Marketers and PR agencies can no longer afford to be vague

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We all know that data is not just important, we understand that it is fundamental to how we shape our collective future. Metaphors abound, but one thing is certain, data is the gravitational force shaping the contours of business. Effective marketing and public relations agencies have been at the forefront of this evolution. Every agency needs to answer this question: How do you use data to drive commercial results and insights?

This is not an exercise in finding listicles online about how data can or should be used in an agency environment. Rather, it is an exercise in testing an agency’s data maturity because, with each success, you get a proof point of data maturity between an agency and its clients, its staff and the tools at its disposal. Data maturity is an aspect of company culture – it is slowly built up in the trenches to a state where it earns future revenue for the agency.

In other words, because an agency adds tangible, measurable results, it becomes sticky as a valued partner and, in some instances, even indispensable. The added value and hard proof points ensure that budgets are allocated going forward. For us, and for all future-oriented agencies, there needs to be a laser-like focus on moving the right needles to have a measurable impact on a business’s bottom line. No one can afford to be vague anymore.

However, data is just bits and bytes on its own. At DUO we have strategically built an agency with deep expertise in all digital marketing verticals, from deep digital specialists to strategists, to Tech industry experts, to client relationship managers, to designers – the idea is to leverage data and then have the ability to tap into a broad spectrum of skills to drive value. 1+1=5.

One might ask us then: How do you use data to drive commercial results and insights?

It starts with tight feedback loops – with our clients, with our team, and within our campaigns. Everyone needs to know what is happening… now. There’s little value in understanding a success or friction point a month after it has occurred. We keep things deliberately tight.

Historically, the industry approached PR and marketing from a place of intuition and relationships – intuition in terms of understanding clients and knowing what could – or should – work and then matching those tactics with the platforms of the day, and, as we all know, there were many more, with far more staff, with far more specialists. The industry got lucky in many instances, and they could afford to experiment on a larger scale as budgets back then were far bigger. Let’s be clear, we are not talking about generations ago, we are talking about the turn of the century and the years that followed.

As competition increased, the world decided to rein in the elaborate spend and look for measurability and accountability. Suddenly questions were asked. “I am spending a big budget, so please show me exactly what I am getting for it” This persisted, and today prudent and astute clients are looking for deeper insights. They want to know what the data is telling us, and they are looking for a combination of hard data and the type of consultative expertise one can tap into when engaging with a specialist agency. This combination guides actionable insights for the business.

You don’t buy data the way you buy airtime – you gather it. We can get data from a number of sources, such as Google Analytics, social media platforms, information on paid campaigns and a host of digital marketing tactics and their metrics. We often see sizable discrepancies between individual platforms and Google Analytics, with the truth lying somewhere in between. It is through your deep analysis, and testing, and experimenting, that you get closer to this truth or notice the true anomalies.

Doing this has enabled us to understand how we can drive more commercially viable solutions for our clients. And so, today it is not intuition and relationships as much as it is hard data and marrying the concept/ content/ platform/ strategy – which in itself requires depth of expertise  – to a client to ensure measurability and accountability.

Data drives marketing strategies. A good example of this would be when we analyse and understand where our clients’ customers are engaging. We can offer informed counsel about where and how to design marketing and PR strategies going forward. Success or failure will make or break whether a client who is dipping their toes into digital spend for the first time will do it again. It requires real-time analytics, industry insight and the confidence and agility to adjust in real time.

Understanding where campaigns perform cannot be lifted from a template – especially in the B2B space. There are a host of factors – the platform, its core audience, the content, the theme, the business, the business’s own customers, new customers, potential customers, and more. During each campaign, we need to segment and understand these audiences to build credibility and trust for our clients’ brands. Each campaign is therefore tailored specifically to each client’s unique needs and context, but this is naturally informed by the wealth of IP and experience we build within our teams.

It is vital to earn the trust of a client to allow space for low-risk experiments to identify which platforms work best for them. By doing this, the agency learns where to get leads, where to get high-volume engagement for brand visibility, and more. It is worth repeating: It is key to know which platform works best for each client, in each different circumstance.

Lastly, in the race to understand data, design should not be forgotten. Deciding how much copy to place on a design, which colours to use, how to tell a story visually, and much more, should never be random. Well-designed visuals have the ability to tell complex stories far more simply than merely using text.

Authentic visuals that are relevant and customised for the purpose of the campaign perform markedly better with radically improved engagement. This should not come as a surprise because despite being surrounded by data and choice, people are sentient beings seeking relatable imagery and authentic content. That’s our job – to use data to connect brands with people.

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