A version of this post originally appeared on Adformatie

The majority of marketers now use data to make campaigns more targeted, personal and effective. Yet there is a lot of progress to be made. Many marketers see at least as many opportunities as challenges when using data. The technical aspects, bringing data from different internal sources together and keeping data up to date are seen as important obstacles. In addition, there often is a lack of staff with the right competencies, as shown earlier this year by the IAB Digital Marketing Innovation Research. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to achieve maximum effect with relatively little effort. Therefore, we listed five ways to effectively contribute to your communication and marketing goals, using data: Low effort, High impact!

1. Make smart use of existing algorithms

Both Google and social media – such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – provide highly advanced opportunities for advertisers to make use of the giant data sources of these platforms, and to reach the right audiences with your content.

According to a social media user perceptions study by Dutch research institute SWOCC, there is still a lot to gain in this area. Especially on Facebook: a mere 17% of the users experience brand communications as useful or entertaining.

A traditionally strong focus on reach is one of the main reasons for the lack of success of brands on social platforms. The focus should be on segmenting audiences and matching your content to their specific needs. By utilizing the large amount of demographic and psychographic data that Google, Facebook and others provide, you can respond effectively to your target audiences’ (latent) needs.

2. Facilitate the dialogue with data

Although most companies increasingly understand how to reach and get to know their customers, the online business-customer dialogue is still rare and cost-intensive. That is why many companies are looking at automated forms of customer service; e.g. by introducing chatbots that provide value to their customers by assisting them in retrieving some kind of information. And through automated and intelligent use of data for service purposes, to enable service agents to communicate faster and smarter with customers using AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions.

But how can you add value and automate the online dialogue in the customer journey, marking multiple touchpoints at the same time? Using chatbots in earlier stages in the customer or stakeholder journey will create a more personal experience and have greater impact of your brand communications. Consider a chatbot on Facebook for instance, helping your customers make the right choice in product via just a few questions and additional data sources.

3. Create a more personalized website

Websites are traditionally designed to inform, facilitate or focus on action or transaction. Analysis of website-use however shows us that customer goals are often not achieved and have less impact on knowledge, attitude or behaviour than marketers hope for.

96% of marketers are convinced that a personalized experience enhances the connection with the brand and 88% believe that their customers also expect a personal experience in brand communications. Nevertheless, only 58% make use of the possibilities for personalization of the website and its homepage. Enough reason to start doing so right away!

Use the advanced possibilities of your websites’ data to your advantage by personalizing the customer journey, based on location, behaviour, demographic and psychographic variables. This way, the website increases in relevance with each visit. You can also take it to the next level by creating a conversational interface, intensifying the customer-centric experience. By using chat or speech controlled input, the automated online dialogue can be used to provide both information and service in the most optimal way.

4. Make e-mail marketing more relevant

E-mail marketing can often be used in a more effective way – one size doesn’t fit all. Most men are not dying to see the newest collection of dresses in their inbox and marketers will probably not click on a newsletter that covers an unfortunate quote by a spokesperson.

Most marketers see eye to eye on that. According to a Dutch survey, 78% thinks you achieve better results with personalized and segmented e-mails. However, a mere 29% actually use customer behaviour to send relevant e-mails and only 9% uses predictive content: relevant content, based on historical user data, to target similar customers and trends.

By using data that maps the behaviour of your subscribers, based on interactions with the content you published on your website or in your newsletter, you can create a drumbeat that ensures every subscriber will receive a newsletter based on his or her interests and needs. This is based on interactions on your website, time spent on pages, which type of content is most read or interactions by similar subscribers. Linking different data sources, like your CRM system and the statistics of your website, can be a very useful tool.

5. Base your strategy on real-time data

As a marketer, it is tempting to make strategic decisions and develop campaigns based on assumptions or data you already have. In fact, research shows that half of the marketers still make decisions based on assumptions or gut feeling. There are so many data points available to get real insights into how people talk about your brand, products, competitors or other topics that are of interest to you. It’s not just words being analysed. Visual analytics are more accurate than ever: logos, objects, products and people in photos and videos can be recognized and analysed as well. These kinds of analytics are essential considering the rise of visual social media such as Instagram and Pinterest, as well as the increase in video consumption.

Insights in real-time data are necessary in order to react in times of crises. They are perhaps even more crucial to be able to look ahead. What insights can I use from all this data, how can I anticipate on this and how can I leverage this in my strategy? By looking at what is being said, by whom and with what sentiment? You can even identify predictive trends from the data, which in turn give you an incentive to make real-time decisions in your campaign or strategy.

The first step is setting up a real-time dashboard, so that you can see the conversations and sentiment around your brand at any time of the day. There are a large number of tools that can provide you with online data. To set up a truly effective and usable dashboard, it is essential you link it to other data sources as well. For example, adding brand research or a reputation tracker ensures that there is accurate information to base your campaign or decision-making on.