The 4 Step Marketing Cure for Data Paralysis

data paralysis

As our new year begins, we are given a “clean slate”.  It’s time for new resolutions, fresh starts and remedies for our past sins or unfulfilled wishes.

Personally, I love blank canvases. The possibilities are wonderful.

One of the most important fresh steps that marketers can take is to remedy their data paralysis.  Leveraging big data – although the term can make us cringe – is an enormous competitive advantage to growth marketers for engaging with prospects and customers and sustaining richer relationships.

As much as we’ve all heard about big data, a paltry percentage of marketers are reaping its’ riches (last time I saw a number, it estimated 12 percent). I get it.

Data is daunting, messy and the path forward is often unclear. 

Accessing and collecting the data, cleaning the data, finding talent to analyze it and then apply it to a marketing campaign can exhaust the most motivated and savvy marketer.

Let’s try to make this easier.  After working with companies in this arena, here is my 4-step take on a proven way to get started using data-driven insights to get better marketing results.

And for the record, I’ve never seen big data give less than a 2-digit marketing improvement (response, revenue, ROI) over status quo.

In other words, it’s always been worth it.

STEP ONE.  Begin

Complacency is our enemy.  The antidote to complacency is action and action requires the first step forward.  The first step is often the most difficult and the most important.

We need to just begin.

I suggest selecting an upcoming and in-plan marketing campaign that you will be orchestrating in the next 6 months and use that as your starting point.  Select the campaign, the date and then work backwards to start planning how you will use data in this campaign.

STEP TWO.  Pilot

Start small, with baby steps: crawl-walk-run.  From the upcoming campaign, choose a smaller segment of your prospect or customer base (typically the higher value customers) and ensure you have 6-8 fields of data on that segment.

Set up a test vs. control sample to run your campaign side-by-side so that you know precisely the impact that data has on your customer response.

At this point you are well on your way to curing your data paralysis, but you still need analytic resources to look at the data, set up the sample and create a strategy for customizing your campaign content/offer to customers based on data modeling.

Here is the overview of the process that I have used to run the pilot campaign with data-driven insights:

Determine your objective and measures of success

  • Retention, acquisition or reactivation
  • Revenue, response, ROI

Gather your data

  • For sub-segment of customers
  • Ensure 6-8 fields of data available (static data fine for first step)

Analyze and model

  • Create data model that correlates history to propensity
  • Generate test vs. control sample groups


  • Devise your campaign content and offers based on data model
  • Project plan the launch and measurements

Deploy and Measure


STEP THREE.  Iterate and Append

At the very least, the campaign will teach you something.  Capture your customer behaviors, measure where you had engagement and then append your database with additional data. From here, you can make your next campaign approach smarter and more engaging. 

STEP FOUR. Expand Step-by-Step

Knowing the uptick that data-driven insights can produce in revenue, response and ROI is extremely helpful in justifying the expansion of further use of data in your marketing.

My suggestion is to select your next campaign based on the results and new information gathered in the last campaign and keep expanding slowly and surely from here.

It’s the modular, crawl-walk-run approach.


Sandra Zoratti

Sandra Zoratti is an award-winning business leader/CMO, author, accomplished speaker and was honored with the Business Marketing Association’s 2012 Marketer of the year. She built and launched the data-driven marketing practice, "Precision Marketing" from the ground up and published her book on the topic in June 2012. Sandra has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration.

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