Data moving up the marketing agenda, but not quickly enough

5th February 2015 • Features

by Kevin Scott, Deputy Editor

Marketing agencies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of data in their prospecting and targeting, yet despite this, accurate data is still not seen as a priority, finds a new report.

It’s not often that the role of data is examined from the agency perspective, but with a new report, SharpSpring has done just that, examining how agencies plan to reach their data-driven marketing objectives.

The report, ‘Lead Generation Benchmarks from the Agency Perspectives’, looks at the challenges and obstacles facing agencies and how they can overcome these to ensure the role of data-driven insight plays the role it should, to its maximum potential.

In his introductory notes, Rick Carlson, Founder of SharpSpring, comments: “Attention is shifting to data-driven marketing; the use of prospect and customer information to improve marketing performance. How will agencies help clients overcome new obstacles to achieving important objectives for data-driven marketing in the year ahead?”

To answer this question SharpSpring and Ascend2 fielded the Data-Driven Marketing Survey and completed interviews with 272 marketing professionals; 138 of whom are agencies that provide marketing solutions to other organisations. The report is the result of their findings.

Identifying the most important objectives for data-driven marketing was the first question asked. Improving campaign targeting accuracy was reckoned to be the most important, with 48% of respondents selecting this as among their objectives. Increasing sales qualified leads followed close behind on 47%, while behind them were improving audience segmentation accuracy (39%) and increasing the revenue that can be attributed to marketing (36%). Bottom of the list of options was improving data completeness for sales – which would indicate that the reliability of all database aspects is not as far up the agency agenda as it perhaps should be.

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This is made even more interesting when it is revealed that lack of data quality / completeness is deemed the most challenging obstacle to success, with 54% of respondents citing it as such. So the picture that is revealing itself is one where lack of data quality is recognised as being the biggest obstacle to success, but improving it is the least important objective.

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This would indicate that marketing agencies are aware of the problems caused by inaccurate data, but are not yet willing to invest in getting closer to data completeness. For data firms, this presents a challenge; how to work with agencies to convince them of the value of cleansing. The report says: “Your targeting and segmentation are only as good as your data. If you don’t know where your prospects are located, or what industry they’re in, or what they’re interested in, you can’t send them near one-on-one communications based on those attributes.”

It goes further, suggesting that any marketers using data-based targeting must collect the most complete profile they can on every lead and customer.

When asked how important data quality and completeness was for marketing segmentation and targeting, 89% of respondents said it was ‘very important’, with a further 10% saying it was ‘somewhat important’, leaving 1% of hardy souls to comment that data quality isn’t of any importance.

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For the 99% who do want to improve the quality of their data, the report rightly recommends marketing automation as a solution. It also recommends using behaviour-based tracking and forms for conversion, which can all be used in conjunction with a built-in CRM.

The significance of data’s role in marketing is confirmed in the report with only 6% of marketing agencies saying that using data-driven marketing to complete objectives was not successful. The report says: “Higher converting personalised communications result in more qualified leads, lower costs per lead and bigger sales from each lead.”

Other challenges that are facing marketing agencies include a lack of skills and knowledge (34% of respondents cited this as a challenging obstacle) and inadequate marketing budgets – a problem that everyone can relate too.

The lack of an effective strategy (33%) and lack of data-driven decision processes (30%) were also among the biggest challenges.

Moving on to look at the most effective sources of marketing data used and it’s no surprise to see analytics at the top of the pile, with 62% of respondents citing it. Email followed with 49%, along with website (38%) and social media (30%). Most marketing firms surveyed use their own internal data (90%), however 45% use data from channel or marketing partners, while a further 38% purchase data from third parties, but even with third-party data there is no excuse for not running cleansing programmes. 36% of respondents use only in-house resources to perform their data-driven marketing processes while 54% combine in-house and outsourced – with 10% outsourcing entirely.

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There is much to be said for buying data, although combining it with internal files and using marketing automation can lead to cleaner data and better results. With the falling prices and increasing simplicity of data-driven marketing tools, the report predicts that more agencies will start to manage more of their data in-house: “The introduction of full-featured yet affordable marketing automation puts the power of data-driven marketing in the hands of agencies of all sizes. Increasingly intuitive platforms also make it easier for agencies to manage their own data-driven marketing without leaning on outside resources.”

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