Big data is not a fad. As business and marketing leaders work to increase value for consumers and measure the results of their advertising efforts, spending on data analytics continues to rise—and it’s not predicted to slow down any time soon.

According to the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), becoming data-centric continues to be a priority for U.S. marketers and data users.  Data volumes are exploding, and analytics capabilities are increasing every day.

But many marketers still struggle with crucial aspects of data. They wonder which data points are worth analyzing. They stumble while trying to find the next steps in turning data results into actionable marketing strategies.

In order to make it clearer, marketers need to truly understand these data points. They aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet. They reflect actual people performing real actions that affect your business. Take a moment to answer the following three questions. They can help marketers create a more focused data approach and find the insights that can help leverage data into action:

What do my best customers look like?

When you’re trying to understand how to leverage data, one of the first places you should start is your customer database. Appending demographic, psychographic and lifestyle data can help better understand the group data you’re analyzing. Compare the following categories:

  • Profitable customers vs. unprofitable customers
  • Churners vs. non-churners
  • Loyalty program customers vs. those that are not in the program
  • Segment movers and customers who are high value vs. those that are not

Finding a nugget of truth in the data helps you move forward with a successful strategy. That strategy impacts targeting, messaging and channel selection.

How can I get more ROI from my marketing spend?

Determining benchmarks and measuring everything that impacts them can give you the best picture of your ROI. Compare such things as:

  • Campaigns that performed better than expected to underperforming campaigns
  • Responders to non-responders
  • Different promotional periods, offers and channels

Seasonality—or patterns of highs and lows in sales—is another important factor for many industries. When making comparisons and determining benchmarks, it’s important to understand peak seasonality. You wouldn’t want to set a benchmark when response and conversion may be much higher than other time periods. Weather and economic indicators are other factors that can impact your results.

How can I improve customer acquisition?

After you establish what your best customers look like, compare them to the marketplace data to determine where your customers index above the market.

For example, your best customer may be twice as likely to live in a home valued over $500,000 than the market. They will be three times as likely to have an income over $75,000.

You can walk through the basic demographics, but don’t forget to look at lifestyle characteristics. There are several models that can be appended that will give you a starting point for channel preference, how people spend their leisure time, what they are passionate about and more.

After that, your best path is to put an initial plan in place and then test, test, test. Measure the results of your creative, messaging, offers and channels. It’s not surprising to find each community varies in the typically successful channel mix, even within the same industry or product line. 

Keep in mind that using data to improve customer acquisition involves constantly measuring and optimizing your marketing message, channel mix and offers. Data changes over time, which means your strategy needs to be evaluated on an ongoing basis.