24/04/2015

By Sofia Quintero is Head of Growth at Geckoboard, real-time data dashboard specialists

One of the common myths and misconceptions in modern marketing is the notion of a perfectly ‘numbers-driven’ marketer. A marketer who can calculate and predict immaculate metrics in a consistent way. This ideal is a far-fetched picture of what leading marketers are actually executing on today.

The truth is that most successful marketers are not thriving to be more data-driven, they are thriving to be more data informed. They understand the difference between the two concepts and they use it to their advantage.

Being data-driven means to use data as the main input for decision making. Being data informed is the sweet spot between understanding the value of data and understanding the power of strategic vision. Right there in the middle is where you find world-class marketing and sustainable sources of growth.

In a world where it seems that everything can be tracked there is a constant pressure to make sense of data. This pressure can push marketers to get swallowed by the overwhelming volume of data points and easily get lost in a sea of tactics and short-term strategies. The problem with tactic-focused approaches is that marketing as a discipline can become a game of changing button colours and not a game of strategic moves.

For instance, there is a frenzy around growth hacking, often sold as modern marketing. Its scientific approach to acquisition and heavy emphasis on experimentation brings clear benefits to marketing as a practice but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work in every situation for every business. Just because Facebook found its magic number doesn’t mean your business has one too.

It is undeniable that marketers today need to make the most of the technology available to them and find concrete ways to use data for better decision making. That’s an understatement. The question is not about how marketers can become more data-driven, the question is how marketers can effectively use data to fuel their strategic vision. Data as a fuel and not as the engine.

Using data as a fuel means understanding what the questions are that need to be answered, what the key pieces of information are that can truly guide a strategic decision.

This is specifically relevant to smaller businesses that do not count on dedicated resources to freely explore data. Just because your business does not have a data scientist or a robust set of tools gathering all data points doesn’t mean you cannot be data informed.

It just means you need to be very efficient with the questions you ask and be
willing to accept that data will not always be the only thing you use to make decisions.