A Data-First Approach to Marketing ROI

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
October 7, 2021

We sat down to talk with Janet Driscoll Miller about proven strategies for solving the marketing ROI puzzle. Janet is the president and CEO of the award-winning digital marketing firm, Marketing Mojo, and the author of Data-First Marketing: How to Compete and Win in the Age of Analytics.

1. Can you give us a bit of background on yourself – your experience and the work you focus on today?

I started working in digital marketing nearly twenty-five years ago and I started my agency, Marketing Mojo, sixteen years ago. In that time, I have helped companies from small businesses to large corporations fix their analytics issues. Today I mainly focus on SEO, digital advertising, and data analytics.

2. You recently published a book titled Data-First Marketing: How to Compete and Win in the Age of Analytics. What inspired you to write it?

After running the agency for years, I’ve seen all sorts of challenges with digital marketing. However, one of the most important—and frequent—issues we see is a disconnect between marketing and the rest of the organization. 

All too often marketing has its own metrics, but these success metrics don’t always map back to the organization’s business goals. This book is about understanding those goals and setting up strategy and campaigns to work towards those business goals and ensuring proper measurement from the start of campaigns.

3. What is data-first marketing? How would you define it?

Data-first marketing is about being more than data-driven: it’s about ensuring that data is at the forefront of all of your marketing decisions. And it’s not just data—it’s ensuring that marketing is measuring to the business’ goals in addition to other metrics that marketing may prioritize.

4. Why, in your opinion, is data-first marketing so important?

Most marketers really all have the same goal: to drive leads and sales for our companies. But all too often business goals, like revenue growth, are not directly tied to marketing measurement. 

This leads to a major disconnect between what the company most desires (revenue generation) and what marketing is often left measuring (perhaps conversion). As marketers, we need to ensure that we have access to data and metrics that can help us accomplish the business goals so we can measure our true success.

5. You mention that a lot of “data-first marketing” today doesn’t go far enough, why is that?

I think most marketers today think of themselves as “data-driven”, but just being driven by data isn’t enough. It’s also about the specific data you’re using with your measurement. 

For example, measuring followers for the company’s LinkedIn profile page may be a metric marketing uses internally to measure success at driving followers, but how do these followers impact revenue? Ultimately, we have to measure to the business’ goals, not just our own marketing milestones.

6. What is preventing organizations from embracing a true data-first approach?

Access to the right data is often the challenge. For example, not every sales organization shares its CRM data with marketing. Finance may not share contract values with marketing. 

Those are just two examples of measurements that would help marketing determine the ultimate success or failure of its campaigns at meeting the business’ goals. So it’s imperative that marketing leadership form relationships with other organizational leaders to attain access to the data marketing needs.

7. What are the first steps a company should take if it wants to embrace data-first marketing?

The first step is to take an assessment and see where you are today. In Data-First Marketing: How to Compete and Win in the Age of Analytics we have a full assessment, but we also offer a mini-assessment on the book’s website. 

By assessing where you are today on the data-first marketing maturity model, you’ll be able to pinpoint areas that need improvement. From there you can build a plan that will take you where you want to be on the maturity model. 

8. Where does ROI fit into the picture of data-first marketing? Why is ROI important?

For any company, ROI is everything. And ultimately ROI is what the company needs from marketing. What’s the point of marketing if you take a loss on what you sell? Return on investment is critical. 

But to truly understand ROI, we have to measure beyond just a conversion. We have to measure all the way to the sale and beyond so that we understand not only ROI but also lifetime value.

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