marketing data planning

Marketers today are getting lost swimming through the data-driven approach to advertising. Do you remember when choosing where to spend your marketing dollars was a blind shot in the dark? Yep, that was the time before Google, before the internet, before big data. Back then, marketers had a conceptual, big picture approach to reaching your potential audience. Want to advertise a new product? Get a TV commercial, put an ad in the newspaper, get mentioned on the radio. Those methods, although they allowed some audience targeting, could never guarantee you a quantifiable return in advance.

Oh, the Places Your Content Will Go!

Today, the top funnel approach still exists, transformed to fantastic new mediums, like content marketing! Like reaching out to industry influencers, getting mentioned on a prominent blog, putting out an informative, fun infographic. You could create a hilarious article and get it promoted to BuzzFeed, or hold a viral video contest on Vine. The sky is the limit! No longer are you restricted to overpriced TV spots (doesn’t everyone fast forward through commercials now anyway), competitive radio ads (isn’t everyone under 40 on Pandora, Spotify, Songza, or iTunes radio now), or print newspaper ads and coupons (which seem to be easy to find in recycle bins). Instead, you choose your channel!

Top funnel marketing approaches are not trackable back to direct return on investment in consumer purchases. They just aren’t!

It’s Not a Perfect Data World

Today’s marketing channels are so vast they make your head spin, so we all turn to data to try to choose the best place to dump our marketing dollars. Being an SEO and paid search nerd, I LOVE data. Top funnel marketing approaches are not trackable back to direct return on investment in consumer purchases. They just aren’t!

Considering content marketing? You will not be able to track the exact revenue gained from every single blog post. Running display ad campaigns? You can track visits, but you will not be able to quantify for certain just how many people were drawn to your brand because of your ads. JUST like we marketers threw money at TV commercials and radio before the magical Internet, money needs to be thrown today at the top funnel marketing channels without the need to quantify every single cent spent.

Data is Important in Marketing!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the word ROI. I track everything I can. If I pay for a directory listing, I watch how many visits come in to my website. When I invest in a blog, I better see that traffic grow. I’m not suggesting you ditch all of your fancy Analytics and tracking tools – I use and love them too! I’m saying don’t let the data availability hold you back. Are you going to try to convince me that Disney should not be on Facebook because they don’t see enough people buying tickets through their Facebook page? No. Facebook connects potential consumers with your brand, as do many other top funnel approaches to digital marketing.

Take off the Cuffs

If I could choose only channels that gave me a trackable ROI and still succeed as a marketer, I would probably avoid top funnel altogether. But you can’t, so stop getting caught up in the data and start thinking like a marketer. Promote your brand, research your channels, make smart budgeting decisions. Don’t hold yourself back from an awesome new idea by concerns about tracking. Advertising has been a growing industry since the 1950s (Mad Men, anyone?!), and marketing has grown with it. Marketers succeeded for 50 years making decisions without the exact return attribution back to the correct channel. You can do it too.

Originally posted at widesmiler.com: Are You Handcuffed By Your Marketing Data?, Author Lauren L Perfors