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Marketing research has been getting smarter over the last 20 years. With the flood of digital data collection social media has enabled, marketers have gotten savvier about collecting and using their marketing data. By 2012, 88% of marketers said they used a third-party company for market research, with more than $3 trillion spent managing that data across channels. Most of that was a waste, and marketing information management is the fix for that.

In this article, we're going to introduce the concept of marketing information management and explain how it's relevant to your digital marketing strategy. You'll read about how this is actually a return to normal and how rates of third-party data collection are plummeting as brand managers move their market research back in-house, the way it used to be. Finally, we'll go over what marketing information management is, how it works, and how you can put it to use reshaping your relationship with the targets of your brand messaging. 

What is Marketing Information Management?

Marketing information management is the business of gathering, organizing, storing, sharing, making sense out of, and efficiently reporting marketing data. This used to be a popular thing to outsource to data companies, which would charge consulting fees for selling you actionable insights from which you'd make marketing decisions. 

The days of using outside companies for this are ending. New technologies have made data collection easier than ever before, and deep learning systems have brought sophisticated analysis out of the cold and back under the roofs of the brands themselves.

In a way, this is like rolling back the clock to how things were done before the internet. In the old days, a brand marketer would assess internal data, such as sales numbers, and then develop insights from that. From about the late '90s on, this was more and more something you paid experts to do for you. Now, with more powerful marketing intelligence software and complex learning hierarchies in a reasonable price range, brands are returning to analyzing data about customer behavior internally.

What Is Data Driven Marketing?

Data-driven marketing is the practice of fine-tuning your marketing approaches based on reliable information you've gathered. On the surface, this seems like an obvious thing to do, but it's harder than it sounds. Using increasingly sophisticated data analysis during the early stages of your marketing campaign, you have the ability to drill down to a very granular picture of who's following your brand and how best to reach them.

Say you have a manager who wants to reach out to potential vendors, and the target for your email circular is at least a 50% open rate. Your job is to get at least half of the email recipients to open up the email and read your message. Your data reveals that a small number of your social media followers are very active in sharing and replying to your messages. You choose to focus on sending emails to them, and you wind up with a very high open rate and a higher-than-expected rate of sharing and responses.

In this case, your mastery of the data has given you actionable insight and suggested a way forward. By acting on the types of marketing information you have available, you can take the insights you've gained into your audience's behavior and use them to hit high-performance indicators. (Pro tip: performance marketing platforms can help track this.)

A version of this has always been present, even at a very low level. Brick-and-mortar retailers knew to put turkeys on sale before Thanksgiving, for example. When marketing efforts moved to an online marketing environment, third-party data companies stepped up to gather data and make sense of it for their clients. For many years this was the only game in town, but lately the increasing ability to parse data in-house has shifted the balance back to the marketing teams themselves.

How To Use MIM To Inform Your Data Driven Marketing Strategy

The heart of a modern marketing information management strategy is to collect customer data and information about consumer behavior from the usual data sources and put it all together in a single marketing information management system for analysis. This gives you a one-stop shop for evaluating and interpreting company data and turning your insights into more efficient marketing activities than would have been possible before.

Most models of marketing information management break the process down into steps, which makes the process easy to implement.

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Step 1: Track Relevant Data

Gathering data is the first step in the process. You need reliable data to do anything, so you want to make sure you have good data sources. There are basically three sources for this: internal data, competitive intelligence, and market research.

Internal Data

Internal data is all the information your company collects during its normal operations. Your marketing teams may collect and store data about geographic location, gender, age, buying behaviors, and communication preferences and then correlate that with interest garnered and leads generated. Sales teams gather information about buyers that includes buying patterns and other behaviors.

This doesn't stop at marketing and sales. Your company is also capturing data via accounting and billing, which have a clear view of how much money customers spend and their preferred payment methods. Customer support gets direct feedback from customers that includes use cases, common problems with a product, and satisfaction data. 

In the old days, departments tended to keep this information for their own uses, without sharing it very well across invisible lines. During the era of third-party marketing information, the divisions would share data with the consultants but not with each other. Modern marketing information management requires them to pool this data so that everyone can learn something valuable. 

Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence is data collected from your competition. It goes without saying that they don't give their information up very easily, so you may have to get creative here. Typical approaches to gathering competitive intelligence data include:

  • Product information: This is stuff you can learn by shopping for a competitor's product and examining it. How do they make it, and is it better, cheaper, or packed with features your product lacks? You're trying to work out why people choose this product over yours.
  • Market share: It's fairly easy to get data about market share, especially for big companies. Say you're in the soda business and want to know who your competitors are. Just by browsing public data, you can see that Coca-Cola leads the market, followed by PepsiCo and then Keurig Dr Pepper, while Barq's lags behind.
  • Pricing strategy: Are your competitors charging more for their products or less? Why do you think that is? What's the strategy behind their decisions here? Knowing what you know about operating costs, is it possible they're taking a loss to achieve market share?
  • Competitor messaging: If you're ever really in need of information about your competitors, just follow them on social media. Keep an eye on how they're interacting with the public, and note how these interactions seem to impact their sales. How effective do you think their messaging is on social media? On TV? Via influencer marketing? How about with the web traffic they receive from organic SEO efforts?

Market Research

You may already be familiar with marketing research. Marketing research is a process of identifying problems to be solved or opportunities to be investigated, as well as the information required to formulate meaningful research questions. Common areas for market research include:

  • Product research: Researching your current and future products can deliver a competitive advantage by studying what is on the market now, what's coming soon, and how to market it.
  • Promotion research: This is an effort to improve the efficiency of your market segmentation, brand messaging, advertising and communications, events, partner relationships, and sponsorships, and even the way your packaging and displays work in physical locations like stores. Advertising research falls under this category.
  • Internal structure research: This is a catchall kind of category that includes a rigorous assessment of your internal structure, corporate culture, and research and development cycles. It's also a good spot to examine your brand building, industry associations, and long-range corporate planning.
  • Environmental factors: This is the study of factors outside your control, such as the overall state of the economy, the legal and regulatory framework of your industry, and your access to products and markets.
  • Customer review information: This is data collected, often in real-time, about customer needs and desires. This is where you learn the most about how your brand is perceived by the public. It can also include a study of the purchase decision process. You might get this information from focus groups, direct feedback, and several other points of contact.

Step 2: Create Valuable Marketing Reports

Creating focused reports you can use is one of the main benefits of marketing information management. Platforms geared toward this approach can generally pull together data from multiple sources and let you generate reports that display data in new and useful ways.

The key to a great report is to make data points come together in a way that decision-makers can use to take action. Ideally, even an inexperienced person can browse through the data and derive some benefit from it. Depending on what you're trying to achieve, there are several report formats you can work from:

  • Time series model: This model looks at historical data to inform strategic decisions and sales forecasts. Information can include seasonality of sales, sales cycles, and changes in market behavior.
  • Brand-switching model: This tracks customer behavior with an eye toward modeling reasons why a given demographic changes brand preference and chooses you over the competition.
  • SWOT analysis: This is a more reflective model that lists your brand's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It's extra helpful when you're doing internal structure research or preparing for a rebranding.
  • Target market analysis: This report takes market segmentation into account and gives you detailed information about the profiles of your customers and the best ways to approach new markets.
  • Linear programming: These are math-heavy reports that use statistical modeling to predict business outcomes, such as revenue structure and likely profit margins, according to an algorithm you'd like to apply.
  • Price/product elasticity: Prices and product availability shift sometimes. This model helps you see how well your brand is riding out these changes.
  • Regression analysis: A regression analysis can help you tease out hard-to-see connections between seemingly unrelated factors, such as the relationship between your hiring cycles and sales data.

Step 3: Build a More Cohesive Marketing Strategy

It's good to have accurate reports, but sooner or later you have to put them to work in a meaningful way. The goal of all of this marketing information management so far has been to get to the stage where a list of suggested actions practically pops out at your decision-makers.Marketing information management enables easier — or at least better-informed — decision-making, which ideally should resolve into something concrete at the end. Say, for instance, you've pulled data from a diverse set of sources, such as market research, customer service data, feedback from sales, and historical data, and you've run a SWOT analysis. Your end product should be a list of improvements you can make and a prediction of how much of an improvement each will likely bring.

Benefits Of Data Driven Marketing

Now that you understand how data-driven marketing works, let's look at the ways it can benefit your company's decision-making. In particular, it offers four major benefits, and any one of them is strong enough to encourage your teams to try a marketing information management approach.

Improved Customer Experience

Advertisements don't have to be annoying. In fact, it's better when they aren't. The insight data-driven approaches give you into your target demographics can help you to offer the right product to the right customer, just when they need it most. That makes your brand messages more of a service than an intrusion.

Optimized Marketing Attribution

The insight you gain from better data handling and decision-making almost can't help but make your marketing more efficient. At every stage, you can trim inefficiencies and improve your bottom line with a data-heavy approach.

More Relevant Content Creation

At its heart, marketing information management is a method for learning all you can about your market. Insight from your research should help you tailor your messaging to the market you want to reach and create more relevant and interesting content.

Identification of Promotional Channels

Not every customer is on every platform, and the channels you choose have different ROIs. If your marketing has been less than successful through conventional advertising, but your research reveals most of your core demographics are active on Twitter, then you should immediately know where to focus some of your marketing efforts.

Where Can You Get More Information About Marketing?

With the right approach, a dynamic marketing information management strategy can work for small businesses and large enterprises alike. The insights don't stop here, though we will for now. If you're excited about marketing information management and how it's changing the marketing world back into something more familiar, subscribe to our blog for regular updates and new insights on this topic.

By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.