Universal rules in digital marketing – Insights always beat opinions

Written by
Luke Szkudlarek

How to allocate budget between channels, campaigns or keywords? How to persuade C-level executives that your proposal is the right one? These are some of the most difficult situations that we face on an ongoing basis. Even though you know you are right, you struggle to construct a convincing argument to make an unquestionable recommendation. The best method to overcome this is to ensure insights become a fundamental part of your recommendation and the decision making process. This sounds like the only way forward, but it’s surprising how often this simple approach doesn’t belong to the repertoire of the modern campaign managers.

Observation vs. Insight

My own definition of an insight: “A fact based observation that validates a change to the current method”.

The change means action and it’s essential. An insight without any action is an observation. Also because it’s fact based, it removes opinions. It’s important that these facts are coming from credible and undisputed sources, such as campaign data, CRM or experiments.

How to make insights impactful

Having an insight is never enough. There are some crucial factors that will ‘make or break’ your campaign recommendation.


Make insights stand out

Deliver your insights sequentially as a story, e.g. in a presentation. Present only one insight per slide in a logical order. For example, when presenting an annual campaign review, go from “large to small” – meaning start with channels, then go into campaigns and afterwards keywords, ad level. The same applies to presenting time periods, start with your annual insights, then show quarterly insights before you discuss monthly or daily insights.

The wording is important

Make your text short and conclusive, if you’re not sure if what you observed is true, put a question mark and save it as a point for discussion or further analysis. Never risk presenting something as a fixed insight when you’re not sure – you are risking the credibility of the entire document.

Sell your recommendations

Each recommendation must be backed by an insight. It’s a simple trick to persuade your audience – it’s actually nearly impossible to say no to a good insight.

If it’s not actionable, don’t include it

Sometimes for consistency (e.g. when presenting the similar information on a monthly basis), we want to keep the structure the same because the audience should be used to the information. I typically find that sticking to a fixed monthly template leads to a gradual degradation of the quality reporting and should be avoided. Each reporting period delivers another story – of course, as long as some actions from the previous reporting period were implemented!

Sources and method

Your insights will be challenged, particularly by those with opposite views and that’s good, but you need need to be well prepared. Here’re some of the most common challenges and strategies to overcome them.

What’s the source of this information?

Make sure you always quote and reference your sources upfront, e.g. if you exported data from a tool to Google Sheets, then provide the link to Google sheets.

How was the data collected?

It’s paramount that you understand the data collection method and can explain the process, know your sources and their credibility. If you’re using weaker sources communicate this upfront.

What about the impact of external factors on your data?

When comparing time periods or when conducting A/B tests – “Ceteris paribus”, in other words ‘all other things remaining constant’, is important. It could be sometimes impossible to provide identical conditions for marketing tests, but at least you should aim to exclude obvious factors that affect the comparison, e.g. comparing the same regions, considering the most important external factors etc. Another common example are seasonal trends when conducting month on month analysis. Take them into account to define your tests.

Creative use of data

The most powerful insights typically come from “not-obvious” combinations of various data sources. That’s why this should be done by marketing and business professionals, who have enough data expertise to connect the dots. The knowledge of the product or customer profiles combined with access to targeting available on social channels can be incredibly effective. For instance, we’re selling a cosmetic product to young people who care about their skin, we have an extensive Google search campaign to find them, but that’s obvious. A non-obvious insight would be to look at large platforms with similar audiences – and that’s how we ended up advertising within the Tinder app. These types of creative insights are key differentiators to make your campaigns stand out and perform above average.

Please feel free to contact me and share your tips and tricks on how to apply data driven approach to campaign reporting and optimisation. In case you missed my other article of my universal rules in digital marketing series – here’s the other blog on money management in digital marketing.