Hey, Creative Type—Let’s Talk Data

By Todd Von Deak

Did that headline leave you confused and conflicted? You're not alone. Let's be honest, "data-driven creative" is not a phrase you hear often.

That's a shame, though.

Associations can benefit from taking a more data-driven approach to marketing, especially creative development. A data-driven approach has the potential to strengthen both marketing campaigns and engagement with key communities. Data also helps you focus on what you can prove, so you rely less on your gut—a definite improvement for many marketing programs.

For associations seeking a greater focus on data, your marketing lead is the key in making the shift. It makes sense if you think about it. In most organizations, the marketing lead is communications director one day and IT director the next. Often, he or she juggles these divergent roles during same day, if not the same hour.

For many, putting a heavy emphasis on data is daunting. After all, a typical communications department may be called on to deliver several creative pieces a week. During the run up to a major meeting, that volume increases exponentially. Regardless of the situation, associations place a good deal of weight on the speed in which their creative teams can produce.

But daunting should not be mistaken for impossible. Here are three success stories:

Improved Membership Marketing
In reviewing the last 10 years of transactions, one association's membership department noticed that a substantial portion of new members came from the same cluster of states. That realization led them to create a special version of the membership brochure that discussed key issues in those states and highlighted their organization's positive contributions. The brochure featured well-regarded members from those states along with relevant images. In the end, the team was able to demonstrate a lift in those key states, greater than what might have been expected otherwise.

Sharper Conference Marketing
A post-event survey included a free-form question about attendees' biggest professional challenges. Answers to this question were put into a word-cloud program, and key themes were identified. The following year, those themes were used in a series of A/B tests of email subject lines to further refine email marketing efforts for the event. Top performing themes were also used in social media posts.

Higher Conversion Levels
The web and marketing teams in an association used Google analytics reports to identify search terms with the highest likelihood of leading to an online conversion. When the terms were tested in new electronic and print campaigns, they resulted in increased search traffic, conversions, and subsequent revenue.

There are so many interesting ways to leverage data to enhance your creative approach. Get started today by introducing your marketing team to the various data points available in your organization and developing the habit of asking, "What questions, if answered, would strengthen our marketing efforts on this project?"

Todd Von Deak, MBA, CAE is President of TVD Associates and a member of the adjunct faculty at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business. He can be reached at todd@tvdassociates.com.