I love the show Mad Men—and not just because Don Draper is such eye candy. As a marketer, I find the show to be the perfect fantasy world: Creative people dream up ideas in the morning then spend the afternoon sipping martinis and hoping their brilliant ideas work out.
In the real world, however, screenwriters can't ensure our success, so we rely on data. But data is not a crutch nor a replacement for creativity. Data is the means to predict the outcomes of our efforts with unprecedented accuracy.
The effectiveness of our marketing efforts heavily relies on our proficiency to use the data at our disposal—in other words, it relies on our data IQ. All marketers need it, and all the best marketers have it in spades.
Here are three reasons why you, as a marketer, want to have a high data IQ.
1. Data gives you creative freedom
I'm a "real-time data" kind of chief marketing officer (CMO). Knowing the real-time results of every activity my team undertakes lets me try new things and take more risks.
Think about this scenario without data: A team member comes up with a zany social media idea, but it represents a significant investment. Without data to show a return, the answer is undoubtedly no. That's much too risky a bet when every dollar counts!
On the flip side, when I have data, I can say yes because I can watch the idea's success (or failure) in real time. Things aren't working out? Pull the plug. Is the idea working better than anticipated? Put more resources against it, or mirror that campaign for other targets and continue testing.
With data, nothing is too crazy. Data allows me to stretch myself yet still keep my budget and ROI intact.
2. You can create better marketing plans
Marketing is the engine that drives company success. Leads have to be generated before they can be closed. Consumers must be aware of your brand before they can buy from you.
That's why data IQ drives higher conversions and better sales. When you have data behind every strategy you use, the job of creating a marketing plan is no longer mired in "what works and what doesn't" but becomes "what works and what works better."
And I'm not speaking from pie-in-the-sky platitudes. I've seen marketers rework marketing plans based on solid data and increase revenue by 20%–30% year-over-year. You can only deliver those kinds of results when you have the data to optimize the work you're doing.
3. You can drive your own compensation
With every step up the corporate ladder, my compensation has become increasingly tied to marketing spend ROI. And I'm not the only one. Whether part of a compensation package or the meat of a bonus structure, ROI is counting in more marketers' compensation plans today.
If you don't have a high data IQ, you're missing the ability to determine your own compensation. On the other hand, a high data IQ allows you to give yourself a bigger paycheck by driving exactly those areas that boost your compensation.
When you have control over your data, you have control over everything.
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So, while I envy Don Draper's three-martini lunches, I would never trade my data for a 1960s pencil skirt and everything that goes with it. I don't need screenwriters to write my success. When I'm armed with data, I write it myself.