How to bridge the gap between data and strategy

6 min read by James Bavington 9 Sep 2022

Is the use of data creating paralysis by analysis – or an exciting opportunity for the new generation of marketers? We take a look at the way data informs creative strategy and how things are changing in the light of the shifting customer focused market.

Marketing has always been associated with creativity – whether it’s that eye-popping TV trailer you saw last night, or the TikTok ad that made you smile today. Both are the work of marketers, but didn’t reach your eyes without data getting in there first.

As a marketer, you know that data is supposed to inform everything you do. But as someone who thrives on originality and independent thought, data has the potential to question everything you thought you knew about marketing. Here’s five ways to bridge the gap between data and creative:

1. Make testing part of your routine

As a creative strategist, you may feel stifled by a set of rules. The idea of basing every campaign around a set of stats can end up with a dry, contrived campaign. Instinct tells you that there’s a market for doing something different  – but without the supporting data, it’s risky.
Where can data and marketers meet? Testing. The joy of digital marketing is that you can be agile in the face of facts: if that value prop didn’t attract the amount of clicks, simply adjust it and run another test.

Digital, data driven marketing gives you the freedom to try out more things, more often, across different channels, at different times. Now, it’s not “the business” that drives marketing, it’s the customer. Test something out, and let the customer show you what works for them.

2. Review where you’re at

For years, many of us have excelled by showcasing our specific talents as marketers. We are creative: we like to be masters of our domain. What data has done, almost by stealth, is to creep into every marketing meeting. Being asked “Where are the stats on that?” around every new idea, not to mention incorporating data into your budgeting, can be irritating, even unsettling. So how can you ensure that you are a master of data in the same way that you’re a brand whizz or strategist?

The first step is to take an honest look at where you’re at. Is the information you require for decision making easy to access, at any time? Can you drill down and across, and review information managed by different areas of the organisation? If not, then your tech partner can help connect the dots to provide at-a-glance views of what your customers are doing across your website, apps, social platforms, CRM, marketing automation and ultimately, all stages of the customer experience. After all, no-one in marketing should be remembered for their Excel skills.

3. Trust your instincts

As creatives, we thrive on the ability to act quickly – to whip up that piece of perfectly timed content; to get that offer out before our competitors do. What we’d like data to do is provide us with the back-up support for these magic moments.

But really, data should teach us to be restrained and disciplined in our actions. A spike or drop in clicks or conversions may well indicate a dramatic turn in customer behaviour which should be investigated – conversely, there may be many more factors at play.

By trusting your instincts and investigating, and being faithful to that test and repeat cycle, you will be able to see what works over time. And don’t just test once on a single campaign – you need to be testing over a prolonged period, to the same group. Always have tests running, and you will see statistical evidence that your creative changes are paying off.

And don’t forget: regardless of the underlying data, it’s still got to appeal. Customer experience behaviour data might drive your customer journey, but if the user experience is dire, then game over. Fast loading assets, quality visuals, clever words, inspirational video. Your instinct will tell you if any of these are off.

4. Push data boundaries

We all recognise the importance of creating a personalised customer experience. For most of us, this starts with creating personas. As strategists, we are naturally curious, yet our personas are often typically unimaginative.

An example is a top hotel that sells gift experiences. A natural instinct would be to target the high net worth individuals within your dataset. But be creative: what about the visitors on lower incomes? Would it not be prudent to market the gift experience as something aspirational, to share on social channels with friends and family? Ask yourself: How do we find customers like our targets? How do you find similar customers? A segment is just a label you chose to put on the data to organise it – it’s not set in stone. Trust your instincts and do a test. If you don’t try, you will never know.

5. Create value, even when data rules change

Paid media strategies will doubtless need to evolve under Google’s planned phaseout of third party cookies. Whatever happens, it simply underlines the need to earn your own first party data. Make sure to keep up the flow of creative ideas. Things like: a gamified experience; a first look at new products; a special invite to the opening of your new store; the trusted whitepaper or ebook. People will still give up their email addresses if they see a fair value exchange.

6. Contribute to your data reach

You’re a creative marketer and that means having the courage to try new things. Artificial intelligence and machine learning may sound terrifying, but essentially it involves enriching your first party data with credible third party datasets to look for new patterns. An agency partner can help you take this step, helping you to build out your online activity to seek out new opportunities. For example, using data generated by mobile phones to see where your customers have visited recently, or events that they have attended.

Qualitative data is another area where you can have a creative impact. If you want to understand the buying habits of dog owners, live the customer experience by having a team attend suitable events and meets. If you want to identify the pains of your audience, ask a friendly client to let you share their space for a while. Supplement what all your analytics platforms are telling you about visits, clicks and conversions by supporting the quantitative with the qualitative.

In conclusion: data and creativity can often seem worlds apart, but a change in mindset can bring them together. Ultimately, you have the power to influence how you gather, segment and analyse your data to inform your marketing strategy.

Need help to use data in your marketing strategy? StrategiQ offers the help you need. Start the conversation today.

Let's talk strategy
Drag Read Watch