAMPS

SAMPS, Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research, is the first and only organization dedicated to sales and marketing professionals within the life sciences.

The association’s goal is to serve its members who work in commercial roles for life science products and services companies and associated businesses, globally.
 
SAMPS was previously named ACP-LS. We feel that SAMPS more clearly describes the membership, and will form a better foundation from which to expand this membership globally. 
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