Get Started with Data-First Marketing

By: Chris Dunleavy, Data Analyst

Maybe you’re new to the world of data analysis, and it all sounds like Greek (assuming, of course, you don’t know Greek). Or maybe you have some experience, but you’re overwhelmed by the constant evolution of tools and applications at your disposal. One thing’s for certain: Data-first marketing is a must if you expect your business to be proactive, nimble and in tune with its clients and their customer base. If the thought of analytics has you feeling intimidated, these tips can help.

Start by identifying your pain points 

Here are two common ones:

Pain 1: You don’t have enough data

To solve this problem, look no further than your platform. Even off-the-shelf web platforms offer simple data solutions for the layman. If you’re using a self-hosted WordPress site, for example, try installing a plug-in like this one by MonsterInsights. GoDaddy users can take advantage of this built-in Google Analytics tool.

And don’t underestimate the power of customer support forums on your platform’s site; learning from others who have “been there, done that” is a smart and efficient way to move past hurdles.

If you have a web vendor, talk with them about their data capabilities. Measurable results are the name of the game, after all, and if your vendor isn’t analyzing data in a way that helps you grow your business, then it may be time to search for one that will. Scratch that. It IS time to search for one that will.

Pain 2: You’ve got data coming out of your ears … but aren’t sure how to use it

You don’t have to be a programmer to educate yourself. And you can do it on your own time—for free!—with Google’s Analytics Academy, which offers courses ranging from basic reporting to complex analysis. Or check out the wealth of video-based courses and user-friendly training tools from Lynda and Coursera; they’re well worth the reasonable price.

Learn with a buddy

There’s a reason developers do code reviews. Learning and having conversations about data analysis with someone else does more than hold you accountable. It also helps you work through problems, and gives you immediate, built-in feedback.  tip: After you get your data analytics basics down, check out Kaggle.com, a site that hosts friendly competitions. What I really love about Kaggle is the kernel section of the site, where you’ll find interesting data analysis and discussions alongside the code used in the analysis.

Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you have to.

If analyzing data just isn’t your thing, or if you simply don’t have enough time to devote to an effective data-first strategy, then let an expert do it for you. When searching for the right person or team for the job, take these three steps to help pick the right one:

1. Ask if they have heard of/worked with the R programming language.

R is a very popular tool in the data analysis industry. Think of it as a suite of tools for data visualization and analysis—and it’s one of the best out there. It’s free, open-source and has far fewer limitations than Excel. Any data analyst should at least have R (a programming language) on their radar; if they don’t, that should raise a red flag. If they are familiar but don’t use it, ask why. Using other programming languages like Python instead is completely valid.

Note: If you're curious about R, we'll be doing another post on POV about it in a few weeks! Check back soon!

2. Pay attention to the kinds of questions they’re asking you.

It’s critical for any analyst to be able to connect numbers to business decisions. It’s far more effective for an analyst to be analyzing your data in the context of your business, not just reporting stats. What does a 10% increase mean to you? So what? Tell me why it’s important to my business. Look for data analysts who want to know about your business, your goals and bottom line, and are creative in how data can be used to help achieve them. 

3. Ask them about a time they used data to make or inform a decision.

Information and data are not the same things. Information, like knowing how people are finding your site—and what they are doing while they’re on it—is great, but it’s only truly helpful if you do something with it. Data is information on steroids (or…like, extra good vitamins maybe?). Data is actionable. It fuels educated decision-making. Here’s the big takeaway: Capturing and using data should help turn dials for your business.

Getting them to talk to you about how they were able to use data for better decisions will not only give you a chance to hear about how they work, but also how they are able to translate data into insight.

Case in Point

Let’s illustrate that last part using an example from iostudio’s work:

Our client kidcentral tn is a one-stop shop connecting Tennessee parents with insights on child development, education, health and support. As the client’s focus evolved from raising brand awareness to driving engagement, data told us the site was receiving 20 percent less conversions from mobile users than desktop users, even though we have triple the number of mobile visitors. That forced us to take a hard look at the mobile experience, which we found could benefit from sharper navigation and improved finger friendliness. A few UX changes later, and the mobile metrics were back in alignment. The data showed us the way ahead, prompting a shift in our digital marketing strategy that more closely aligns with our client’s goals and echoes across reporting, design and development.


Chris is iostudio’s principal data analyst. With a Master of Science degree in analytics and a Google Analytics certification, he brings to the table an extensive technical skill set for data science spanning more than a dozen programming languages, softwares and techniques. Chris is adept at recommending advertising strategies by analyzing business potential based on clear data visualization and statistical modeling. View more of his profile on LinkedIn.