Has marketing ever existed without data? Even in the days of traditional marketing, brands would survey customers and test audiences. Digital marketing took those old methods, flipped them on their heads, and amplified them. Marketers no longer have to set up surveys or request feedback to understand the customer journey. Instead, many are logging into reporting dashboards that can show them at a glance where a customer is along the path.

These days, data-driven marketing is a concept marketers can’t escape and agencies are starting to include it in their list of skills. We teamed up with Ascend2 to figure out just how often agencies were incorporating data-driven strategies for their clients and how they’ll be approaching the year ahead.

We surveyed 149 agency marketing professionals to get their input in order to provide actionable data. This report was built for you to use in your own marketing strategies. Download the full report to see the charts after you read through the highlights below!

Greatest Challenges Utilizing Data in Marketing

The sheer level of data at the hands of marketing teams is mind-blowing. And trying to organize and attribute all that data can be a huge headache. Especially if the tools being used don’t easily send data back and forth or are not integrated fully. This is actually causing a data overload problem for many marketers.

If there is so much data readily built into the tools marketers use, what has been the struggle?

46% of agency marketers said that their greatest challenge was collecting quality customer data. To effectively use it to inform campaigns, the data has to be clean and accurate. When pulling in data points from multiple sources, the information can get muddied. This means marketing teams have a hard time knowing which datasets are accurate.

Overcoming Challenges in Data-Driven Marketing

​​Even faced with these challenges and possibly incomplete data, 96% of marketers agree that their data-driven strategies have been successful. This shows that even when only partially optimizing marketing campaigns, teams are still more successful than when no data is utilized at all. If marketing teams could get access to all the data they need, they’d be able to level-up their analysis and make optimizations across all campaigns.

Results showed that only 8% of marketers use data in their strategies hardly ever or never. This means that the vast majority of marketers are making the best use of the data they have — even if it’s slim!

Opportunities for Greatest Impact

Customer data can be applied throughout the entire marketing funnel and can be as basic or complex as the quality of your data. Of course, name and age can be used to create a more personalized experience for customers through email. But as marketers layer in location data, website activity, and social media engagement they are able to see how customers flow through the funnel from start to finish.

We were curious where along the journey marketers were focusing to create the biggest impact. Surprisingly, most agencies have been using data in ways that drive a better experience for the customer instead of focusing solely on ROI.

The most common responses were creating more personalized experiences for their customers (49%), creating a content marketing strategy (41%), and developing new products and services (36%). In last place was attribution (15%), which might hint at a lack of tools necessary to funnel the data and close the loop. Download the report to see the full breakdown!

The Numbers Don’t Lie

These numbers also tell us that marketers are excited and willing to use the data at their fingertips to the best of their abilities. Optimizing the quality of data would only make this easier.

Which is exactly why more companies are turning to all-in-one marketing automation solutions that incorporate all channels of data into one easy-to-access system. After years of pulling together tools through endless API connections and widgets, marketers ended up with bloated Martech stacks that cost companies time and money. It’s no wonder that many are turning away from that to a simpler solution.

44% of marketers agree that technology innovation has had the largest impact on data-driven marketing in the past year. They’re using marketing automation to streamline tools, collect better data, and even automate certain manual repetitive tasks while maintaining a personalized experience for the customer.

The results suggest that the issue really lies in the lack of tools, not lack of knowledge in how to use the data. 79% said that they were very to somewhat satisfied with the marketing team’s ability to effectively use current customer data. Marketers are already using their minimal data to maximize efforts! Their need is to incorporate better data.

Improving Data-Driven Marketing Strategies

Data-driven marketing seems to be here to stay. So we also asked how agencies were planning on improving their approach in the coming year. Improving data quality (41%) is top of the list for many agencies. And improving personalization (39%) and utilizing more available data (37%) weren’t far behind.

Many organizations are putting their wallet where their mouth is by investing in data-driven initiatives for the year ahead. According to the survey, a majority of marketers expect to see an increase in budgets that are focused on data-driven strategies.

If your company isn’t looking towards data as the future, it might be time to reconsider!

Key Takeaways

Data-Driven Marketing from the Agency Marketer’s Perspective pointed to some obvious trends that we don’t expect are going anywhere soon.

In the coming year, we expect that marketers will be laser-focused on collecting quality data to help optimize and inform strategies. We’ve seen that they’re already taking the data they have to inform current campaigns. But access to the data they really need is limited by the tools and resources in front of them. This means more companies will be looking for solutions.

Companies looking to use data to improve their customer journeys are turning to marketing automation tools to streamline workloads, create better reporting, and better performing campaigns. Does this sound like the future for your team? Get a demo of SharpSpring and let us show you how it can revolutionize your marketing.

Gary Reinhard