Millennial Minute: Data Is Our Playground

January 14, 2016

Welcome to Millennial Minute, a series in which our resident millennial, Alex Rynne, takes a deep dive into trends, research, and everything B2B marketers need to know about this increasingly powerful and influential buying group. Our last post outlined three takeaways from recent LinkedIn research exploring the affluent millennial mindset. This time, Alex explains how a millennial viewpoint can help you embrace data’s possibilities for your B2B marketing efforts.

Remember when you had to look at liner notes to figure out the lyrics to a song? Or go to the library if you needed an encyclopedia? Or watch the credits of a movie to see if that guy was the same guy from that other movie?

If you do, chances are you're not a millennial. For the majority of our lives, all the information we could ever want has been an internet connection away. We are uniquely evolved to swim in the ocean of data the modern world offers; while some are barely treading water, we’re doing the backstroke.

So it should come as no surprise that millennials are posied to make great digital marketers. The present and future of marketing is all about data. Big data, small data, data stories… We’re ready to use data to make our marketing better.

Here are three ways you can use a millennial’s data mindset to improve your marketing, straight from how we do it at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions:

1. Use Data to Enhance Your Creative

Historically, there has been a divide between the data-driven and creative aspects of marketing. Some creative types believe over-analysis of data leads to endless fine-tuning instead of innovation. On the other side, data-driven marketers see the creative as purely decorative, with the data being what really gets results.

At LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (LMS), we take a millennial approach: Data informs the creation of our content and how we promote it. We can take a few creative risks because, thanks to data, we have a strong hunch our audience will like it. At the same time, we know there’s no substitute for killer content. Data doesn’t replace content, it just makes the content better.

One great example of data and creative working together is Netflix’s House of Cards series. Their research showed that a large number of subscribers liked films by David Fincher, films with Kevin Spacey, and the British TV series House of Cards. With that data in hand, they commissioned an American version of House of Cards, directed by Fincher and starring Spacey. The series is no less awesome for its data-driven origins. On the other hand, if the end product had been lackluster, no data could have saved it. Good data combined with great creative made House of Cards one of Netflix’s most popular offerings.

So take a millennial approach to data: Use data to predict creative effectiveness then follow-through with killer creative.

2. Use Data to Test Everything

For millennials, the ability to collect data means an obligation to put the data to work. It’s not enough to pull reports. If it can be measured, it can be improved. Within LMS, we embrace the sheer quantity of things we can test, iterate, and improve.

We do A/B testing with our creative content, calls to action, verbiage, and branded versus unbranded content. We swap headlines, formatting, social messaging, and images. For example, whenever we launch a new eBook or campaign, we create 10 different images for our LinkedIn Sponsored Updates campaigns. Five feature quotes from clients and five feature stats with visualizations. We are able to quickly determine which ones perform better, and we use that insight to guide the next round of testing.

We built A/B testing into the LMS product suite with Direct Sponsored Content, which is a feature of Sponsored Updates. Use it to test your content for specific audiences without posting each update to your LinkedIn Company Page.

 3. Use Data to Amplify and Personalize

In a recent interview, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ Jason Miller identified personalization and amplification as the top two priorities for data-native marketers in 2016.

“There’s plenty of content out there but are we—as marketers—targeting properly and doing as much as we can to personalize that experience? I’m not saying that we need to be at the same level as Amazon or Netflix, but there are things we can be doing today to move us closer to a better, more personalized content experience,” Jason said. “The other opportunity is going to focus on amplification. How can marketers get additional reach through paid, owned, earned, influencers and advocates both internally and externally.”

With the amount of data we have available to us, there’s no excuse for marketing blind. Data-driven targeting is better for marketers because it creates a better experience for our audiences. We can focus on the people who are most likely to convert, and we can keep from bombarding people with irrelevant messages.

On the LMS team, we have built a Propensity Model for our email marketing. We use data to understand the demographics and behaviors that characterize our ideal prospects. Using this knowledge, we can send customized content only to the people who are most likely to act on it.

For amplification, we know that the best way to get people to share content is to make content they love. So we regularly take a deep dive into audience analysis. We look at who our blog subscribers are, what their interests are, which posts they found most compelling. All that data helps us excel with our creative (see point 1), and then we can A/B test different variables to continually improve (see point 2).

Even if you still remember using a card catalog, it’s not too late to make data your playground. Use it to enhance creativity, test and iterate, amplify and personalize. You don’t need to be a millennial to approach data like one.

To learn more about marketing to and with millennials, download Winning Affluent Millennials: How This New Power Persona is Reshaping The Finance Industry.