Bad Data Is Bad News for Marketing

February 18, 2020 Anne Curtin

Marketers must juggle all types of requirements—reaching the right audiences, developing the right creative, picking the right channels, and more. And they must do all of that with limited resources. For budget-constrained marketing departments, there may be nothing worse than wasting money. 

One of the surest ways to waste scarce marketing money is relying on bad data.

Basing marketing decisions on low-quality data can have a huge, negative impact on the effectiveness and ROI of marketing campaigns. Trying to sell the right product or service to the wrong consumers at the wrong time using the wrong channel is bound to result in a lower return than going through the same process with high-quality data. 

Surprisingly, though, a majority of global marketers surveyed for the 2019-2020 Nielsen Annual Marketing Report stated that data quality is not one of their highest priorities. Audience targeting, ad creative, and audience reach all ranked higher, with data quality coming in fourth. Brands even valued data quality even less than agencies did!

Tips for Improving Data Quality 

Even if you're a typical marketing executive, making the myriad tradeoffs needed to deliver on your objectives, don't be misled or relaxed about the importance of data quality. Data is the foundation on which all marketing campaigns (and marketing spend) are based. 

While some data issues may be beyond your scope of control, organizations can take certain steps to improve data quality, the accuracy of their measurement, and thus the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. For example...

  • Automate data collection when possible. Marketing decisions typically aren't made in a vacuum. They can involve everything from product to creative to geography to timing and beyond. Often, organizations need to collect, consolidate, and standardize data from multiple sources (e.g. point-of-sale, distribution, media) in order to make those decisions. When such data gathering is done manually, it can be both time-consuming and subject to errors. By automating data collection processes, marketers can preserve the integrity of their data while improving speed-to-insight, campaign performance, and spending effectiveness. 
  • Review and validate data for accuracy. When it comes to accurate measurement, the key to having high-quality output is having high-quality input. As the saying goes, “good data in, good data out.” Getting the most accurate and actionable insights requires more than just automated data collection. It also demands a consistent process for reviewing and validating that data once collected. Ideally, any anomalies, or data that’s considered questionable, should trigger more in-depth reviews. 
  • Strive for granular-level data when possible. Understanding why certain customer interactions result in conversions and others don’t is the secret sauce to media optimization. If marketers can’t drill down further than the channel level, then they won’t be able to tease out what’s really driving impact—and what’s not.

The more granular the data that marketers can capture, the better their measurement models and decisions will be. Highly aggregated data can result in an underestimation of the true impact of marketing efforts, incorrect decisions, and wasted resources. More granular data, such as information on specific campaigns, tactics, products, or retailers, can lead to more instructive insights.

The Benefits of Prioritizing High-Quality Data

It's essential to focus on improving data quality as much as you do on reaching and targeting your audience. After all, none of that targeting will hit the mark if the data that sustains it isn't accurate.

In addition, any business trying to optimize its marketing spending and campaign effectiveness must have accurate, high-quality data to make the right decisions. While brands absolutely need to focus on things like audience targeting and reach, they must bring equal focus to ensuring the quality and accuracy of the data they're using. Organizations that prioritize high-quality data will find they have a more effective and efficient marketing operation.

Learn More

For more information, download the Nielsen Annual Marketing Report.

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