A Quick Guide to Using Definitive Business & Marketing Research Data to Get a "Yes" for Your Initiatives
1 New Year + 5 Years in Industry = Profound Challenge
As the New Year turns, wait It's now almost March!? I'm a slow writer sometimes. I've been given a great gift of approaching 5 years in digital marketing. The milestone breeds reflection about the challenges thus far, and how they've been overcome.
The most profound challenge is frustratingly, an oft-recurring roadblock. Specifically, the biggest challenge I've encountered is securing buy-in for a new marketing initiative or project.
To underscore the point, keep in mind this challenge is prevalent even among the elites. During my career, I've enjoyed the privilege of working at top agencies and brands, all grappling with this issue.
- There are 2 Types of Research Data:
- Primary / Deterministic Research Data
- Secondary / Probabilistic Research Data
- Deterministic research data case studies
- Mega list of free probabilistic research sources
Types of Research Data
If you're into academics, my apologies. For the purposes of this article, we're stepping away from academia's definition of data as qualitative (ordinal/nominal) and quantitative (discreet) buckets.
Rather, we're going to call on the greasy old mechanisms of experience. In this article, we'll mash up some terminology, but bear with me. We re-examine data through the lens of confidence we have in its accuracy.
Specifically, are you going to:
A) deal with data collected and cleaned by your organization, or,
B) seek out data gathered and presented by other parties?
Our definitions for data in this article will be 1) deterministic data (collected and cleaned by yourself) and 2) probabilistic (collected and presented by parties not connected to you.)
Primary / Deterministic
Deterministic data is your most powerful weapon in the glorious battle for successful, effective and efficient marketing. (Assuming it's been collected, analyzed and presented in sound fashion.) However, its high value is often accompanied by varying prices and costs.
Consider possible quantitative deterministic data:
- Digital analytics data from your website or mobile app
- User behavior and flow
- Acquisition, demographic and channel metrics
- Customer relationship management (CRM) email interaction data
- Call tracking software usage
- Heat-mapping and session recording software
- Form abandonment and completion analytics
- Net Promoter Score survey data collected by your company
Do you have this kind of data? I would wager you do. Let's examine some practical applications of how deterministic data can sell business decisions. (Note: these even share some derivations from past experiences.)
Deterministic Data Case Study 1
You're a digital marketing director for a large e-commerce brand with quarterly inventory turnover. You'd like to advocate for more agile e-commerce merchandising practices, the flexibility to create customized collections and run timely promotions to sell through inventory. In doing so, your digital marketing teams and agencies can drive traffic and sales starting at the beginning of the quarter, not the end. What to do?
Seize the wealth of digital analytics and clickstream data at your fingertips. If you're advocating for flexibility to benefit the users, scour the analytics data concerning user behavior. Midway through 2016, there was a real digital marketing director who faced this situation. Importantly, they overcame a politically influential legion of creative directors and "branding" personnel armed with assumptions by way of a few well-researched data points.
Specifically, we were able to exhaustively mine on-site user behavior for this brand. During this data mining process, our teams noticed an unusually large and rising percentage of visitors were using internal site search. (Meaning they couldn't find what they wanted by clicking through navigation menus.) To further this point, the team accentuated this argument with further data that a third of the internal site searches resulted in site exits. How terrible! The brand was acquiring traffic, but neither customers nor revenue. Obviously, this data made short work of what was a previously entrenched debacle.
Deterministic Data Case Study 2
We'll also briefly consider qualitative deterministic data. This data is of extreme importance. Example: Real customer feedback and reviews can say more than 10 or 50 internal focus groups at the office. However, for our technically-bent discussion, it can present some challenges in uniform collection, analysis and presentation.
This one's for the B2B and lead generation marketers out there. You're the fearless marketing director at a B2B services firm, and often at odds with the sales manager (sorry sales folk, y'all make easy targets) over revenue goals.
The year on year (Y/Y) numbers for site visits look good. However, monthly recurring revenue (MRR) is down from a soft close rate on SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads). What does our antagonistic sales manager say? "The leads we're receiving just aren't qualified - why are we receiving poor leads?" Great, nothing like a rock toss contest. Let's solve this.
If you're an astute marketer, you've used call tracking software to:
A: Track the effectiveness of your lead gen campaigns
B: Refine your persona targeting, and,
C: Generate new ideas for content, ad copy and general world domination
Further, you've used call tracking to monitor the quality of the leads, and, monitor the quality of sales staff. By mining a sample of calls for the past month against the previous year, perhaps you'll notice:
- The sales staff hasn't properly identified and explored pain points with prospects, or,
- Sales staff "un-selling" by not promptly ending the call upon close
Now you can push back with concrete, albeit qualitative, data that in fact shows leads are qualified and better management of sales calls is necessary.
Secondary / Probabilistic
What a whirlwind! We've covered so much ground, and the best is yet to come.
Despite our best efforts, in-house data isn't always available. Further, some of your biggest initiatives may revolve around platforms and/or data that don't yet exist in house. What to do? Get a huge list of (mostly) free research sources.
Killer Research Data Sources
- Adobe Europe Digital Trends 2016
- Likely a 2017 report will be released soon.
- Bain & Co. Insights
- County Business Patterns
- EDGAR Public Company Filings
- Experian 2016 Digital Marketer Report
- Forthea Digital Marketing Guides
- HubSpot Research
- iProspect Insights
- Merkle Quarterly Digital Marketing Report
- Nielsen MyBestSegments
- Pew Internet Research
- SearchMetrics Ranking Factors Study
- Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Data and Statistics
- Social Mention
- Think With Google: Marketer's Almanac
- U.S. Census Bureau Data Tools
- Digital in 2016
- From last year, but contains many forward looking insights, and likely to be a 2017 edition
- World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) via Cornell
Other Paid & Premium Research Sources
You deserve a medal if you've gone through this post in full detail. Hopefully this in-depth article gave you a better understanding of how you can frame up research data and find new compelling data to make the best decisions in your business. What are your thoughts? We'd love to hear your stories or suggestions.
Growth x performance marketing. The awards, banner clients, P&L and the work come and go. The important, persistent questions remain, "Did I make a difference?", "Did it matter?", "Was it worth it?"
The key to these questions lies in the relationships we form with our fellow teammates. I've been fortunate to encounter success early in my career. The success has been marked by the generosity of hard working, smart folks who have deeply invested in me.
I am becoming a practice and thought leader in digital marketing. The awards, banner clients, P&L and work are important. However, they are only byproducts of my ultimate success factors: relationships and paying forward my time & talents generously.
Select speaking engagements/media:
- AAF Houston
- Blog Elevated
- Fort Bend Internet Marketing Meetup
- Houston Bloggers Association
- Houston Chronicle (interviewed as subject matter expert)
- Energy Digital Summit
- UH Bauer MBA
SEO Leader at iProspect in Fort Worth, Texas. Proven track record of client results and agency growth. Previously, took Forthea from a marketing startup to leading independent digital agency in the Southwest. I work tirelessly to advance the team's content, digital, inbound and search marketing offerings. Simultaneously, I ensure the digital marketing strategy of our clients is two steps ahead of their landscape and that team execution is sound.
I hold numerous digital marketing certifications and qualifications. My interests include emerging technology, research, continuous learning, measured marketing experimentation and entrepreneurship. I regularly speak on marketing strategy, digital marketing, SEO, PPC and other topics in the community.