How Marketers Can Use Data to Boost (and Prove) Their Value

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A number of familiar themes have characterized Advertising Week: the growing ubiquity of programmatic, the transformation of advertising agencies in the digital age, the power of native advertising, and the rise of B2B marketing. But there’s one theme that seems to encompass all of the week’s other motifs, and that theme is data.

As the consumer or B2B prospect moves from device to device to device, data becomes increasingly essential to identifying potential buyers and targeting them with a relevant, timely message. Matt Witt, EVP-Director of Brand Experiences, Trisect Agency, described the situation this way: “We’re moving beyond fragmentation of media channels. We’re now seeing fragmentation of the consumer experience.”

Data is essential to understanding the consumer experience and the buyer’s journey. Two speakers in particular during Advertising Week’s Wednesday sessions offered some practical advice for marketers to make more efficient and more effective use of data, both externally and internally.

First, Oleg Korenfeld, EVP, Ad Technology and Platforms, Mediavest | Spark, said that many marketers have invested unwisely in marketing and advertising technology and have made getting useful data more complicated than it has to be. So Korenfeld preached simplicity. “As an industry, we’ve overbuilt and over-engineered the marketing technology stack,” he said. “Re-evaluate your ad tech stack and see if it’s as simple as possible.”

He also offered this piece of advice about the primacy of first-party data. “Invest in your own data and own it,” he said. “Don’t trust others if you don’t have to.”

Second, Jennifer Zeszut, CEO, Beckon, also offered data-driven advice for marketers. She acknowledged that marketers tend to be accomplished at creating data-driven stories to reach potential customers. Marketers understand that “storytelling is the new black,” she said.

But marketers fall flat when it comes telling data-driven stories internally that demonstrate the value of marketing. Zeszut had a remedy for that shortcoming: marketers must use data to tell stories that show their marketing efforts are achieving their goals. “People who say, ‘I’m not that interested in the data, I’m just going to go with my gut.’ Those people aren’t going to have a job in a couple of years,” she said.

People are hard-wired to respond to stories. We use them to make sense of a chaotic world, and they appeal to us as humans. When sharing data about marketing performance with the C-level, Zeszut recommended crafting a story. “Remember,” she said, “you’re presenting to humans. Even if they’re the CMO, the CEO, or the CFO, they’re humans.”

These stories of marketing’s performance must be based on hard data to be convincing. “The best stories are those that have data behind them,” Zeszut said, adding: “Those who tell the stories rule the world. Those who control the narrative have the power in their organizations.”

Marketers too often use data to tell a story that is inconsequential. They use charts to demonstrate activity — number of blog posts, number of Tweets, spending on ad insertions. Instead, marketers should use data to craft a story about all of this activity and spending generated leads, or better yet sales-accepted opportunities, or even better still marketing-influenced revenue. “Every time you create a chart, it should be the answer to some kind of business question,” Zeszut said.

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