Content Strategy

How Can You Achieve Actionable Insights from Your Marketing Data?

By Lauren McMenemy on January 14, 2019

Stop letting your data gather dust, and put it into action!

As marketers in today's content-powered, digitally-driven world, we sometimes face so many stats, figures, and essential metrics that we risk analysis paralysis. How many times have you stared at a spreadsheet or dashboard, hoping that the magic answer will just appear? It's important to not just have the metrics, but to put them into motion.

Actionable insights are several steps up from just collecting data. They come from analysis of marketing data to discover performance, but then go further by inferring strategic and tactical next steps. True insights come from an informed analysis of the data and are tied back to business objectives to prove ROI. And the best insights, of course, come from setting goals before you start collecting the data. Tools are great in telling you what; you need to take the next step by using the what to get your why. As you prepare to embark on a specific content campaign, think about your data not just as what you could discover along the way, but in terms of what you need to know before you even take a single step.

Looking Past 'Likes' and Vanity Metrics

When a marketer first gets that aha moment and starts to track the performance of their content, they'll often turn to the simple and straightforward marketing data: likes, shares, followers, impressions. These are great metrics for showing customer engagement with content and can be optimized for in real time, but they don't really prove much beyond people like this article better than that one.

That's why these easy metrics are often referred to (with a sneer) as "vanity metrics". They're not valuable data, you get told. No CEO is ever going to care that we grew one hundred followers on LinkedIn this month when there's a 30% increase in profit target to hit. Instead, look at metrics that attribute revenue to a marketing source (marketing qualified leads)-for example, number of adds to cart, demo requests, web inquiries. This information includes anything you can view in your CRM and confidently know the contact came through marketing activity.

But don't discount the vanity/leading metrics. They can be great at-a-glance ways to update on engagement. The best approach to marketing data is to match your leading metrics to ROI metrics to get the best of both worlds. Have the hard proof that your work is driving quality leads that convert, but have the awareness and impressions reports to give upper leadership a quick peek at the big picture.

Woman with giant chess pieces

Image attribution: kevin laminto

And yet, all data and information are just numbers-data in the raw form, information in the processed and aggregated form. Don't confuse reporting for analysis. You can produce as many reports as you want, and those reports could feature pretty diagrams and fantastic dashboards that get the CMO excited, but that doesn't give any insight. It gives information. It's through interpreting this information that we get true insight.

Glean Your Insights, and Take Action!

The whole point to actionable insights is that you can move ahead with the next steps based on what they tell you. These insights help you to drive business outcomes, informing your marketing strategy and matching what you're doing to the business's overall performance. This is how you get more budget and more impact.

Without the action, it's just another buzzword. Allen Gannett, the founder of the marketing insights company TrackMaven and now the Chief Strategy Officer of Skyword, spoke to the ability to glean insightful and actionable information from your reporting stack as one of the biggest components to achieving content marketing success. In an interview with Openview Gannett explained that his aim was to offer marketers a tool that would approach analytics predictively and proactively, so that the information being collected could be used to inform and set the course for any upcoming strategic decisions.

"We want to consume all your marketing data, but not just give you reports and visualizations and dashboards. We want to actually tell you what you should be doing differently based on the data," Gannett says. "We provide the next layer-a machine version of a data analyst who can tell you which content you should write, which ads you should run on social, and all kinds of other actionable details."

Use Marketing Data to Drive Wise Decisions

Using measurement to test and learn about your content performance is the best way to improve your strategy and your outcomes-but you need to make sure what you're measuring is worthwhile and useful. Marketing data can prove that content and social drives revenue if you approach it in the right way. Start with why. Why do you need to know this? Why is it important to your strategy? What impact will a change in this data have on your business?

marketing insights

Image attribution: Geoffroy Baud

Data should be an asset to your business, not a burden. Make sure you don't just collect it, but analyze it and then put the insights into action. Use these insights to remove doubt, inspire your teams, and secure budget and trust. Let your insights guide you to create the right content and invest your social budget wisely.

David Kamm, iBeam Marketing Consulting Services, writes: "Be very clear about how specific metrics being tracked contribute to one or more business goals of the organization...When metrics are both insightful and actionable, the team monitoring them can learn something new by watching the data, something they didn't really know before. And the team can make real-world marketing adjustments based on the data (e.g. new content or campaign changes), with reasonable confidence that these changes will impact the metrics that matter."

Actionable insights do so much more than just offer some impressive looking charts. They manage to tell a story with data, put your performance in context by comparing it with competitors, and contain action items that help you work towards meeting business objectives.

And remember, you don't need to invest huge amounts of money or hire in-house analysts of external consultants with years of experience to get these insights working. Using a marketing analytics software makes getting actionable insights a breeze. The hard part, then, is creating your plan of action. Go get 'em, tiger.

To learn more about Skyword360, the leading content marketing platform, can help you create quality content experiences and gain strategic insights, request a demo.

Featured image attribution: Greg Raines


Lauren McMenemy

Lauren is a storyteller. A journalist by trade, she has worked in agencies, in-house and in the media over her 20-year career. She's worked as an editorial strategist and content creator for some of the world's biggest brands, setting up processes and guidelines, advising on planning, auditing content, building loyal audiences, leading social campaigns, writing blogs and flyers and presentations - pretty much handling the stuff with words. She was born in Australia, has resided in London for the last decade, and writes fiction on the side. You’ll often find her grinning like a fool at a rock concert.