Six tips for improving the effectiveness of your campaigns (without access to advanced data)

24 February 2016

Data is omnipresent. It's in the news. It's on the airwaves. It's even on motorway billboards. It's generated in bulk by the devices in our hands, on our wrists, and in our kitchens. And it's never been easier and cheaper to store and analyse.

It's no wonder marketers are excited. We're told that, through data, we can know all about our customers and their behaviour. Through data we can plan, run, and measure more effective campaigns. Through data we can become better marketers. Nay, better people.

Metia is at the forefront of this evolution. We have specialists who can help you draw insight from pools of big data. But before marketers get too carried away it's best we catch our breathe. Because data alone doesn't necessarily equal success.

The challenge with data is in its interpretation. Such analysis – be it to understand past results, or to model future scenarios – requires detailed knowledge of statistical techniques. That's why we have statisticians and data scientists. When the unschooled interpret data, simple mistakes can be made – like confusing correlation with causation. A mistake that can have big consequences, as Google – and countless others – have found out.

So data alone is no silver bullet. Expert care and attention is needed to convert data into useful, actionable insight. But not all marketers have a statistician or data scientist to hand – or the resources to find one. So how can the average marketer be expected to run successful campaigns without access to data experts?

My advice: make use of statistically sound insight wherever you can, but don't be afraid to trust your experience. The fundamentals of marketing have changed little over the years – the major changes are related to the channels through which we market. At its most basic level, the aim of all marketing remains to '[induce] behavioural change on a short-term or permanent basis' [1]. And that can still be achieved with a solid, well-targeted plan and a great creative execution.

With that in mind, here are six tips on how a disciplined approach can drive success.

(Image credit: r2hox on flickr.)

1. Be explicit with your goals from the start. At the start of any campaign, grab a whiteboard and write down exactly who you are trying to target, and exactly what you want them to do or think. Focus on outcomes. Don't be distracted by buzzwords or vanity metrics. Be crystal clear with your team on what you're trying to achieve. This obvious but – in my experience – frequently ignored step will help ensure your goals are front and centre in everyone's minds throughout your project.

2. Trust common sense. When planning your tactics place common sense at the heart of everything. This starts with your audience. Make sure you understand their challenges and motivations, and that you address these in your marketing. For every idea, ask yourself: 'is this likely to engage my audience and provoke the reaction I want from them?' If the answer is no, head back to the drawing board. It might upset a few people, but it's the only way. You need to trust your instinct and experience at this stage, and staying disciplined is key.

3. Create a killer hook. Great campaigns are built on ideas that capture the imagination of your audience, but creating these ideas is always easier said than done. Don't despair, though. There are a number of ways to sharpen your creative instinct, to help ideas come freely when the pressure is on. My favorite suggestion: read James Webb Young's seminal 'A Technique for Producing Ideas'. It wraps a simple framework around creating ideas, and will change the way you think about creativity.

4. Understand how you'll measure success. Once your tactics are agreed, choose the metrics that will best demonstrate success. Create a streamlined 'basket' of KPIs that will demonstrate whether you've met your goals. The Office for National Statistics use a similar approach to calculate the Retail Price Index, selecting a range of household products through which to track inflation. Take your cue from them: focus on the metrics that matter; set all others side.

5. Set SMART targets (and don't shy away from them). Once your KPIs are defined, set targets. Have the courage to be ambitious, but make sure they fit the SMART criteria (being Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Share your targets with your team, and be explicit with your expectations: 'this is what will equal success; anything else is failure.'

6. Don't be afraid to fail. It's a cliché, but all great progress is born from failure. Don't be afraid to fail with marketing – just make sure you understand why you failed, and how you can improve. While data clearly has a critical role to play in measuring success, don't be distracted by the noise. Your campaign should be based around clear outcomes, so ultimate success can often be easy to gauge.

We can help make your marketing more effective, whether you're drowning in data, or not. Get in touch.

[1] Gordon, Ross. "Critical social marketing: definition, application and domain." Journal of Social Marketing 1.2 (2011): 82-99.