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What Data-Driven Marketing Really Means

The Bones

  • Data-driven marketing is a characteristic trait of progressive marketing programs
  • It is a process and comes as a result of having a data-first mentality 
  • Data must be at the heart of all you do
  • Cannot be data-driven without reliable data
  • How to be data-minded is very different than what it means to be data-driven

The Meat

About a year ago I was managing some of my personal storage and stumbled upon a very old resume file. Surprised at both the discovery of the file and the newly dawning fact I may have a data hoarding problem, I started reading through it. I couldn’t help but laugh and cringe, mostly at the same time. If you’ve seen NBC’s The Office, you know exactly what I am talking about! If you haven’t looked back at any of your old resumes, I highly recommend it. Both for a good laugh as well as a view on how far you’ve come.

While looking over my resume there was one phrase in particular that stood out to me. “Data-driven.” You see, if I am completely honest with myself, I know it was more of an ideal than a characteristic at the time. If someone were to ask me during an interview what it meant to be data-driven or how I was a data-driven marketer, I would have had a hard time explaining with any real experience or moral authority. I am sure I would have said something about making decisions based on reliable data, which is exactly what the high-level meaning is, but I wouldn’t have been able to provide any significant depth or substance in my answer.

Now fast forward some 10+ years and I am on the other side of the proverbial table. Funny thing is, I still see the same phrase (or similar variants) on nearly every resume I review. Which begs the question… Have you ever used this phrase in a resume? Maybe it is there now? It’s a bit of a buzz phrase, for sure, but there is nothing really wrong with using it. Unless you can’t back it up, that is.

If someone were to ask you today what it means to be a data-driven marketer and to provide some personal examples, would you be able to respond with haste and confidence? 

How would you have responded to this question early on in your career? How would you respond to it today? Are there any discrepancies in your now and then answers? Maybe you are currently in the early stages of your career? If so, what does it mean to you today to be data-driven?

Throughout my career, I have come to realize that genuine data-driven marketing is not simply making informed decisions based on reliable data. Rather, it is a process and comes as a result of having a data-first mentality. In other words, data has to be at the heart of everything you do – In your planning, execution, measurement, analysis, decision making, and more.

You cannot make good data-driven decisions without reliable data, and you cannot have reliable data without proper data planning and design. Without good data planning and design, your execution will result in poor data output. Needless to say, bad data always leads to bad decisions.

So, is using “data-driven” on your resume a good idea? Maybe. Maybe not. But certainly not if you aren’t ready to elaborate. I admit it was not a great addition to my resume in my early career. Today, however, it is part of who I am. #DataNerd

While this article covers what it means to be a data-driven marketer, how to be a data-driven marketer is another story. Stay tuned for my upcoming article where I will cover practical application and examples of how to become a data-minded marketer.


One of Riot’s greatest strengths is helping clients with their data planning and design. Moving from Dead or Zombie data to Living data is a specialty of ours. May seem a bit nerdy, but we love doing it and we are dang good at it. If you are interested in having a discussion, please use our scheduling tool here to choose a time that works best for your calendar. 

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Riot pushes brands to reach their full potential, take creative risks, and annihilate the competition.

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