Sometimes marketing can feel like taking a shot in the dark. Sure, you may be familiar with all the latest best practices and channels for reaching consumers, but you never really know how a campaign is going to resonate with your audience.

That’s why we worked with Kieran Flanagan, VP of Marketing and Growth at HubSpot, to create a webinar on becoming a data-driven marketer. In it, he explained what data you need to collect on your customers and how to acquire it, as well as tips for spotting growth opportunities.

In this post, we’ll summarize Kieran’s main points, and share some valuable Q&A’s to help you improve your marketing strategy. Let’s get to it!

How to Become a Data-Driven Marketer: 4 Main Key Points

The question many might ask is, what does it mean for marketing to be data-driven? In short, the answer is that this strategy involves gathering enough information about customers to make informed decisions about how to present your brand and products.

The scope and depth of the data you’ll need to collect will depend on your goals and what you’re marketing. Kieran recommends thinking about this in terms of opportunity cost — you want to minimize the risk of your decision without losing too much time gathering information.

We can learn from the past mistakes of giants such as Marks & Spencer. It invested millions in redesigning its website, only to find that its conversion rate dropped. A data-driven approach, in this case, would have conducted minimal viable tests and gauged whether the design direction was an effective one.

On the flip side, businesses can also become overly reliant on data due to its easy access via many excellent tools. It’s easy to get stuck and delay important decisions because you want to gather as much information as possible, even if it’s not highly relevant to your business. 

That’s why Kieran advocates for limiting the metrics you track to those that are absolutely necessary. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at four key points from Kieran’s webinar on how to become a data-driven marketer.

1. Realize That Data-Driven Means Customer-Driven

When examining data, Kieran often looks for common paths, such as exit and entry pages. However, what he values more than quantitative research is the simple act of talking to his customers. In fact, that’s what he understands being data-driven to mean: becoming an expert on your audience.

The balance between trusting your gut feelings and relying on data can be hard to achieve in web design. However, just because you can obtain all the metrics doesn’t mean you should. It can be an excellent way to de-risk your choices, but it’s worth remembering that data can often be subject to interpretation.

For example, a high bounce rate is one of the most common reasons why companies decide to rebuild their websites. However, this can also indicate that visitors are able to quickly navigate to the right page and find what they need. 

This is why it’s important to actually talk to your customers and understand their experiences, as the metrics alone won’t show you their true motivations.

2. Understand the Art and Science of Marketing

Many freelance web designers want to increase their leads and attract new clients. Kieran suggests you can achieve these goals through content marketing, which can leverage data in unique ways.

For instance, you can reverse-engineer online communities such as Reddit or Quora to see what topics are the most upvoted. Then, you can apply that information to your business needs and start producing similar content that you already know resonates with many users.

Kieran sees marketing as a hybrid of art and science. Apart from analytics, you need to be able to tell inspirational and educational stories. They become an integral part of your brand. Still, even the most fascinating narrative won’t be effective unless you fully understand your customer base.

3. See the Bigger Picture

Kieran recommends focusing on smaller pieces of data rather than becoming overwhelmed by too much information. Only then will you be able to see the bigger picture and reach your goals. 

For instance, if you have a small company that only brings in ten customers per month, you might want to focus on different metrics than a large company that’s juggling dozens of clients. 

In a simple business model where customers sign up for a free trial, it’s essential to track conversions. Depending on the results, you might decide that it’s best to increase traffic to your website and focus on those metrics for the next three months.

Kieran also recommends bucketing data into two groups: those necessary to make a decision and those that you can immediately action (such as increasing traffic to your website). 

Making scorecards for the latter category will keep you focused on smaller goals and track your weekly progress. Eventually, you should be able to identify the core metrics that will help you grow your business.

4. Rely On the Power of User Testing

As part of his work at HubSpot, Kieran runs a lot of fascinating experiments to examine user behavior. He talks about how a simple test of Call to Action (CTA) colors can reveal your audience’s characteristics. In experiments such as this, it’s important not to focus on the results so much as to try and understand users’ wishes.

A simple way for smaller businesses to follow this approach would be to test copy and landing pages. Some visitors prefer one aesthetic over another, so conducting research can show you why certain people gravitate towards different content types.

As always, Kieran stresses the importance of talking to your customers. Freemium type businesses can especially benefit from this practice as it can help them understand how much value they need to provide with their free product. You can also ask your audience about the features they would be willing to pay for in a premium version.

Q&A: Advice from Kieran Flanagan on Data-Driven Marketing

Here are some of the insightful questions our viewers asked Kieran:

Q: How do you test the value proposition with data?

Kieran recommends testing through copy. If you have a low budget, you can use tools such as Facebook Ads to build specific audiences that mimic your own. If you’re testing directly on your website, you should split test pages into several sections. You will then be able to see how visitors interact with different elements and conclude which value proposition coverts better.

Q: How do you bring the data culture to the entire team?

Having a shared dashboard can help as the whole team will be able to see the same metrics. Think of it as speaking the same language across all departments. Always remember that your data needs to have a purpose, which should be to serve the customer. To have a data and testing culture means becoming customer experts.

Q: What questions should you ask to become an expert in your customer base?

A smart tip is to research your competitors. See what you do better than them, and what areas you should improve. Ask yourself what ‘TedX value’ you can provide that others don’t. Also, you should understand your marketing personas and know who you’re targeting.

Kieran also recommends reaching out to the top 4 percent of your customers who generate the most revenue. Some of his favorite questions to ask are:

  • If we took this product off the market tomorrow, what would you miss?
  • How did you solve this problem before purchasing our product? 
  • If you had to convince a friend, how would you recommend our product? 

He also suggests that tech companies should talk to freemium users to find out why they haven’t converted into paying customers.

Becoming a Customer-Driven Designer

Now that you know how to become a data-driven marketer, follow Kieran on his Twitter account and check out his podcast for more useful resources. You can also refer to the information available on the HubSpot blog and start growing your business today.

We enjoyed talking to Kieran in this webinar. We love his passion for customers and his refreshing approach to data. It’s time to put his philosophy into practice and start with your list of actionable goals. If in doubt, always think of your audience and how you can serve them.

How do you use data in marketing as a web designer? Let us know in the comments section below!