What Does it Mean to be a Data Driven Business

Est. Reading Time: 14 minutes

In Web Marketing you will often hear the statement that “data driven firm or business” but what does that really mean?   There is so much data out there how does a business use it to actually drive their business.   What data should you be looking at and incorporating into your web marketing strategy to be able to claim that you are a “data driven” business?

There are a lot of challenges to being data driven including cost, organizational structuring, lack of understanding, and several others but in this article I want to focus on the volumes of data available and where they tend to come from.

Below are some of the top 20 areas (in no particular order) of where various data comes from, the systems that generate it, and (at a very high level) how it can be used to drive your business.  

(There are two varying levels of data, there is aggregate data and there is user-level data.   For the purpose of this article, we are largely talking about aggregate level data.)

  1. Comparing the performance of various online marketing efforts such as a CPC program or Shopping feed.  This requires the use of a web analytics platform such as Google Analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, or Hitslink.  You can compare and contrast bounce rates, average pageviews, conversion rates, types of content being accessed, as well as determine the optimal keywords or sources for targeting.  The amount of data available by changing dimensions or segmenting traffic can grow exponentially.  Knowing what to look for and how to find it fast are critical to using this data successfully.
  2. Understanding how users interact with the various elements and layouts of the pages on the website can be very important.  Providing an intuitive website is critical for helping your conversion rates.  You want to make sure that people are able to easily locate and interact with the proper elements.   You can accomplish this by using website page heatmap software by CrazyEgg.com.  It is very fairly priced and gives some incredible insights into user behavior on your website.
  3. Understanding qualitative data about your website usage as well as brand engagement or perception is very important.    Online Survey can be used to gauge website functionality and satisfaction.   You can also use this to set baselines for Brand sentiment across several critical areas that drive brand perception such as quality, value, customer service, price, and selection.  There are several other online survey tools available, but UserReport integrates data into Google Analytics by automatically creating advanced segments for your demographic data.    This is very cool and gives you some very interesting insights.
  4. UserReport Crowd Intelligence:  This can be highly useful for testing new ideas by submitting various features or functionality to your users and allowing them to rate them in terms of importance.  You can also allow your customers themselves to submit ideas for improving features or functions.    This system also serves as a way for users to submit bugs when they run into allowing them to serve as quality analyst for your site.  Everyone knows that running into a bug and not being able to do anything about it to proceed can be frustrating.  This provides a portal for that frustration as well as taking steps to resolve anything causing issues on the site that could be affecting your capability to make money or generate leads.
  5. Measuring the performance of key SEO indicators is critical for any successful SEO efforts. Google’s WebMaster Tools Account provides a wealth of information from sitemap take rates, to crawler access, crawl rates, website parameter handling, settings, diagnostics and other cool sets of data.   A very important set of data here are the reports under “Your site on the Web” which provides search query data including impressions, clicks, and CTR data.  Recently introduced was the 1 metrics reports which gives you access to search impact, activity and audience data.
  6. Reputation Management is becoming more and more important towards helping to increase your conversion rates in the face of steeper competition online and offline.   There are several tools that help you insights into what is going on with your brand.  Monitor who is saying what whether it’s you competition, your customers, or industry analyst.  Some of the tools you can use to manage the data and use it to your advantage are listed here.    Facebook Business accounts,  Facebook insightsGoogle Alerts and there are too many other ones to list here but there is a very good list by John Jantsch that can be found here.  
  7. Content Analysis is important for understanding how well you are connecting with your audience.  There are several metrics that can shed light on how well you are doing with including time on page, bounce rates, and average pages per visit among others.  You can also look at path analysis, Event tracking categories and actions, and goals setup to measure the effectiveness of that content’s purpose.    All of these are available in your website analytics system such as Google Analytics or Omniture.
  8. Understanding the overall customer engagement process is going to generate data in multiple systems including Google Analytics, your CRM system, call centers, retail locations, and anywhere else your brand reaches.     Having a centralized conversion database that marries all of this data into centralized access point where you can see multiple touch-points with varying dates/times and the activities consumed at those points will shed a ton of light on your overall customer engagement.     Find out what generates leads, what closes the deals, and what activities engage prospects and introduce the brand the best.     For measuring specific engagements on your website Google Analytics Event Tracking can give you a wealth of data into video performance, flash interaction, and other actions that indicate engagement.
  9. If you have a business where multiple revenue channels exist online and offline, you have a very difficult challenge of connecting the web marketing dots to the offline revenue.    In some cases it may be impossible to completely merge the data for 100% of your investments but don’t worry, there is still something you can do.   Statistical analysis between small segments of the populations can lend to fairly high accuracy when your datasets are statistically “large enough”.  For example, pick small geographic areas, say around a couple retail locations and test your marketing activities and measure the change in comparison to a control group.    You get a lot of interesting data when you complete marketing campaigns across a control and test market that spans online and offline.   You can use programs like SAS, DAP, and excel to help you analyze and understand the data.   However, it helps to have a mathematician or computer scientist involved to ensure your accuracy here.   
  10. Want to know what your competitors are doing?  Competitive Analysis can help you here.   There are several resources that generate data for your spying eyes.   Check out the following.  SPYfu, compete.com, Alexa.com, hitwise.com, Google trends, Facebook fans, and Google Pluses.
  11. Need to understand what’s happening on the organic search front for rankings?  Then you’ll need to take a peak at some SEO data.  There are several tools that help provide insights into performance, rankings, trends, and other key SEO factors.   Some of the Ranking Reports for SEO include RankChecker, webposition, and a number of Chrome and Firefox SERP checking extensions.  You can also use a SEOmoz Pro account and their tools as well as Yahoo Site Explorer and Google Webmaster Tools.
  12. Getting to the bottom of Buying Cycle data and lifetime value data is often more challenging but very rewarding.  Understanding how long it takes from an initial contact, what drives those contacts, what makes them come back and how long it takes for them to come back and how many touch-points on average to purchase is data that spans across multiple systems including Website Analytics, your CRM, your email distribution platform, your television broadcast schedules, your radio, your print, your online display, your PPC, and every other marketing effort you are doing.   You can see why this is challenging and why there is a wealth of data to sort through to get to the insights.    Google Analytics new Multi-Channel Funnel analysis provides a wealth of insights when analyzing this data.
  13. Want to know the level of Interaction between various online marketing efforts:   What drives your branded traffic?  In a lot of cases business will tend to apply all the cost of a marketing effort to only that channel’s conversions but never apply any cost to the direct or branded traffic or never spread the conversions generated from branded traffic to the investments that generated that traffic.  The data exist though, to some extent and it can be right there in your Google Analytics accounts.   You just have to know what to look for and how to properly generate it.    By using control and test groupings to measure the fluctuations across branded traffic after isolating variables through campaign testing, you can use advanced segments or filters to drill down to this data.     This can be an effective method for generating and analyzing data in offline and online marketing efforts as well as comparing and contrasting just between online campaigns.
  14. Industry Trend data is key to understanding what’s going on in the industry that can affect your traffic volumes, conversion rates, and other key performance indicators.  Google Trends and insights as well as alexa and some independent industry sites can produce data that puts your data into context.
  15. Have a call center or take leads by phone?  If so, your online efforts are surely driving some of you phone conversions and that can produce data you should be using.  The system produced by Ifbyphone allows you to connecting online efforts to phone call conversions.  This produces data in both the ifbyphone administration as well as integrating nicely in Google Analytics for a centralized access point for phone conversions right alongside your other online goals.   If you’re not integrating this data back into your ROI analysis, you may be missing a big piece of the puzzle.
  16. Need some keyword data?  There are several Keyword Tools available to provide it for you:  Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery,  Google Adwords keyword tool, Google Trends, Webmaster tools account,  Google Analytics and internal site search data.
  17. Do you engage in any A/B or multivariate testing?   If not, you should be.   Conversion Optimization Data gets to the good stuff.  Find out what works best for your audience on your site.   Optimizely and Google Website Optimizer are great tools for this.   Serving up variations of content to a sample of users to see what works best before applying to the entire population.  Depending on the volume of testing you are doing and to what extent, these systems can have a significant impact on your business.  The majority of the time spent using these types of systems are from the development of ideas generated from looking at previous data and understanding your customers.
  18. Financial Data:  The bottom line matters.   For a lot of businesses, it requires a combination of marketing efforts across a broad spectrum of sources and channels to be successful.   Looking at the big picture can give you a good sense of overall direction with your marketing strategy.  You can also look to Google Finance for more information as well as find competitive financial information.
  19. Have any paid campaigns including Search PPC and/ or Display advertising?  These campaigns are going to produce a lot of data for impressions, CTR, Cost, ROI, conversions, using various attribution models.    Google Adwords and other various ad management systems will provide their own set of data independent of your analytics account.  Knowing what to use from these systems and how it correlates with the data from other systems can be confusing but there are often nuggets of gold hidden within the data.
  20. If you are email marketing which you probably are, that distribution system is going to produce its own set of data as well including take rates, open rates, view rates, CTR rates and even more if you are doing any sort of sample testing.   These efforts also produce data in your website analytics account and even your CRM or centralized conversion database.  There are several good email provides including Bronto, Vertical Response, and Constant Contact for smaller lists.

With all these sources of data and all their various purposes, it can easily become overwhelming if time and resources are not properly allocated.   The bigger the business, the more complicated the data gets.   What tends to happen when it gets very complicated for a lot of non data-driven businesses is nothing.  The data from these great sources are never gathered, never tallied, never analyzed, and never integrated into the overall marketing strategy.     Being a data driven firm means that your business recognizes the value these types of data can have from the top down and not only are steps taken to collect and analyze the data, the insights learned from the data are then incorporated back into the overall strategy.   That is allowing data to drive your strategy and that is what it means to be a data driven business.

As you can imagine, the volume of data available by the use of just a couple of these systems can easily start to become overwhelming.   That’s where Beacon can lend a hand.   We are highly skilled at being able to determine which systems fit your needs and can develop a full strategy to help you become a data driven business.    What kind of business do you want to be?