An Agile Approach to Data-Driven Marketing

March 2, 2016

A 2012 study by the Corporate Executive Board presented in the Harvard Business Review cited a shocking statistic: of the 800 Fortune 1000 marketers interviewed, on average, they only relied on data for 11 percent of customer-related marketing decisions. Further, more than half relied only on previous experience or their own intuition.

But this type of “gut feel” marketing can be disastrous, and it borders on inexcusable given the abundance of data in circulation. To cite just one example, Tropicana used intuition to redesign its popular orange juice packaging in 2009. What followed was a barrage of consumer complaints that the new design made it look like a generic product, leading to a 20 percent drop in sales, forcing the company to return to its original design.

Yet, too often, when someone suggests a more data-driven approach, some marketing executives’ eyes glaze over because they believe that it will involve a massive expenditure and will only result in a 100-page report containing few actionable insights.

Enter the “Agile” approach.

The Agile approach was created by software developers as a means for getting products out faster. The Agile approach values four main concepts:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

It is concepts 1, 3 and 4 that are especially relevant to data-driven marketing:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

For data-driven marketing to be effective, there must be continuous dialogue between marketers and data scientists/IT. Traditional siloes will simply impede the process of developing an effective marketing strategy.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Listen to your customers and learn from what they tell you. Use those insights to inform further marketing. You can use tools such as SSI’s or Toluna’s QuickSurveys to target specific customer profiles and gain actionable insights from those surveys. You can also use micro-surveys through Google Consumer Surveys to gain quick snapshot feedback.

Responding to change over following a plan

All the data in the world will be meaningless if you fail to take action on its insights. Planning is necessary, but be willing to change your plan when the data tells you to.

There are a multitude of books and articles that discuss the Agile method. Educate yourself on this important topic, follow its recommendations, and watch your ROI increase substantially.