Foster a Data-Driven Marketing Culture in Your Small Business

Your small business is sitting on a treasure trove of data. Are you using it?

The volume of rich marketing data available to today’s small businesses represents a major opportunity for competitive advantage. Never before have we had the opportunity to gain so much data about our marketing channels and our customers, and to use that data to systematically grow revenue. In fact, Analytics is the first of the Big Four Leverage Points that we use here at Glowhorn.


Glowhorn's Four Big Leverage Points for Marketing

Glowhorn’s Four Big Leverage Points for Marketing


Small businesses who use analytics to their advantage to make data-driven marketing decisions out-perform and outlast their competitors who rely primarily on “gut”.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?

The data-driven marketing challenge is two-fold:

  1. On one hand, you’ve got the IT needs that often arise when attempting to collect and  organize data from your various marketing channels and present it to your business team in a meaningful way. Depending on your particular business goals, systems and reporting needs, this can run the gamut from fairly trivial to very extensive.
  1. On the other hand, you’ve got the cultural challenges that often occur when asking your team (and yourself!) to go from “winging it” to making decisions based on data and predetermined metrics. This cultural and behavioral side of the challenge is often trickier than the technology side. Computers, after all, tend to do what we tell them, usually.

At Glowhorn we help our small business clients address both sides of this tricky and worthwhile challenge. We provide technology implementation for analytics as well as guidance and tools for developing a lasting data-driven culture in your business.

For this article I’m going to focus on the cultural side of the challenge and share three tips for fostering a data-driven marketing culture in your business:

  1. Define SMART Goals

The first step in developing a data-driven marketing culture is to define the SMART goals that you and your team will rally your efforts around. It’s important that these goals be directly related to your business strategy and support the overall goals of your business.

For Example:

  • Let’s say you’re currently a $2MM/yr business and one of your key business goals is to increase revenue by 50% next year.
  • Now ask yourself: what percentage of that will be marketing-originated?
  • And from there: how much additional marketing-originated revenue does that equal?
  • For easy math, let’s say 50% of your additional revenue is expected to be marketing-originated.
  • You now have a goal to increase marketing-originated revenue by $500,000 by next year (50% of $2MM = $1MM (additional revenue) 50% of $1MM = $500,000 (additional marketing-originated revenue))

The next step is to look at your data and analyze the best growth levers.


Ask yourself questions like:

  • Which of my marketing channels provide the most leads
  • Which of my marketing channels provide the most revenue
  • Which of my marketing channels offer the best dollar-for-dollar ROI
  • What are my best opportunities to further increase my returns from these channels
  • Which special offers and campaigns provide the most leads, revenue, and ROI
  • Do I have underperforming channels I can improve
  • Do I have underperforming channels I should divert resources from
  • Is my website performing at its peak or leaving money on the table

Your answers to these questions, based on a thorough analysis of your data will lead you to the final part of Step 1, defining your SMART Goals.

For example, say your analysis reveals that organic search engine optimization (SEO) is your marketing channel that brings the most total revenue and the best overall ROI. You might now set an SEO SMART Goal that looks something like this:

“Increase website traffic from organic search channels by 20% by Q1 2017”

(Knowing that 20% increase can be expected to yield x% of the additional $500,000)

Let’s say your analysis also revealed that your website isn’t performing at its peak and is only converting visitors to sales at 1%, while your industry competitors convert at 3-4%. You might also set a Website SMART Goal that looks something like this:

“Increase website conversion rate from 1%-2% over the next six months”

(Knowing that 1% increase can be expected to yield another y% of the additional $500,000)

Repeat this process for each of your key business goals that your marketing has an opportunity to impact. This will provide you and your team with clear and focused goals to rally around as well as insight into which exactly marketing activities to focus your resources on to make the biggest impact and get the best return.

  1. Configure Dashboards

Now that you’ve defined your SMART Goals, the next step is to identify the key metrics to measure and improve in order to the meet those goals, and make sure those metrics are easily visible to you and your team.

Continuing the example in Section 1 (above), a few key metrics would likely be:

  • Number of Visitors from SEO (Total)
  • Number of Visitors from SEO (New)
  • Top Trending Keywords
  • Website Conversion Rate (Total)
  • Website Conversion Rate (SEO Segment)

Monitoring a handful of metrics like these will allow you to measure progress against your goals and make informed improvements along the way.

An important part of fostering a data-driven culture is making sure that data isn’t just available, it’s easily available. Instilling new habits in busy executives, marketers and salespeople is hard enough. Asking your team to hunt between multiple reporting sources and/or do spreadsheet acrobatics to track your key metrics is a sure way to discourage data-driven decision making.

Instead, once you’ve defined the key metrics to track, invest the time to set up dashboards that provide at-a-glance views of the reports associated with each of your metrics and goals.

For example, you may set up a few dashboards in Google Analytics that show your Marketing team the reports for the metrics they need to see, and a few more in your CRM that show the most relevant metrics to your Sales team at-a-glance. Solutions like will even allow you to weave together data from different applications into a unified dashboard. In general, do what it takes to make the data easy to see and interpret. The extra investment will provide major payback as we move into Step 3…

  1. Re-Train Your Habits

If you’ve followed steps one and two, you and your team have a good handle on what to measure (your key metrics), why you’re measuring these things (your goals) and how to measure them (your reports and dashboards). You’ve defined the marketing metrics that will make the biggest business impact, and you’ve made it dead simple to measure and improve progress.

The final step is to retrain habits at the business level and the individual level.

4 Tips for Developing Data-Driven Marketing Habits:

  • Reframe discussions – If you catch yourself or your marketing team speculating in meetings, ask if there is hard data that can be referred to instead.
  • Reframe decision-making – If you catch yourself or your marketing team making gut decisions, stop and ask what the data says.
  • Restructure status updates – If you receive updates from your marketing team based solely on deliverables, ask them to begin to also provide updates in terms of quantitative progress towards your goals.
  • Reevaluate compensation – If your key team members aren’t motivated and rewarded by measurable progress towards your goals, ask yourself if they could/should be.

Changing habits takes consistency, time and gentle perseverance. Acknowledge your team members progress as they take steps to become more data-driven marketers. Give them friendly reminders when they slip back to old ways of “winging it” or “going on gut”, and give them latitude to do the same with you.

The time and energy that you put into developing a data-driven marketing culture will be well-invested, with frequent paybacks including a sharper, more motivated team, more efficient usage of your marketing resources and bigger overall returns from your marketing investments.

LEARN MORE about how we help our small business clients with their analytics.


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