Aug 23, 2022

Data vs. insights-driven marketing: what’s the difference?

12-MINUTE READ | By Elise Dopson

Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Aug 23, 2022 ]

Marketers have access to large quantities of data. Some 43% of CMOs say marketing tech, data, and analytics are their biggest priority. And according to McKinsey, data-driven campaigns are poised to increase sales of a core product by more than 10%.

But raw data and isolated metrics don’t tell us the full picture. We have a surplus of data but too little insights and a lack of knowledge on how to take action. 

Insights-driven marketing takes your raw data and turns it into evidence. For example, if you’re evaluating an uplift in conversions from organic traffic, you’ll pair that metric with supporting data to uncover the why—not just the what.

So, how do you go from data-driven to insights-driven? This guide shares the answer with bonus examples of marketing teams who’ve done it successfully.

Navigate this post:

What is data-driven marketing?

Data-driven marketing uses information from various sources to inform future strategies. If you’re planning to launch an advertising campaign, for example, you might rely on previous Facebook Ads data—such as CPC by campaign or engagement rate by demographic—to fine-tune your next campaign.

What is insights-driven marketing?

Insights-driven marketing involves turning raw data into actionable insights. Think of it like the extra mile in a traditional data-driven strategy. Instead of taking data at face value, you do some detective work to uncover why that’s the case and how it influences your future strategy.

As Edward Ford, Demand Gen Director at Supermetrics says, “Being insights-driven is about taking your marketing data and making sense of it so you can make the right decision.”

“Being ‘data-driven’ doesn’t really tell the full story,” Edward continues. “Data is the starting point and input needed for analysis, which is all about understanding what’s happening so you can make better-informed decisions. That’s what insights-driven marketing is all about.”

Unlike raw data, marketing insights give you greater information about your customers and strategy, which you can use to improve decision-making throughout campaigns. That’s why it gives your marketing team a competitive advantage. 

Improve ROI

Companies are always looking to get more mileage from their marketing budget. However, organic channels are pushing brands toward the pay-to-play model. Even when brands invest in paid advertisements, it’s packed with competition. The average cost per click increased by 15% between the second and third quarters of 2021.

Alongside racing to the bottom of an increasingly-expensive race, six in 10 marketers report major budget cuts. They’re pressured to uncover marketing strategies that do a better—and cheaper—job of reaching their audience.

Data-driven insights help you divide an already-limited marketing spend in campaigns most likely to pay off. You’ll know what your customers want, and the right content that engages them, helping your campaigns stand out from oversaturated marketing channels—even if you’re working with no budget. 

Ability to change

The most effective marketing campaigns are proactive. By estimating your audience’s preferences, trends, and challenges ahead of time, you’ll be able to run campaigns that meet them when they’re in that frame of mind.

The only problem? Some 35% of marketers say their biggest challenge is changing and adapting to circumstances as they happen. Yet the more insights you have in your toolbox, the better you are at pivoting with your customers instead of after.

“By analyzing specific insights, you can target your prospects accordingly and move them through the funnel faster. You also have the ability to optimize your marketing campaigns to reach your target audience more effectively. When you understand your customers better, you’re able to sell to them more easily.”

Melanie Bedwell, Ecommerce Manager at OLIPOP

Beat your competition

According to Ross Simmonds, Founder of Foundation Marketing, “Most marketers never turn data into insights because they’re not trained to think critically or qualitatively around how data can actually translate into real human insights.”

This makes an insight-driven marketing strategy a competitive advantage. The greater insights you have about the customer experience desired by a target market, the easier it is to connect and stand out from competitors who only care about making the hard sell. 

This intimate knowledge of your customer personas reflects on every stage of the lifecycle, from customer acquisition to retention. Conversion rates increase across the board when you’ve won the battle for attention against a competitor.

What’s the difference between data and insights-driven?

Data-driven marketing teams use data to make better marketing decisions. It’s a good starting point, but simply relying on data isn’t enough. You also need the right analysis and actionable insights to move forward, leading to better insights in less time.

On the other hand, being insights-driven takes a deeper look at why the data appears as it does. Teams gather data from various data sources, platforms, and channels to build a more complete, less isolated view of their customers’ behavior.

How to build a data and insights-driven marketing strategy

Ready to improve your marketing campaigns by pulling insights from your existing data? Instead of overwhelming yourself with numbers and KPIs, here’s a simple strategy to use both data and insights to make better decisions.

1. Collect raw data

You can’t get insights without data. So, start collecting raw data from each marketing platform you use. That includes:

  • Zero-party data collected straight from your audience through quizzes, surveys, and polls. Uncover your audience’s likes, dislikes, and opinions with this type of qualitative data. 
  • First-party data collected from owned properties, such as your website, app, or CRM. This data shows how customers interact with your brand. 
  • Third-party data collected from external sources, such as research studies or public demographic information. Use it to plug holes and support zero- or first-party data.

2. Have a data lake

Once you’ve collected your raw data, don’t leave it to die in scattered spreadsheet reports, never to be seen again. Have a data lake—a place to combine metrics from all tools—that’s easily accessible by the entire team.

Being insights-driven is a team sport. The more your team comes together to share data, the easier it is to spot patterns and accurately predict which insights will have the biggest impact on your strategy.

Use Supermetrics’ data integration platform to make sense of your data. Automate data collection and pull KPIs from your most important marketing platforms. Visualizing them all in one dashboard helps to connect the dots. You’ll go from data to insights, faster.

3. Extract key insights

As your marketing data lake begins to fill up, patterns will start to emerge. Extract key insights from your repository and sum them up in a few words.

Let’s put that into practice and say you’re evaluating data from the last six months’ Facebook marketing campaigns. You notice that website visitors arriving from posts that mention pricing don’t convert as well as those visiting from a campaign where key messaging revolved around a customer testimonial.

The data shows that Facebook posts with customer reviews convert 15% better. The greater insight could be that customers want to see social proof before buying. This is supported by a 4% increase in conversions on sales pages containing 5* reviews.

Either way, take raw data as your starting point and investigate. As content strategist Rachel Andrea Go says, “It’s important to involve anyone who has context to the data. In marketing, you can’t view data in a vacuum.”

“Company-specific data is the same,” Rachel explains. “You can’t view it in a vacuum. You need to incorporate a holistic view of what else was going on—across your other teams, with your partners, in the industry, and otherwise.” 

Executing an insights-driven strategy is a team sport. Have everyone on the team involved in pulling insights and verifying them against other sources. That way, you’ll be confident that marketing insights don’t lead you down the wrong path.

How to go from data-driven to insights-driven 

Foundation Marketing

Foundation is a marketing agency that prides itself on its ability to study trends and behaviors in the B2B industry. Its founder, Ross Simmonds, says the team ran a “qualitative analysis wherein we reviewed 4,300 online reviews for one of our clients on Capterra, G2, and Trustradius.

“We used this to better understand what positive descriptors, phrases, keywords, and references people were making about this client’s product and their competition,” Ross says—information the agency used to shape landing page copy for its client.

But that’s not where it ended. Ross adds, “In this analysis, we uncovered a trend where a certain feature they offered was constantly being praised as something that users loved. So we took that insight and created a blog post that was product-driven but rooted in the ‘use cases’ described on these review sites.”

“The content generated not just traffic but actual sign-ups for the product,” Ross continues. “This insight was only possible because the team didn’t think linearly about the job, i.e., landing page copy, but instead thought holistically about the ideal customer and the client.”

Fix The Photo

Fix The Photo is an agency that offers specialized photo retouching services. Its CEO, Ann Young, says the agency relies on Salesforce data since they “have a lot of information about who is buying our services. We can see which channels are working best for us and which ones aren’t.”

“From there, we can make decisions about how best to use the resources available to us—whether that means hiring more salespeople or investing in new technology that’ll help us reach more prospects through digital channels.”

Throughout this process, Ann says, “I’ve found that the best way to convince them is by showing them results from our insight-driven campaigns. For example, we run an annual campaign where we send out emails to people who have recently visited our website but haven’t made a purchase yet.”

“Our previous response rates were around 3%, and we were only getting about 1% click-throughs from those emails,” Ann continues.

“When we started running this insight-driven campaign based on what we learned from our website visitors’ behavior, our email response rate increased by 10x, and our click-through rate increased by 100x! That’s what convinced my team members and stakeholders that this approach was worth their time.”


Bygghemma is the leading hardware, gardening, and decorating retailer in the Nordics. It has an internal traffic and analytics team to monitor performance marketing campaigns across two separate online stores.

Data isn’t in short supply for Bygghemma. But as its Head of Traffic & Analytics, Juha Saarinen, says, “With the amount of data going around, we want to be able to make sure that we get all of the insights needed.”

The team pivoted away from native Google Analytics and Ads reports because neither could provide enough insights. Juha and his team migrated to Google BigQuery, a cloud warehouse to store large volumes of data.

On their search for a new ETL provider, Juha says the team “evaluated several solutions, but many of them could not provide the data in the granularity we needed. That was a deal breaker. Supermetrics could provide us with the data we needed and then some.”

With the new Supermetrics pipeline in place, Juha says that Bygghema “have been able to take multiple marketing sources and attribute the whole sales process to them.

“The data we produce is then distributed across the organization through our reporting tool,” Juha continues. “We can easily share that data with everyone in sales and marketing to help them understand how we’re performing and where we should start focusing more. Everyone involved with our sales gets great insights from the data.”

Go from data to insights, faster

Metrics used in silo won’t unveil the consumer insights you need to build on your marketing efforts. Put the raw data you already have to use and get a better understanding of your customers. Success lies in pairing raw data with other metrics to unveil insights that tell you why it happened.

About the author

Elise Dopson is a freelance writer for SaaS and ecommerce brands and the founder of Help a B2B Writer.

Turn your marketing data into opportunity

We streamline your marketing data so you can focus on the insights.

Book Demo