4 Mistakes To Avoid When Using Data-Driven Marketing

Using Data-Driven Marketing

Have you ever spent a lot of time analyzing your marketing data- only to realize you were doing it wrong? Or is not knowing what to analyze keeping you from looking at data in the first place?

Using data to steer marketing decisions, strategies and goals is not easy. 91% of senior corporate marketers believe that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions. Yet, 39% say their own company’s data is collected too infrequently or not real-time enough. See, we all know we need to be doing but we aren’t always doing it right.

Below are some of the most common mistakes companies and marketers are making when it comes to data-driven marketing. Read up and prevent this from happening to your team!


girl measuring with her hands

We are no longer a part of a marketing world that allows you to solely make decisions based on years of experience and gut feelings. We are now a part of an industry where tons of data is available and we all need to be using it. When thinking about marketing data and determining its importance, you need to think of data as a credit score. Supposedly a bank would never give you a loan without looking at your credit history and the same approach should be taken when investing in marketing channels. You can’t blindly throw more at a marketing channel (just hoping that it will generate sales will no longer get you by) you have to have the numbers to back up your marketing decisions to prove they align with your sales goals.

Usually, there are two scenarios that play out when you aren’t using data:

  1. You are in a situation where you want data but the channel you are using isn’t providing the analytics you need. 
  2. There is data available but there isn’t just one metric available to define a goal you are trying to accomplish, which makes it confusing. 

Hidden analytics happens a lot with social media platforms, especially newer ones. As they figure our their revenue stream or start testing new products they hold off on giving businesses the insights they need to provide better content and target their audience. This can make you feel like you are driving on a winding mountain road with no lights on- it’s exciting, you think you know what you are doing, if you act confident no one will ask what you’re doing but you are very aware that this would be a whole lot easier if someone would shine some light on the road. That light you need for your marketing strategy are the metrics you aren’t able to get just yet. It would be really easy to either not explore that channel or decide to measure nothing at all but you shouldn’t do either. If your target audience is on that platform then you need to be there too and most of the time social platforms are providing some type of basic numbers that indicate performance. Use those number, they may not provide the exact information you want but they are meaningful and can provide you with much-needed direction.

Then there is the situation where you want to measure something, like customer satisfaction but there isn’t just one metric that can be used to show how good or bad you are doing. There are lots of metrics that can give you insight into your customer’s experience but you also don’t want to get stuck looking at 20 different ones. You are going to want to look at a few metrics that measure performance and drive real action. Not everything you want to accomplish through a marketing channel is going to be measured by a single metric. In fact, if you are only using one metric to determine success you probably aren’t getting the whole picture anyway.

The worst thing you can do is not measure anything. As you read on, there are mistakes you will probably make when you start using marketing data but nothing is as detrimental as ignoring data that gives you insight into customer behavior.


men using a tape measurer to turn off lights

Nothing feels better than pulling up your marketing dashboard and seeing a bunch of big positive numbers and charts that only point up. You give yourself a pat on the back, lean back, put a big smirk on your face and think my job is done. However, those metrics that are making you feel really good right about now probably don’t mean anything. Those are what we call vanity metrics, they look really pretty but they don’t tell us much. Some examples of these metrics you are using could be:

  • Email list growth
  • The number of opened emails 
  • Web traffic
  • Time spent on page
  • Blog views
  • Reach
  • Fan/follower count
guy giving a presentation

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great idea to use these metrics to show improvement but these metrics don’t prove progress, they are not measuring anything and they are not actionable. Metrics are useful when they show how revenue, sales, profit and customer growth are impacted by your marketing strategy- and you can’t tie those four things back to your marketing efforts when you are using vanity metrics.

Now that you are throwing out those vanity metrics and realizing you need some real data it is time to determine what kind of metrics you should be using. So, how do you tell if you have good marketing data?

  1. Do you use metrics to help make decisions? 
  2. Are your marketing goals tied back to these metrics to prove success or failure?
  3. When you see your metrics do you know what you need to do to improve them?
  4. Is there any way your metrics could be good but not show any real results?

Once you start using these four questions to differentiate the good metrics from the vain ones, you will be able to produce some real numbers that will help guide future marketing decisions.

  • Instead of qualifying an email campaign’s success by how many emails were sent or opened you’ll now start to look at an emails click-through-rate. Were any links in the email clicked on? More importantly, did anyone click one that linked back to your website and make a purchase?
  • Instead of viewing time spent on page as a key metric you use website recording technology or heat maps that show the process people go through to get to checkout. If people are abounding your page before converting to a sale this will help you understand where in the sales funnel this is happening. Is the checkout process too long? Is the shopping cart button too hard to find? Knowing the amount of website visitors you have is great but knowing why they are or are not converting is even better.
  • Instead of celebrating high volumes of traffic you focus on finding out where these visitors came from. Are they mobile users? Did they click on your Facebook ad? Did they find you from a blog post mentioning your product? Once you know where they are coming from you will have a better idea of where you should invest your marketing dollars.


a dog helping a man measure a piece of wood

Good marketing data is not only actionable but it is also accessible to your entire team. How can your team know what they need to improve if they have no idea how it is being measured? Once you have pinpointed actionable metrics that provide real insight into your marketing progress, ensure you spend time educating your team. They should be able to find these metrics on their own, know these metrics, understand why they are important and how they tie back to business goals – an added bonus would be when they start using these metrics to determine how their own contributions are impacting marketing and business goals. 


people measuring their office

When we first see low numbers in our marketing dashboard that can be a huge cause of panic but instead of viewing them as numbers that are life ruining or ignoring them all together we need to look at them as teaching tools. Remember, good data is actionable so you should be using analytics to identify opportunities in your marketing strategy. These low numbers show us marketing channels that aren’t working and although we’d rather live in a world where this never happens, it will and we need to be ready to address these issues head on.

Low numbers can show us two things:

  1. Do we need to be investing more resources into this channel?
  2. Is it time to cut ties altogether because another channel shows greater strength?

As much as you’d like to ignore the bad, knowing what isn’t working can guide your teams focus and efforts and ensure you are using both in the most efficient matter. That’s why it is so important to use good metrics. Good metrics actually measure something, they have the ability to show us what is and what is not working in our marketing strategy. When we use data to guide our marketing efforts, we have a way to identify problems quickly and ensure we are not wasting time or money on something that is not working. As hard as it is to acknowledge a channel is not performing it would be a lot harder to explain why you didn’t identify those issues as soon as a negative change took place. Don’t let the fear of having low numbers hold you back from knowing when to make a pivot in your marketing strategy. Even though data shines a light on the good it also reveals the bad just as easily and in return allows you to quickly make the changes needed for continued success.


If you are confidently saying your marketing campaign is going well, you need metrics to back that statement up. And we don’t mean opening up the first page of Google Analytics with all those vanity metrics! We are no longer using the crossed fingers technique when choosing what marketing channels to explore, we are using solid data to steer marketing strategies that show the impact of both revenue and customer growth. McKinsey analyzed more than 250 engagements over five years and revealed that companies that put data at the center of the marketing and sales decisions improve their marketing return on investment by 15 – 20 percent

What metrics are important for your business? What mistakes have you made when measuring data? How has using data-driven marketing helped your business grow?

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