Marketers have always relied on data to make informed decisions, and in the digital age, there is a range of platforms that help marketing pros make the most of the data at their fingertips.
SQL, or structured query language, is one of them. It underpins many modern database systems, including the likes of SQL Server and MySQL.
If you are unfamiliar with it, or unconvinced by its potential, this article highlights four practical ways it can be put to work to improve the outcome of your next campaign. While it is not perfect, with issues such as index fragmentation hampering performance as explained in this article, SQL is still an excellent marketing tool.
Conducting customer research
In the world of marketing, knowing your audience is half the battle. And unless you can get to grips with the wants, needs, and interests of the people you are targeting, you will struggle to make a meaningful connection when pitching products and services.
Customer research is thus a cornerstone of marketing success and is made much more manageable if you have an SQL database on your side.
The advantages of SQL in this context are many and varied. It is great at handling large volumes of data efficiently, such as you might generate through customer surveys. It is also highly adaptable and essentially straightforward to use, enabling you to write queries that let you focus on specific metrics, such as age, income, gender, or anything else you deem relevant.
All of this means that as well as being able to glean actionable insights from all sorts of data sources, SQL empowers you to accelerate this process and draw valuable conclusions when time is of the essence.
You will still need to apply your own interpretation and expertise to the findings from your customer research endeavors; it’s just that SQL will get you where you need to go in less time.
Measuring campaign performance
It is not enough to put together great campaigns which are founded on careful customer research. You also need to make sure you monitor how well they perform once they go live so that you can celebrate your successes, recognize any issues and calculate the ROI of your marketing efforts.
SQL solutions are once again well suited to help you harvest, store and analyze campaign performance data swiftly, precisely, and efficiently. And with digital marketing being the norm, this is all the more important.
Whether you are interested in getting insights into how click-through rates correlate with conversions from your latest paid search ad initiative, or you want to work out whether your social media marketing posts are engaging effectively with your ideal demographic, a modern SQL database will give you the foundation you need to achieve this.
Whatever KPIs you have in mind, the task of keeping tabs on them will be less strenuous with in-house SQL tools or even cloud-based solutions at your disposal. This does of course mean that you will need to familiarize yourself with using this language or work with someone who can steer you through this process using their own expertise. Regardless, the upfront effort needed will pay dividends in the long term.
Powering a website or app
Modern marketers have a plethora of tactics at their disposal when courting prospective customers, and many will need to make websites or apps which serve to snare and convert users.
SQL databases are a foundational element of many different services of this kind, working in tandem with other programming languages to deliver a coherent, compelling experience to visitors. Everything from WordPress to Spotify and beyond makes use of SQL in some form to construct the end product on offer, and so it is more than likely that you are already using some form of this database without even realizing it.
Thus SQL can help whether you want to put together an e-commerce site specifically to promote the launch and sale of a new product from a brand client, or if you want to create an app that functions to funnel users toward some other aspect of your latest campaign.
Because SQL is so ubiquitous, it is widely supported and very well understood across the world of web and software development. So even if you have no expertise with it yourself, you can rely on it being part of the skill set of the other people you involve in your project.
Interacting with ad platforms
Speaking of third-party solutions which use SQL, it is wise to recognize the role it has to play in a number of marketing-specific platforms focused on delivering ads to internet users.
Facebook Ads, for example, can have marketing data extracted and interacted with using SQL queries, which ties into the points we made earlier about monitoring performance and researching customer interests.
The more familiar you become with SQL, the easier it will be to extract the maximum value from these types of platforms which are very much the bread and butter of the average marketing professional in the 21st century.
While it is not strictly essential for every marketer to become an SQL expert, there are definitely advantages to acquiring a working knowledge of this programming language, as well as of the platforms it powers and the ways it can be leveraged.
This is about more than just catalyzing common marketing tasks, but also about reframing the way you conceive of data in the first place. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information you need to wrangle from day to day, familiarity with SQL will make you comfortable with data sets of all sizes and varieties.
There are other database platforms out there that do not rely on SQL, so it is certainly not the only player in the game. However, for marketing in particular it is certainly worthy of your attention, both because of its applications in your moment-to-moment responsibilities, and the effect it will have on your employability.