Erik Van Dorp on Becoming a Data-Driven Marketer

Devon Tackels

Head of Communications, Sigma

Ask any marketer, and they will tell you that analytics has increasingly become a part of their day-to-day life.

Long gone are the days of broad, untargeted TV spots and ad campaigns. Today’s marketing runs on highly-targeted data and research that aims to put the right message into the hands of the right person at the right time.

Whether it’s digesting insights about a customer segment or determining the success of your latest campaign, data can be used every step of the way to ensure marketing efforts pay off. The right insights can guide strategy and help you make better decisions. But many marketers don’t have the data chops to analyze company data on their own—often relying on the data team or other coworkers to lend an assist. But this is changing. Modern cloud data tools make analytics more accessible, and companies expect more from the marketing pros they hire.

As a marketer, you need data to do your job. It’s that simple.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Erik Van Dorp from Cervinodata about becoming a more data-driven marketer, selecting software, tracking the right metrics, and more. Read the complete interview below to hear what insights Erik has to share, and learn what you can do to become up your marketing analytics game. 

You founded Cervinodata. How did it come to be? 

I built Cervinodata for myself at first. I hated that marketers like myself had to wait for IT colleagues to get the data out of the various platforms and ready for reporting.

We have been doing a lot of dashboard building work for clients over the last five years. For me, it has always been very frustrating that I had to wait for IT capacity before I could put my data in a dashboard. It has been very liberating to connect platforms, switch on the accounts I need, build a query (without writing code), and use the right data in a dashboard.

Today we’re talking analytics. What’s your history with analytics, and how did you get into this space?

My love for data goes back to the 90s. While completing my Masters in Business Economics in 1993, I read the book “The One-to-One Future” by Peppers & Rogers. It was very inspiring and opened my eyes to the world of data. I have been intrigued by large data sets and translating data into compelling stories ever since.

You have an unusual professional background that started in the non-profit arena. Can you share a little about the journey to the marketing world and how previous experience prepared you for the work you do today?

The book is available on Amazon.

After working for a fast-growing company for four years, I wanted to work for an organization that had a purpose. I ended up at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the Netherlands as a fundraiser for the consumer market. It was the perfect combination of a professional and large scale consumer marketing operation wrapped in a mission I loved. The job helped me to think big (WWF is global), tell compelling stories, work with large numbers (WWF The Netherlands has a donor base of 1 million people), and manage a lot of marketing channels. The last two years, I was working all over Europe to set up fundraising offices in high-growth countries.

When my wife gave birth to our third child, I decided to stay closer to home, and I started my own consulting business. First, I focused heavily on the non-profit sector. But then I rapidly expanded into e-commerce and advertising.

Marketing is becoming increasingly analytics-driven. Where do you see the future going—should every marketer look to make data analysis part of their toolbox?

As a marketer, you need data to do your job. It’s that simple. I believe that when marketers combine their gut feeling with the right numbers, their performance will dramatically increase. Removing any hurdles that stand between a marketer and analytics allows them to make data analysis a daily routine—even for those marketers that do not instinctively like data.

What do you think are the biggest analytics challenges facing modern marketers today?

I work with a lot of online agencies. Right now, they are under increasing pressure to deliver the best ROI for their clients, which can be extremely time-consuming. There is so much data to crunch, and rates are under pressure. So they have to work smarter. Finding and incorporate the right tools to keep wowing their customers (and save them time) gives them an edge.

Numbers can often be something that people find to be overwhelming at first. What would you say to someone who doesn’t come from an analytics background and wants to become more data-driven in their everyday workflow?

Start very simple. Choose one or two metrics that are relevant to your performance and start monitoring those. Then think about what you could do to influence those numbers. Once you get the feeling of action-reaction, you will see that monitoring data can be rather addictive.

Getting started with  analytics

  Choose one or two metrics to monitor that are relevant to your performance. 

  Think about what you can do to influence those numbers.

  Take action. 

  Measure the impact of your work on those metrics to understand the relationship and determine success.

   Optimize. Wash, rinse, and repeat. 

Do you see the future of analytics becoming more accessible to those without technical backgrounds in programming?

I do. New tools are becoming available to make marketers lives easier. But  most tools still focus on the tech-savvy analysts and data scientists, not the marketer. The challenge for marketers is to find the right tools that give him or her control over data analysis, without relying on the IT team. We built Cervinodata with marketers in mind, but it still allows plenty of customization for those who are tech-savvy. Sigma Computing takes a similar approach, which is why we’ve partnered with them. 

In a world drowning in metrics, how do marketers determine what is important? Any advice for setting marketing goals and using analytics to measure success?

The trick is to determine the influence of your most important marketing activities against your bottom line net profit. This can be reasonably complex because many activities affect the results of others—in many ways, it’s part art and part science.

The challenge for marketers is to find the right tools that give them control over data analysis.

Paralysis by analysis is a common reason for low performance, so you have to  test and optimize against the results continually. I suggest focusing on the top three or four channels that have the most significant influence on your bottom line profit, and try to optimize performance from there. Then you can move on to other channels. You don’t want to take on too much at once. 

What types of data problems do you see agencies and in-house marketing teams encounter?

Both in-house teams and agencies have the same issue: getting data from multiple platforms into one centralized database to report on performance. For agencies, this issue is multiplied by the amount of clients they have. That’s why the majority of our customers are agencies—Cervinodata makes it easy to organize analytics for multiple accounts and users.

There is a lot of marketing software out there to choose from. What do you look for when considering a new software solution?

First and foremost, I always look for tools that are very easy to use. Then I look for more advanced features that will allow us to keep using the tool when we grow beyond the basics. Personally, I often send a support question to any solution I am considering to see how their customer service team reacts. This is a great way to get a preview into what it will be like to work with their team. Can you imagine not getting a response when your business is on the line?


Erik Van Dorp

Erik is the founder and CEO of Cervinodata, an analytics platform built for marketing agencies to collect, store and analyze big data.


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