Let Your Data Guide Your Creative

get-the-job-doneOr, more specifically: let your data give you direction and structure, and use your creativity to add quality and value. If you’re a digital marketer, that probably seems like common sense, and you’re probably thinking, “I already know this. Why am I wasting my time?” If you come from an offline background you might be thinking, “That’s bullshit! Why am I wasting my time?” Go then, this post is obviously beneath you.

So, what is the point?

If you’re a digital marketer who interacts with non-digital marketers and business people, this is often a hard conversation to have. Admittedly, I’m writing this post as a way to organize my thoughts on this matter, and I thought it might be helpful for you, regardless of your perspective.

It’s NOT bullshit, it’s common sense!

This part of the post is for everyone except the digital marketing types. If you’re a digital marketer, skim away.

For a very long time marketing has been about telling a story, connecting with your audience, and most importantly, inspiring an action. That part hasn’t changed. What has changed is that we no longer have to guess, or rely on our “decades of marketing experience” to implement the most effective mechanisms for accomplishing these goals. We have data, and if we’re not using it, shame on us.

If you’ve ever sold or purchased marketing services that worked, what did you use to determine that success? Maybe you knew how many widgets were sold before the marketing campaign and compared that to how many were sold during a similar period of time after the campaign. If the proceeds from the additional widgets sold were significant enough  to pay for the marketing costs AND deliver some profit, you can objectively determine that the campaign was successful, right? That’s just common sense.

This is where we get to the point.

So the next question should be, did the marketing spend produce a maximum return on investment? A lot of buyers and sellers of marketing services are content to know that the “campaign was successful.” They point to those additional widgets sold, or that growth in awareness, and they think, “That was some great creative, look at how effective it was! I’ll buy/sell this again because I know it worked.”

Digital marketers take a similar approach, but after a successful campaign our thoughts are more like this:

Wow, that was great! I wonder if we could have done better. Let’s look at the data to see which elements of the campaign produced the most clicks. Oh, it was that big ugly red button again. Let’s move that to the top of our email/page/ad and see if we can get more people to click on it next time.

After the second run of the same campaign, with modifications implemented as a result of our data analysis:

Interesting! The fact that we moved the “inspirational picture”, and the “witty content” to a less prominent position doesn’t seem to have negatively affected the results. And look, now that we put that big ugly red button at the top it got twice as many clicks. Holy smokes, with the same marketing investment we were able to sell 100% more widgets than we did last time.

We should TOTALLY  let our data give us direction and structure, and use our creativity to add quality and value from now on.

So you see, this is not bullshit, it’s common sense.

P.S. How many of you clicked one of those buttons up there? Don’t lie, I already know the answer.

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Tim Staines is a marketing strategist with a background in search engine optimization and business. Connect with him on twitter @Staines


  1. Data collection is easy. Its everywhere. Making sense of and implementing a strategy based on its very insights is the challenge.

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