Every day, cus­tomers leave a trail of dig­i­tal bread crumbs. From com­put­ers and note­books to smart­phones and in-store trans­ac­tions, the infor­ma­tion con­tained in avail­able data stream­lines the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. It local­izes and per­son­al­izes it. If your com­pany isn’t gob­bling up that trail, using it to gain mar­ket share advan­tage, you aren’t pay­ing attention.

The cool thing about the whole dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing process is that data can be ana­lyzed and used in ways that are help­ful to both your cus­tomer and your com­pany. It saves the cus­tomer time and money. It directs them to your prod­uct. It pro­vides you with ways to improve brand­ing, gen­er­ate demand, and influ­ence deci­sions at crit­i­cal points.

Start­ing with some­thing as sim­ple as a friend’s 140-character com­ment, a fil­tered photo, a mobile ad, or a drive-by bill­board, and end­ing with a local­ized offer or direc­tions to a point of sale, the path to pur­chase can be com­plex. That’s where a bespoke ana­lyt­ics pro­gram, tai­lored to your goals, is so effective.

Many mar­ket­ing depart­ments do not under­stand the method­ol­ogy behind apply­ing ana­lyt­ics to their mar­ket­ing plans. They don’t pay atten­tion. They nudge new strate­gies aside with a wince of appre­hen­sion. They fear the result. They’re still rooted to print, which by the way, con­tin­ues to have strong sup­port, but only in some niche mar­kets. If you aren’t pay­ing atten­tion to what your data is telling you, you’re los­ing an edge that some­one else will use to cut into your mar­ket share.

Change can be hard. When you shine the light of ana­lyt­ics on the per­for­mance of your mar­ket­ing plans, media buys, brand­ing, and sales, some pre­vi­ously murky things become trans­par­ent. Some long-held love affairs with old ways may prove inef­fec­tive. Some strate­gies may hold pleas­ant sur­prises, prov­ing much more prof­itable than ever imag­ined. You won’t know unless you pay atten­tion. And do the math. Just to make sure you’re doing it right, ask your­self, and your peers and employ­ees, these questions:

Are your mar­ket­ing goals clearly defined? Your goals and objec­tives drive your media choices. If not clearly stated, you may be send­ing resources to the wrong chan­nels. Mis­ap­pro­pri­ated mar­ket­ing dol­lars are painful, and any­thing that does not pos­i­tively rein­force brand per­cep­tion and brand aware­ness is just plain ugly. Put ana­lyt­ics to good use here and direct dol­lars to performance.

Are those choices backed up with accu­rate, empir­i­cally proven attri­bu­tion via ana­lyt­ics? Ana­lyt­ics can help you here, but only if you are spot­ting the stars and ditch­ing the dogs, based on solid met­rics. Con­nect­ing the attri­bu­tion dots between sales, orders, leads, and return on invest­ment to the num­bers on searches, emails, dis­plays, PR, and even offline chan­nels in print, radio, and TV will put mar­ket­ing on a cred­i­ble, account­able, solid sta­tus. Data in, ana­lyt­ics applied, attrib­ut­able results out. No shad­ows. No magic. Just facts that illus­trate and empha­size the impor­tance of mar­ket­ing as a profit cen­ter and sales driver.

Then, you will have everyone’s atten­tion. Even that of your competitors.