Why Every Manager Needs to Understand Marketing Data

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about interpreting blog traffic like a boss to set clear and attainable goals. Since then I’ve had some responses criticizing why someone who’s an account manager, business strategist, or client services director would need to understand that level of marketing data.

Truth is, that post was actually written with my marketing director/marketing strategist persona in mind! I can understand having a specialist pull these measurements and create visualizations with Excel or some other tool. However, when it comes to synthesizing this data and communicating the implications of it with a client, I’m talking to the manager or strategist on the account.

Gathering the data outlined is a pretty mechanical process and, while it requires a strong eye for detail, it doesn’t require substantial skills beyond that.

This is where client facing skills and data interpretation intersect. Being able to understand data will help throughout the phases of a client relationship. Let’s go through a few ways understanding data can seriously help managers and strategists.

Using Data to Build Retainers

When scoping a project, it’s common to ask a prospect what they need help with. We might ask them for specific goals, or what kind of work they are straight up neglecting. At this point, we need a current state of the union to determine what’s being done, what’s working, what’s not and what’s being left behind.

Based on trends of efforts that are working or not we can see give educated guesses as to how our efforts can augment their current strategies. The more we understand how to pick apart trends the more accurately we can communicate how much our efforts will help.

Keeping conversations centered around data will show good clients that we aren’t going to make empty promises. However, if a client keeps pushing back on how data isn’t that important I’d be nervous about continuing to work with them. If they know more about trends than hard numbers, they might be too much of an expert for their own good.

Basing a Retainer Off Data Will Help Maintain Client Relationships

Okay, we didn’t make any blind agreements or get pushed into promising 10,000 new visitors per month (or some other arbitrary number). We’re basing our goals off their current strategy and the return on it.

We also factored in some current events into their trending metrics, like:

  • Big name Twitter profiles sharing a piece of their content
  • Syndication starting on a major industry outlet
  • Exposure from news and local journals from an award the client won recently

Now we have a clear idea of how much effort is generating which results. Even better, we’re able to quantify it on an annotated chart showing trends over time with a few different trend lines. Now we’re enabled to confidently say “Based on your current efforts and return, we think our efforts will put your projected growth somewhere in this region.” All while pointing to a specific and measurable part of a timeline.

Keeping everyone on the same page is achievable when trends are clearly identified and our contribution to them is accurately anticipated. This positions us to gives to supply metrics we’re very confident we can achieve and stretch goals that are possible. Read: stretch goals should be challenging, not unattainable.

Now when it comes time to discuss next year’s retainer we’ve put ourselves in a good spot to get that contract signed!

Marketing Teams Will Experience Less Burnout

From the very beginning, we’ve gone out of our way to identify what efforts are contributing to what results. This helps us tremendously in focusing our efforts on strategies that will pay off. Note: keeping goals in mind won’t completely solve burnout issues, but it’s a good start and can help in clearly identifying roles and making sure the right person is doing the right work.

This will allow teams to see how their contribution is impacting a client’s marketing. The payoff of seeing efforts assist in some way is pretty substantial. Likewise, the opposite is true. Working hard on marketing efforts that aren’t going anywhere is discouraging.

Luckily for us, basing our strategies on data will allow us to avoid this kind of pitfall.

I feel like this article may have been a little “eat your vegetables-ish”, and I get that it can be hard to slow conversations down and keep initiatives based on numbers. Keeping data in mind from the very beginning takes preparation and it’s something I’m always working on improving in my own meetings. Sometimes you need to say “I don’t know” when asked a question that requires some serious trending research. The idea here is to not get backed into a corner, and the thing is, clients don’t

The idea here is to not get backed into a corner, and the thing is, clients don’t want to back you into a corner. They just want real answers and real results. Taking a step back and doing some research before rushing to answer their pain points will be a tremendous help down the line.