As we approach the end of 2019, companies are gathering and leveraging more marketing and sales data, and that trend will definitely continue. Interpreting that data and using it to inform decisions is the challenging part. Businesses need to understand the story behind their data to actually make use of it. Enter data visualization, a tool with a lot of potential in marketing.
Data visualization simply means representing data in a visual format. That could include charts, diagrams, graphs, infographics—anything that presents data using visuals. Because let’s face it, not everyone is comfortable looking at a spreadsheet or database, and even fewer people are good at pulling insights from those data sources.
Data visualization is the tool that takes you from data to action. It’s the interpreter you, your team, or your clients need to accurately gauge performance and plan for the future. When done well, data visualization communicates important insights that can help drive your marketing strategy, inform creative work like content marketing, and make reporting more useful.
Data visualization informs strategy
If you make guesses about what kind of marketing campaigns you should be running or which potential customers to target, you’ll get mediocre results at best. Today’s marketing efforts need to be informed by data, and data visualization can play an integral role in guiding your marketing strategy.
It’s common, for example, to use data visualization when embarking on account-based marketing for the first time. If you have a database, you can dive into it and see where you’ve successfully sold your products in the past. Are your ideal customers in specific industries or regions? Data visualization can help you map out—sometimes with a literal map—who your ideal customers are and where they’re located, and then serve as the foundation of your ABM.
Data visualization doesn’t only pertain to the big picture, though. You can also use it to guide more specific tactics like ad targeting. At Bonfire, for example, we’ve helped clients with multiple locations use data visualization to see how each location is performing compared to others, compared to the same time a year ago, etc. With this data, we can decide where to spend advertising budgets.
The end of the calendar year is also a good time to assess your content marketing efforts, and data visualization can help with that too. Try conducting a content audit that gathers information about content type, subject matter, audience awareness level, and more, and then turn that into some simple pie charts. You might be surprised by how much awareness stage content you have, how old your white papers are, or how much content you’ve written in the past year about the same topic. And by visualizing the findings of your audit, you can more quickly communicate with your team and get buy-in on plans for the future.
Data visualization guides creative work
Speaking of content, data visualization not only helps show you what types of content to create, but also what that content should look like in terms of copywriting, graphic design, and format.
By visualizing who your audience is and what they’ve responded well to in the past (your content audit data can help with this if you include website traffic and other performance data), you can decide on the appropriate length, tone, and level of detail for your copy, as well as what graphics, visual style, or page layout most appeal to your prospects.
Then after you’ve created a piece of content and used it in your marketing, you can go back and see how it performed and adjust accordingly, which leads us to …
Data visualization improves reporting
Marketing reporting is probably the most obvious use of data visualization, since most of us are familiar with seeing results displayed in chart or graph form. But the importance of this use of data visualization shouldn’t be overlooked.
Imagine you’re presenting monthly campaign performance data to high-level decision-makers. A list of stats and KPIs might get the job done, but it wouldn’t highlight key takeaways as well as visuals, which could show performance over time or compare the performance of different assets. People are busy, and using data visualization to tell the story of your data saves them time and ensures they see what they need to see.
Important tips for data visualization
There’s no shortage of ways to use data visualization to support and guide your marketing. Regardless of what you’re visualizing, there are some key things you should keep in mind:
- Make sure your data answers a clear question. Data can tell a story, but if it’s telling the wrong story, is misleading, or doesn’t tie to your goals in some way, you’ve wasted your time. Know what questions you’re looking to answer before you start.
- Know your audience. Will you be presenting data to decision-makers or people outside your team? Then you need to keep things simple. Understanding your visuals shouldn’t require a lot of specialized knowledge.
- Use good data. Too often businesses export some data, input it into a data analysis tool like Tableau, and hope for the best. But poor quality data that’s inconsistent or lacks relevant fields isn’t very helpful. If your data is messy, make sure you clean things up first.
Remember, effective data visualization is actionable. It should drive your marketing forward and help you make decisions. If you have questions about the role data visualization can play in your marketing or how you can start using your data more effectively, let us know.