In today’s age, it is hard to separate digital strategy and data. You can’t have one without the other. Creating a digital strategy without clear data is like turkey without mashed potatoes and gravy (hey, we’re getting close to Thanksgiving, can you blame us?).

Everything is measurable in the digital world so why not use that data to make the best decisions possible? Think about choosing a college. Before making any decisions, you would likely consider questions such as, how many will be accepted, how many will graduate, how many get jobs and more. These answers will determine your top choice(s) in schools when comparing it to other programs. Apply this thinking to a company’s business and marketing decisions.

If an organization has $50,000 to spend on advertising, could you immediately tell them how they should spend it? Of course not. You need data to make sure you are spending the money in a way that supports the strategy and will generate the most ROI. Without data, it’s difficult to determine how and where that money should be spent.

Lead With Data

Data determines the strategy. Not the other way around. It is easy to formulate a strategy and then manipulate data in ways to back it up. And let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of this at some point in time. Let the data do the talking without any notion of what the strategy should be. If done properly, the data will drive questions causing you to dig deeper for understanding. It is only then that you can formulate a strategy around those insights.

You don’t have to be a data scientist to be successful in marketing analytics, nor should you be. But, you do need to enjoy using data to drive insights and strategy. Leverage that data being collected to make informed decisions and set realistic KPI’s based on past behavior and industry standard metrics and trends. If you have data analysts, data scientists or data engineers on your team, use them to do predictive modeling, create dashboards, dig deeper into those metrics, pull ad hock reports and more that will help you answer any questions.

By starting with the data, you can remain tactic agnostic. That means, you aren’t leaning towards any specific marketing tactic to drive results. The data and the strategies put in place based on what the data is telling you, will determine the strategies. Organizations will struggle to reach their full potential if they approach strategy with blinders on by not considering the full spectrum of how to support that strategy and reach those goals.

Begin With The Basics

Google analytics, paid search analytics, social media analytics, mobile analytics and email marketing analytics among others are all great places to start. Consider market trends compared to what your metrics are telling you. Determine what business metrics do you need to be considering. The most important thing is to ask questions.

You won’t have all the answers and that’s okay. You shouldn’t have all the answers. It is also unlikely that any strategy will fully address everything. Prioritize and attack the highest priority areas and those that have the highest potential to make an impact on your organization based on your KPI’s.

Create a parking lot. A parking lot is used for the items that aren’t as high of priority. They are the dreams and big ideas that you know can be great but you cannot focus on at this time. This allows you keep them top of mind and not forget about them. Often times, they drive even better ideas as your organization evolves and grows.

What’s Next?

The demand is increasing for strategists with experience in data. Find ways to improve your comfort level and knowledge of data so you can stay relevant. Get your Google Analytics Certification (GAIQ), take a course in Excel or join a local networking group to help you learn more about how you can use data to improve your strategies.

If you enjoy working in data, driving insights, can see the big picture and enjoy being creative, you are on the right career path and have great potential ahead in your career.