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Three Data Questions: What Has Data Done For You Lately?

Editor’s Note: For this installment of our “Three Data Questions” series, we rounded up marketers from diverse industries to learn how, if at all, data has enhanced their work—as well as where it hasn’t delivered value (yet). Today’s data-driven marketing experts hail from companies specializing in customer identity data management, content marketing and business consulting. Enjoy!

1. Has data truly made us better marketers--and why or why not? Beckland: It’s starting to, but we have a ways to go. We now realize that data gives us the raw material to understand our customers better than ever so we can deliver extraordinarily relevant marketing. We can also understand which customers are actually "good for our business," in terms of their loyalty, and the costs they place on our business. We are still a long way from delivering a personal consistent brand experience across every touchpoint in real time. Abaza: In general, data has made us better marketers. More than that, it has changed the way marketers make decisions. We've all heard the quote by John Wanamaker that "half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." Having the right data at our fingertips can help minimize waste, create efficiencies and enable us to get more granular when figuring out our marketing ROI. That said, marketing is part art, part science. Understanding people qualitatively is as important as mining the data. Onken: Without question, the answer is yes. Imagine standing in a dark room with darts in your off-hand, and you're asked to throw them. You do, not knowing what (or whom) you're going to hit. With data, not only are the lights on but you know exactly what the target looks like, but the darts are in your strong hand and the bull’s eye is right in front of you. 2. What do you wish data could measure that it hasn’t been able to yet? Beckland: Data today is used most reflexively and creatively by lead gen. I’d like to see more emphasis on lifetime value; what’s the ROI of keeping which kind of customer? As data science becomes second nature to marketing, the role of customer data will become increasingly important to build engaging experiences for the customers you have today rather than the ones you don’t have yet. Abaza: A more accurate way to measure "intent" would be interesting. There are indicators that we're able to use which can help us make reasonable assumptions, but something more concrete (short of asking people) would help keep focus on the right people at the right time. Onken: I wish we had a clearer way to determine sentiment. I specialize in social media marketing and, although there are hundreds of tools out there that monitor sentiment, I don't feel it's quite there yet. In fact, many of the companies I talk to regarding their sentiment tools talk it down and tell me to not pay too much attention to it. I think knowing how people are talking about you can help pinpoint, and hopefully avoid, embarrassing PR debacles. 3. What is one moment in your career where data saved your ass? Beckland: A client wanted to send targeted emails based on the type of music their customers liked. Music interests change frequently, based on what's on the charts at any given time. So, we pulled data from social profiles to give us the most up-to-date data. When the email blast performed 10x over their baseline, it was incredibly validating that people will respond when you give them something they care about. Abaza: Data--quantitative and qualitative--saves my ass daily. Without insight into our customers, prospects and marketing channels, I'm not sure I'd be able to do my job at all! Onken: In a previous position, I worked for someone who had zero understanding of social media. He thought social media was a complete waste of time and no one he wanted to reach was online. He couldn't have been more wrong, because our target audience fell into a 16-45 age range – the perfect demographic of Facebook users. Despite his protests, I grew the company's Facebook page 68% in nine months, signed up new clients weekly and provided great overall customer service – exactly what you would expect from talking to a brand via social media. Being able to provide these results week after week may not have saved my ass per se, but it was extremely satisfying!