Company News

Data Drives Digital Marketing, Guides Creative

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Every page you visit on the internet, every item you add to your online shopping cart and every email from a company you patronize is logged. And when it comes to digital marketing, that information is invaluable.

“We acquire all this data not just to understand a consumer’s propensity to buy a product, but also [to understand] how to communicate with them,” says Jason Wood, president of Actionable Insights, a marketing firm based in Sharon, Pennsylvania.

In a digital environment where consumers are bombarded by messages from scores of sources, the use of data in marketing campaigns helps companies precisely target customers.

“If you’re a 28-year-old that likes craft beer, works 9 to 6 and enjoys organic meals in downtown Youngstown, that’s how clear-cut we can make the target,” says Palo Creative’s president and CEO, Rob Palowitz. “Can you hit that target by traditional means? Yeah, you’ll hit them somewhere along the line, but you get a lot of waste.”

Beyond being able to reach specific audiences, the use of data can inform the creation of marketing campaigns.

“Taste and instincts have prevailed for decades. A lot of classic marketers were instinctual and knew how to get people in a call to action,” says Jeff Herrmann, owner of Madison, Michigan and Market, Youngstown. “Data can be an awesome reinforcement mechanism or be the way you optimize to sell your product. Data-driven marketing is about knowing the habits and interests of your audience because it’s quantifiable.”

Such information can be acquired a few ways. First-party data, which the marketers interviewed for this story prefer using, includes information the company has cultivated, things like website traffic and email contacts. Third-party information, meanwhile, is information acquired from an outside source, such as a list purchased from a market research firm.

While marketers prefer to use first-party data, outside information can be useful, says Chris Askew, director of digital marketing strategies for The Prodigal Co., Boardman. He points to a client who wanted to market a product to farmers, but didn’t have the internal information to do so.

“We purchased data from a credit bureau, asking for data on people who spent more than $40,000 in a year on farming equipment. That tells us this person is probably a farmer,” Askew says. “Something like that is a smart buy. You really have to think about the purpose.”

First-party data is generally used to optimize targeting for a marketing campaign. It can relate how people arrived at your website, where they visited, how long they stayed and what they clicked on before they left.

In some cases, such information can be used to fine tune aspects of sales, says Palo’s digital media director, Jim Komara. Through Google Analytics, he can look at how customers got to the cart page, how many entered a shipping address and how many made it to the checkout page.

“We can look at how many people made it there and bailed out,” he explains. “That could tell you if your shipping is too high because a lot of people got all the way there and then decided not to finish the process.”

Information gleaned from your website can then be combined with automated marketing systems such as HubSpot or SharpSpring to create hyper-targeted campaigns.

“When you have the data to know what certain segments are and what they’re doing in certain places, you can create messages specifically for them,” says Prodigal’s Jessica Thompson, director of business development. “You can get a lot more personalized messages because you know who you’re talking to and what they want to hear.”

Jeff Ryznar, owner of 898 Marketing in Canfield, adds that while digital information is easily accessible, it isn’t the only information that factors into the creation of a digital marketing plan. When creating a strategy with a client, he says that information drawn from employees can be just as valuable.

“You also use sales data and talk with partners to understand their closing rates and behaviors and sales process internally,” Ryznar says. “It’s not all data you can get from data or digital channels. Sometimes you have to go to their store or office and learn how they measure things.”

That information is vital, he continues, because the standard measure of success for a digital marketing campaign is the financial return, whether determined by return on investment, the cost per action or improved efficiency.

“We know with absolute specificity when we’ve converted somebody. We can create a list of human beings that we know we drove [to the site] and that gets crosschecked with sales and revenue numbers,” says Actionable Insights’ Wood. “Because we start with data and we know who we’ve sent, we can figure out the specific ROI.”

When creating a startegy, Palo’s Komara says, it’s best to assign a dollar value to goals.

“If we know an average purchase is $219,” he says, “then we can back into how many people made a purchase, how many people backed out and how many people visited the site and assign a value to each. That way, we know that every time someone visits your website, it’s worth, say, 20 cents.”

It’s a similar process for determining just how much efficiency has improved. Herrmann offers the example of aiming to reach $1 million sales, with an average sales value of $100,000. It takes 10 sales to hit that goal and 50 emails to make those sales. By using data pulled from his website, a client can opt to get in touch only with people who visited a specific page on that website and close the sale rather than contact everyone in the general sales list.

In doing so, the conversion rate could drop to 10 sales for every 25 sales emails.

“By automating some of your marketing, you can take some cost out,” Herrmann says. “You can either have a bunch of people on the phone playing the volume game or you can have a well-defined strategy that gets into the inbox of dedicated customers, and you know that the ones who open it are ready to go. It’s all about qualification.”

On top of that, some marketing platforms allow companies to create “look-alike personas,” where the information from one user profile is examined and generates leads for similar online profiles.

“It’s really dialing in the targeting aspect of marketing where you don’t just have a general message, but you have a specific message for each persona,” Palowitz says. “Each one looks, feels and thinks about a thing in different ways.”

Wood notes, however, that email shouldn’t be the primary conversion tool for companies. It’s good for reaching a targeted audience, but the moneymaker is still a company website.

“The website should be the center of the communication strategy. It’s open 24/7/365 so you can treat it as the focal point,” Herrmann agrees.

And marketing campaigns don’t necessarily have to rely entirely on digital promotion. Collecting data is useful for informing decisions when composing what a company needs to be doing to promote itself.

Prodigal’s senior account executive Tony Marr points to a campaign the company worked on where Prodigal’s analysts saw spikes in website visits sduring the first and final week of the month for part of the campaign.

“We looked at it and saw they were doing a TV campaign two weeks out of the month,” he explains. “There was a rise in website activity [during the TV campaign] and then it dropped back off. It helps us, too, because we could show them just how well TV was working for them.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.