Skip to main content

Data is an essential ingredient in today’s marketing strategies, but getting to the next level—a true, data-driven marketing program—is still a work in progress for many companies.

Our latest report, 2018 Data-Driven Marketing Benchmarks for Success, lets you see how you stack up against your competitors; specifically, 162 who told us their data-driven marketing strategy was very successful or best-in-class. The survey, done in partnership with Ascend2, included large and small companies with a mix of B2B and B2C.

Strategy = success

The biggest takeaway from our survey is that having a solid strategy is the most important element of success, with 86 percent of respondents agreeing. This strategy-first approach can be difficult for some. If that’s the case in your organization, we recommend a day-long strategic planning session. Invite all stakeholders–IT, web, social media, ecommerce, plus the C suite—to analyze your data in depth and capture insights to move forward.

The ability to collect data has improved significantly. Ninety-nine percent of best-in-class marketers say they are getting better at it across channels.

However, the more data a company collects, the more difficult it can be to use that data effectively. The great majority say that implementing a data-driven marketing strategy is complicated.

In order to overcome the complexity, we advise using a tactic that we call incremental innovation. Essentially, investing in one or two small innovations that are tied to your goals and objectives, and then building on the success of those smaller moves in a continual process that moves your program to a higher level over time. This can help you to score quick wins to justify investment in more complex – and more rewarding – strategies later down the line.

The study also found that top marketers focus on integrating data across platforms and using data analysis to drive decision-making as their main objectives. While this is great news, it shouldn’t mean that the other objectives aren’t important.

Your data-driven marketing strategy cannot succeed by pursuing one objective while ignoring all others. Rather, focus on a small number of challenges at a time, working in short cycles to make progress in a round-robin style that helps ratchet up to success without trying to take everything on at once.


When we map leading marketers’ important objectives against critical challenges, we can identify the greatest opportunity for quick results: where the execution challenge is less than the importance of the endeavor.

While most still struggle with integrating data across platforms, using data analysis to drive decision-making is an imperative that outweighs the challenges.

Your next moves

You can use this information to plot your own course of action for using data to create compelling strategies. If you’re not ready to crown your data-driven marketing as best-in-class yet, we’ve identified five steps to get you there:

  1. Identify gaps in your current program that keep you from meeting your goals and objectives—plus doable solutions. For example, an abandoned-cart email campaign could increase revenue.
  2. Figure out what your competition is doing better. Subscribe to your competitions’ emails or use an email archive service that collects these emails. Study and learn from what they do.
  3. Find cases where data can help solve your challenges. Use your ecommerce and web analytics to pinpoint areas where you might persuade customers to convert, for example, by identifying a step in the checkout or registration process where people drop out.
  4. Test to prove ROI. Once you’ve identified use cases for your data, testing will show you whether those efforts are paying off.
  5. Build expertise. Evaluate your team to find missing skills. For example, the team may be strong on creatives but lack data scientists. To fill skills gaps, you might hire, access resources from other departments or contract with an outside agency.

If you’re ready to up your game, our full 2018 Data-Driven Marketing Benchmarks for Success report has more data on how to set goals, overcome data challenges, build internal partnerships, and ensure and communicate about privacy. It’s filled with solid advice and action items that will let you take your place at the top of the data-driven marketing heap.

To download it, click here.  

Marketing Benchmarks for Success