There’s a simple answer to all of your marketing questions. It’s not something you can read in a magazine or hear in a podcast. It’s something right before your eyes, yet may be beyond your reach. But if you open your mind to what your data tells you, you’ll learn far more about your company and your customers than you ever thought possible.

Why Data is Important

Every day, we are subjected to an endless stream of advice from so-called marketing “experts” who tell us what they think we should do. There are two problems with this setup. First, if you take this advice, you’ll be one of many who do so, meaning you’ll never truly get ahead. Second, every industry is different, and no two companies are alike; what works for one may not work for the other.
Data doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t lie to you, and it doesn’t need to be adapted to suit your unique needs. All you need to do is set the right goals, find the right ways to track your numbers and learn how to monitor your progress.

What Data Can Tell You

Many companies focus their online marketing on social media and email campaigns. Those are worthy endeavors, but you’ll never understand what your customers want to hear until you do your homework and get to know their preferences. In fact, take 40 percent of your online marketing budget and invest that into a top-notch Web analytics firm.

Sure, you could focus on the traditional metrics like pageviews and sign-ups, but those numbers won’t tell you the whole story. There’s a lot that you can learn from reading between the lines. It won’t jump out at you, but once you know what to look for you’ll see things much more clearly. For instance, when a customer enters their zip code in a store locator, you can look at how many customers click on the individual stores that are returned by the search. You can also see how many people print out directions. These are far greater indicators of a likely purchase than mere clicks.

Data Flexibility

The best part about using data to drive your decisions is that data is flexible enough to work in any organization, at any stage in your company’s development. For example, if your site is content-based, you can easily determine which content performs best and how people’s preferences change throughout the day and week. On the other hand, if you sell merchandise, you can use your data to figure out what your best-selling products are and how your promotional efforts help your bottom line.

Web marketers are trained to obsess over traffic, but activity patterns are far more relevant today. After all, if you don’t know how to take care of your current customers, your company won’t be long for the Web world. The nice thing about data is that you can actually compare the habits of new customers with those of your current customers. This can help you convert those new customers into loyal long-term customers while simultaneously catering to the needs of those who have made you successful.

Diversify Your Data Approach

As you begin exploring the possibilities of data analysis, consider using more than one analytics tool. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s important to understand the positive aspects and limitations of each tool. For instance, Google Analytics is great for analyzing the traffic that comes to your site, but doesn’t capture personal information. However, MixPanel isn’t as strong in traffic analysis, but provides far greater potential for personal information analysis.