The Evidence Agenda: data-led marketing
by Adam Villa Vercella, Research and Insight Director, What’s Possible Group

Adam lays out the case for being data-led in marketing decision-making. He discusses how to capture the data and extract true insights.

29th July 2021 Read time: 50 minutes

How can you, as a growth-minded marketer, start your journey in data and analytics? You may be in a small team without any data support or lack any data points at all. It’s often said that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Adam Villa Vercella, Research and Insight Director at the What’s Possible Group joined the What’s Possible Community sessions to make a case for data-led marketing.  

Data should sit at the front and centre of everything you’re doing. It’s easy sometimes for measurement to sit at the end, a bit of an after-thought” says Adam.  

I think it’s far more important. Data in its many forms should be informing the decisions we’re making. Without that, you’re kind of just planning or making decisions on hunches.” 

Data can help an organisation know who their customer is and who their customer isn’t. Adam says he’s seen brands work with their ‘ideal customer’ profiles and execute on a campaign that reaches no useful targets. That’s where data and insight teams come in. They can analyse customer data and generate much more precise insights.  

Where to start?

In an ideal world, Adam says that every marketer would have access to a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system. This would house customer data, automatically grab the analytics, and generate insights too.  

However, the most robust CRMs aren’t always affordable. Plus, becoming the biggest storer of customer data doesn’t guarantee your marketing performance. 

When you’re starting out, it’s getting that balance right. You want enough data that you can interrogate beyond age and gender” Adam explained.  

You want to think about other data points that might be interesting. Things like postcodes and geo-demographic profiles can be important too.”  

Adam’s four-step journey to becoming efficient data collectors and insight generators include:   

  1. Find good partners; whether that’s using an agency or integrating a new CRM platform
  2. Get experts around you who really know their stuff 
  3. Start small, make it manageable; know what you want to do with the data
  4. Make sure that whatever data you are collecting, it’s being collected correctly

Focus groups for the win?

So, you’re a brand that wants to know what consumers think about your product, your brand, et al. Focus groups and surveys can be helpful. However, Adam adds a couple of caveats.  

You’ve got to read between the blurred lines of any type of research. If you are writing a survey, what are you trying to learn from these people? How can you ask a question in a slightly indirect way?”  

There’s a real difference between what people think a customer does, and what they actually do” says Adam. Data is typically more informative.  

Adam recommends using data to map where your customer is, take a small budget and perform a test-and-learn campaign. The insights from these campaigns can sometimes be invaluable. Adam affirms that once the true analytics have been assessed, far more targeted marketing with precise budgets can be executed.

There will always be a new customer to target, there will always be another data point to capture” Adam says. Becoming an ‘oil tycoon’ of data is fine, but insights are the prize.  

The art of analysing and packaging up insights for clients is the important work the data teams do. Brands want to know what the data is saying.   

Being paralysed by too much data is also possible. Adam’s advice is to break the data up and prioritise the most valuable data sets before executing a campaign.  

If you’ve got clear customer segments that you understand and are defined clearly, and you know how to target them and speak to them, and you have ways of contacting them or targeting them with marketing, you are doing a pretty good job. Most brands don’t even have that” Adam concludes.