Data is everywhere today. After all, it is the age of big data. But for all the talk about how useful data is, it can actually be quite confusing.

Ever pull up a spreadsheet with thousands of rows and columns, instantly closed it and ran screaming for the hills? You’re a marketer, and marketers are supposed to be in the creative field … right? Ultimately, the answer is yes. However, marketing is becoming an increasingly data-driven field. Having the right data in place can help give the creative aspects of marketing a boost and empower marketers to take a data-driven approach to their marketing strategy.

So why aren’t we doing this already? The main problem is there’s too much data available, far more than any person can reasonably grasp and make sense of. Quite ironically, the antidote to information overload in the age of big data is actually data itself. But not just any data – data that’s organized in a way that makes it easy to view, drill down, understand, analyze and take action on it. In other words, analytics.

Why Data is the Modern Marketer’s Best Friend

Whether you consider yourself a data-savvy marketer or a creative marketing hero, data needs to become your best friend. The best modern marketers think of themselves as data-driven marketers, relying on data for all that they do because it can help with everything from identifying new opportunities and understanding performance to determining the best areas on which to focus to achieve desired results.

Although many marketing decisions have some sort of creative element to them, it’s important to recognize how the right data helps marketers arrive to the conclusions that make those decisions. Furthermore, having quick access to data that’s organized in a way that makes it easy to derive insights can help marketers (a) make confident decisions, (b) make those decisions quickly, and (c) put those decisions into action right away. This results in making valuable improvements to parts of your marketing strategy (i.e. ad spend, newsletter, blog, social media – all while maintaining a high level of productivity).

How to Use Data to Your Advantage to Avoid Information Overload

Now that you know data should be a marketer’s best friend, how can you make this friendship work? Here are five starters:

    1. Set goals based on business objectives: Make sure you and your stakeholders are on the same page and have a clear understanding of what goals you need to achieve. You need to establish how marketing fits into the bigger picture for your business. Once you have those goals in place, you can use them to make sure you track the right data and ensure everything marketing does rolls up to those objectives.
    2. Identify what data you need to track progress against those goals: While establishing goals is always a good first step, you also need to be able to track your progress towards those goals. This is where data comes to play. Spend some time understanding what data you need, including what data points from which data sources and how all of that should be put together in order to understand how you stack up.
    3. Invest in an analytics tool: Arguably the most important step, investing in an analytics tool will help you glean insights from the data and understand what the raw numbers are telling you in order for the data to do you any good. If you’ve spent years in the wide world of data, you can probably do this on your own. But as a fellow marketer, I’m guessing most of you haven’t. Even if you have experience with data, that type of analysis takes a lot of time. Instead, you can invest in an analytics tool that can not only do all the headache-inducing data analysis for you, but also put it all together in beautiful looking reports that allow you to interact with the data and drill down based on different inputs and timeframes.
    4. Use your analytics tool regularly: Don’t fall into the shiny new tool syndrom trap, meaning don’t invest in analytics just because it looks pretty. Invest in an analytics tool you will use regularly and get in there as often as you can so that you can (a) become a power user and understand how to slice and dice all the data to understand different views and inputs, and (b) keep a pulse on the data at all times so you know what kind of impact (positive or negative) different efforts have on your program and can react accordingly.
    5. Develop an action plan: So you’re using your analytics tool regularly, and you know your marketing program performance like the back of your hand. Great! Now it’s time to put all that intelligence to work. To do so, develop an action plan that dictates what you should focus on, how long you should wait to understand what’s an actual trend in the data vs. what’s just a blip, and how you will actually put any findings into action.

Don’t Let Data Overwhelm You

It goes without saying, the amount of data available today is overwhelming. But in order to succeed as a modern marketer, you need to use that data to your advantage. Since you can’t just ignore it, find a way to understand and learn from your data without hitting information overload. The answer is analytics. When you have the right type of analytics in place, you’ll not only avoid information overload, data will quickly become your new best friend and with it you’ll act more strategically, improve productivity, and even boost creativity.