Nathan Selby, Client Portfolio Director and Campaign Lead at integrated marketing and comms agency, Active Profile, explores the data overwhelm facing marketing practitioners and how the marketing journey can be harnessed to drive business growth.  

Modern marketing has been gifted a treasure trove in recent years – and that trove is filled with rich data. For too long, the key insights that marketing data can now yield seemed like a distant dream to knowledge hungry businesses. Historically, it’s been a struggle to extract crucial details, such as behavioural indicators, or even accurate sales figures from the limited information available to decision makers.   

Fast forward to today and marketers are faced with the opposite challenge: how to manage, interpret, and harness – what can only be described as an overwhelming (and often crushing) amount of data and information. Should we have been careful about what we wished for? 

Over the last decade, I’ve witnessed the evolution of businesses suffering from the data drought, only to be drowning in its abundance a few years later. It’s a paradox – having hoped for access to these insights, many companies are now grappling with the sheer volume of information they now have, often buckling under the weight of expectations to turn all this data into actionable pathways for growth. 

But the crux of the matter is not just the amount of data, it’s also the overwhelming detail within it. From search impressions to conversion rates, time on page to customer lifetime value, these metrics have the potential to bombard us ceaselessly. In this whirlwind, it’s easy to get lost, distracted, and ultimately succumb to the pressure of giving up on even trying to decipher any actionable insights. 

Cutting through the noise

The good news? In stepping back and taking a breath amid the swirl of information, we can find clarity when it comes to these overwhelmingly huge volumes of data. And once the figures make sense, there’s an infinite number of insights and key nuggets of information for businesses to glean from their findings. But where to begin when it comes to approaching vast data? The answer to this lies in not attempting to process big data in one go, but instead taking a step back and approaching the customer journey challenges one-by-one. By doing this, decision makers can uncover insights and expose the gaps that have been preventing their marketing efforts from becoming scalable and effective.  

These gaps and problems are usually linked to a lack of effective messaging and impactful content. So, together, let’s dissect some of the core challenges facing a typical customer journey:  

  • Inconsistent messaging 

Social media tantalises prospects with one promise, only for them to arrive at your web doorstep to find a totally different narrative awaiting them. The dissonance between expectation and reality can really dampen engagement and conversion. Alignment is key – ensuring that the promises businesses made are upheld across all touchpoints. 

  • Product-focused messaging 

The cardinal sin of marketing: focusing solely on the product without acknowledging the desires and needs of the customer. In world that’s driven by dialogue with your customers, you might as well be reading a monologue. The answer to this problem is simple: shift the focus from what businesses offer to what the customer seeks. 

  • Generic content 

Today, relevance is the currency of engagement in the marketing world. With that in mind, a one-size-fits-all approach to content simply isn’t going to work. Generic, keyword stuffed blogs and drab infographics are assets of the past, and certainly won’t help businesses to thrive. Instead, the focus needs to shift to creating content that’s unique, impactful, insightful and at the very least, relevant.  

  • A lack of proof points 

Touting about being the best without backing it up won’t fool anybody. Testimonials, case studies, data-backed evidence – these all serve as the tangible evidence to claims, and it’s imperative that businesses are utilising them!  

Using data wisely

By addressing these challenges one by one, hopefully businesses will feel a lot less like they’re drowning in data, but instead navigating its currents strategically. Each challenge in the customer journey holds the key to unlocking growth. By addressing these pain points individually, marketers can place themselves on a journey to scalable success. 

Marketers are often too keen to build out big campaigns without taking time to understand the what, where, when, why or how to effectively engage their target audiences. We get it: building out big campaigns is exciting. Far more than posting organically to social media, for example. But where this big and bold approach falls down is that, ultimately, the learnings gathered from the small tactical pieces – like the organic social post – set us up for success.  

Ignoring the array of data we have available to us on a micro level is both silly and short minded. These insights help us drive results much quicker, making conversations around marketing ROI much easier ones to have. Without them, we’re essentially starting from scratch, and with that comes the dozens of doses of teething pains.  

Experimenting for success

When it comes to identifying these micro quick wins, the best approach to take is often an experimental one. In essence, that means mapping our all your known challenges and tackling them one by one, focusing on the fine details to understand where it all went wrong. By honing in on specific metrics, we can start make informed decisions based on actionable insights. What this approach helps us to do is move from a ‘where do I begin?’ sort of mentality to one where we’re reducing the knowledge gap and overcoming those marketing journey pain points. 

Over time, we’ve discovered that significant progress often stems from carefully crafted messages. Each word we choose matters because it connects with what our audience hopes for. We focus on creating a story that fits well everywhere, ensuring there’s no conflicting information. Moving from overwhelming amounts of data to achieving growth isn’t about sheer force but about skill—a subtle interplay between understanding and taking action, using both numbers and understanding. It’s this balance that showcases real marketing strength. 

Ultimately, when it comes to data overwhelm – success doesn’t depend on how much data we have but on how we use it wisely. Finding growth isn’t about volume of data but using it to guide us toward success that’s all about the customer. 

Nathan Selby, Active Profile
Client Portfolio Director at Active Profile

Nathan started his career in non-profit higher education, before moving through both in-house and agencies across a range of industries, before starting at Active Profile as the Head of Campaigns in 2020. Nathan’s vast experience takes his knowledge across a range of sectors including higher education, local Government, recruitment, automotive, financial services, and tech (channel and SaaS). Working in mostly B2B environments, his career spans from small family businesses to big global agencies.

Recently, Nathan took on the role of Client Portfolio Director. With over 13 years of experience in marketing, Nathan’s specialism centers on marketing execution, strategy, data, and insights. He is passionate about leveraging data and marketing to help clients reach their ultimate business goals, whether that be increasing brand awareness or driving higher sales.