In anticipation of the final season of Mad Men kicking off later this month, I’ve been reflecting on how different the landscape is for marketers in the year 2014. I’d love if my days looked like Don Draper’s — developing creative ad campaigns in the morning and then rewarding myself for a job well done with a “three martini” lunch. Unfortunately, times have changed and now creativity is only half of the battle.
In today’s fast-paced environment, the efficiency of our marketing efforts relies almost entirely on our ability to turn data into insights that will direct our campaign efforts—in other words, our success depends on our data IQ. A recent survey showed 87 percent of marketers rely on data to do their jobs well. All marketers need it, and the best marketers have it in spades.
Pairing your creative intuition with a high data IQ has never been more important. Here’s why:
1. Data validates the “crazy” ideas.
Marketers are paid to explore new territory, creatively, and are continually searching for an out-of-the-box idea that will catch the attention of their target audience. But without assurance that such strokes of brilliance will result in positive ROI for our company, we often get stuck making the “safe” bet instead of pushing marketing strategies to their limits.
Being a modern marketer, I rely on real-time results of every activity undertaken, which allows me try new things and take more risks. When I have data, I can confidently say yes to the zany ideas that come from my team, because I can watch the idea’s success (or failure) in real time. If I see that things aren’t working I can change the strategy within minutes. On the flip side, if an initiative takes off, I can allocate more resources to it and mirror that campaign for other targets and continue testing.
2. Marketing success leads to overall success.
Marketing plays a huge role in the success of any company. Consider that potential customers must first be familiar with your brand, and leads must be generated before a sale can be closed. To ensure these initiatives operate like a well-oiled machine, marketers should use every piece of information at their fingertips. By leveraging the data behind every tactic, marketers can forget “what works and what doesn’t” and start living by “what works and what works better.”
I’ve seen marketers increase their revenue by 20–30 percent, year-over-year, simply because they relied on data to change and improve their strategies. The best results are only possible when you have the information to optimize the work you’re doing.
3. Compensation is invariably tied to positive ROI.
Data doesn’t just help you do your job better—it helps you keep it and move up the ladder while you’re at it. Whether part of the job description or the bulk of a bonus structure, ROI is increasingly considered in compensation plans today.
Knowing your data keeps you in control in more ways than one. Without a high data IQ, marketers forfeit the ability to drive their own compensation. On the other hand, a high data IQ offers more benefits and a bigger paycheck by driving the type of success that can ultimately boost your compensation.
Sure, Don Draper’s career of high-stakes creativity and three-martini lunches sounds intriguing. But I would never trade my data for a 1960’s pencil skirt and everything that goes with it. I don’t need screenwriters to write my success. As long as I’ve got data in my hands, I’ll write it myself.