Hello, firstly I would like to introduce myself. I am Jeremy Ong – Jeannette’s partner in VC International.
I am a marketer by profession with knowledge in web and mobile development. I’ve been working with her for the past year and have been coaching her in the technical side of things in marketing. She’s infinitely better than me creatively so we complement each other very well.
Jeannette and many people have the same question and requested that I cover this topic as I have more experience regarding analytics and decision-making on a brand and product level. (I managed brands for two consumer goods company for three years.)
Please bear with me because certain points you read here may be a bit on the technical side. Feel free to connect with me if you have questions though!
An overview based on personal experiences
Marketing is a delicate combination of the arts and the sciences. These two areas have to work hand-in-hand to produce extraordinary results.
A giant advertising and promotion budget does wonders too, but is most definitely not essential. We’ve invested almost 0 marketing dollars for VC International. Our key growth drivers are SEO, email marketing and word of mouth. (Try googling the short tail keyword “vape malaysia”.)
The importance of data
When it comes to making “correct” business decisions, data is important.
Most companies I’ve worked for invest tons and tons of money into consumer research and analytics. To put things into perspective, it is not uncommon for corporations to spend millions on consumer and trade data each and every year.
Is the money well spent? Yes and no.
Corporate brand custodians face immense pressure from internal clients – think the board of directors and head of sales – to justify every single dollar they spend. Thus, corporations tend to splurge on research agencies such as Nielsen and TNS.
Paid data enables corporate marketers to make data-driven decisions based on market and consumer behaviour in a gigantic consumer segment.
Without the data, there is absolutely no way a marketer can confidently say that the marketing campaign they’ve orchestrated helped drive growth.
Data isn’t always accurate
However, personally, I would take the result with a pinch of salt due to the many inefficiencies in the data collection process (despite the ludicrous sum corporations pay).
Driven by the trendy and awesome digital marketing, corporations tend to blindly overvalue vanity metrics like Facebook page likes and to my disgust, impressions/eyeballs for their banner ads.
This is a prime example of being misguided by data.
Data has shown that digital marketing is the future, and corporate marketers dive head first into banner ads and stuff when media agencies propose these as suitable marketing channels.
Every savvy modern marketer would know that the only valuable use for banner ads is remarketing. This a fact that most corporations fail to realise.
They are still burning through insane amounts of advertising money on these ineffective campaigns that contribute almost no business growth.
Jeremy, I’m not interested in how corporations approach marketing. I want to know more about how startups approach marketing!
Slow down, dude/dudette. I understand that corporate marketing is boring as hell. I just feel like I need to encapsulate the vast difference between how corporations and startups approach data.
Corporate vs. Startup/Digital Marketing
Startup and digital marketing is a completely different animal altogether, when compared to corporate marketing.
In this day and age, conversions and product interactions happen via mobile or web. Any startup with a competent programmer and tech-savvy marketer can track user behaviour more accurately than any of the best research agencies combined.
There are tons of tools out there that can help you achieve this even if you’re not a programmer.
Transitioning from a corporate background to starting up my own business, I realised that there were so many hypotheses that I was able to verify through experiments. I could come to conclusions with surety.
It really feels good to be able to say, “I have 99.95% confidence that this email subject title helps drive more sales than this other subject title” when concluding a split test.
The best part is, all these things can be done for free, as long as you are willing to learn.
Tools to collect data
Here is a non-exhaustive list of awesome tools that can help you with your (lack of) data problems:-
- KISSMetrics (paid analytics software)
- Mixpanel (paid analytics software)
- Google Analytics (free and awesome analytics – may be harder to set up)
- Sumome (freemium analytics suite – from heatmaps to content analysis)
- Optimizely (free, easy to use but not very powerful)
- Visual Website Optimizer (Expensive but super powerful)
- Crazyegg (powerful, easy to use – comes with heatmaps)
- Google Trends (underused but super powerful)
These tools should give you more than enough data necessary to run a simple online business profitably. That is, if you have already identified a product market fit.
A product market fit only exists when you’ve accurately defined your target audience, your unique value proposition and the marketing channels with the highest ROIs (low hanging fruit).
As a digital marketer, you have to possess entrepreneur intuition to guide decision-making when there just isn’t enough data.
There are many, many scenarios where intuition will be the key driver for decision-making. It’s impossible for me to cover all of them but I have compiled a few key occasions.
Before your product launches
The only data available to you before a product launch is historical data from similar products. You can also obtain data from top level keyword research and competitor analysis.
This means you can only rely on your entrepreneurial intuition to guide your decisions until you get your first batch of conversions.
When your current marketing channels have -ve ROI rates
Another example of how intuition can help a marketer drive growth is when existing marketing channels have reached a diminishing ROI.
Most marketing channels will reach the point where it is no longer profitable to scale. A marketer has to find other untapped channels of growth through intuition and rigorous experimentation.
If you are a marketer, odds are, there will never be enough data to answer all of your questions. No matter how much data is available for you, it will never be enough for 100% accuracy.
On top of that, most data collected with tools available on the internet are only available in quantitative forms. It is up to the marketer/internet entrepreneur and his or her intuition to run experiments that yield qualitative findings.
The conclusion is that data and intuition are never mutually exclusive in contributing to a business’ growth.
A good marketer can analyse data and execute action plans with that data.
On the other hand, a great marketer must have sound intuition to be able to use that data to clearly define an audience and come up with more experiments.
A great marketer will use data to guide creative production, experiment and never stop learning.