Successful digital and social marketing programmes are built on interconnected modules, all needed to deliver the best possible results for customers, at the best possible returns on investment in resources and budgets for the organization running the programmes.

The thread that connects these modules, like DNA, is data, driving every aspect of a successful marketing programme. Here’s how.

Strategy defines the intent, direction and objectives for the programme: what you need to achieve, including targets for revenue, sales, market share, profitability, or some combination of these, the reasons for those objectives, the consequences of meeting or missing them, how success is to be measured and what success looks like — in short, what you need to do to win. Data clearly influences strategy at the start — market size, product and service scope and scale, audience insights, customer service, and more. But data also allows you to track progress against strategy, and to test strategy when new opportunities appear. Without data, strategy is strategy-lite.

Creative and content define what you actually say, across multiple social and digital platforms, including alignment with audiences, content planning, and measurement. Data provides the detail needed to get this content right: its format, length, frequency, messages, and delivery — and most importantly of all, consuming insights. What do your audiences expect and prefer? How best can you engage with your audiences and in which channels?

Influencer engagement invokes your external ambassadors: data defines who they might be, their motivations, influence and expectations. True (meaningful) influencer engagement requires a win-win-win: for the brand, the influencer, and their audience. Data also gives you the must-have insights into who really has influence, and shines the light needed to track influence engagement, and to support them as trusted partners. After all, as my colleague Emma Lo Russo has pointed out, consumers trust influencers before brands.

Community and customer service — the process of directly engaging with customers using social media and digital channels. Use data to connect the front-end engagement and advocacy management with the back-end customer delivery and product logistics systems, so that you can track how the promise of service, and the reality, mesh.

Optimization of budget spend and performance: without data you can’t optimize, and without data you don’t know what’s working, what isn’t, and what you need to do either to change or accelerate. True optimization needs to look at social media and digital channels in a way that presents a complete picture, in real-time. And optimization applies to every part of this data-driven marketing DNA chain.

Analytics means the science of understanding the meaning behind results, audiences’ activity, activations, engagement and sentiment. Using real-time data, across platforms, brings sharper analysis to bear. And once you’ve analysed the reasons for success and failure, repeat.

Without DNA, it’s impossible to crack genomes. Without data, it’s difficult to manage real-time marketing programmes, and provide customer value, improved customer experiences — and, ultimately, sales.

Time to use data — to Decide, Act, Test and Amend.

(This article is also published on LinkedIn.)

Head of Strategic Business Communications @Digivizer. Chartered PR Practitioner.

Head of Strategic Business Communications @Digivizer. Chartered PR Practitioner.