Not all that long ago, marketing was more art than science. But with the advent of data-driven digital marketing, more than just the day-to-day discipline of marketing is going through growing pains. And dealing with data, in addition to the change, can be daunting for marketers.
Though there is certainly still an art to marketing in the digital age, data has altered everything from the ideation process to corporate relationships between marketing, IT, business intelligence and sales, among other departments. Thanks to the creative, as well as facts, figures and data points that inform campaigns, these factors have helped optimize efforts and provided marketers with ROI vigor that is being repaid with the rise of the CMO in the C-Suite.
All these changes can essentially be traced to data, and its central role in marketing today. Like anything, there are pros and cons to data's rise.
Data paralysis is real
As Marketing Dive reported recently from The Economist's Marketing Unbound conference, as important as it is to keep data top of mind, Big Data cannot create ideas, simply inform them.
"Big Data is not a substitute for Big Ideas," Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT AgeLab, said. "Big data is tactical and it offers consumers guidance, but big data doesn’t create a vision that gets the consumer excited and say, 'this brand offers a lifestyle that I want.'"
Meanwhile, Victoria Godfrey, CMO at Avention, told Marketing Dive that data paralysis can be a real issue facing marketers.
“Marketers recognize the value of data-driven insights,” she said. “But when faced with the number, diversity and sheer amount of data sources – plus uncertainty about how to translate data into business benefits – they often succumb to data paralysis." She described data paralysis as knowing you need to do something, but are too overwhelmed by the scope of the project to do anything.
In terms of how to approach marketing data, Godfrey said it’s key to ensure that data is accurate and clean. That way business decisions are being supported by the most current and accurate data available. She added marketers should also be augmenting their first-party data on customers and prospects with external data sources.
Getting Marketing and IT on the same page
One change that is ongoing is that data is turning CMOs into tech buyers. Even when marketing isn’t actively buying technology, its use of data means there’s an increased need for alignment between corporate groups including IT, business intelligence and marketing.
"A marketing team uses data to identify when, where and how to market messages to prospects. A customer support team references user data to improve service and identify opportunities for renewals or upsells. Among other things, IT uses data to optimize web performance and ensure mobile operations run smoothly," Godfrey said, explaining how different groups might use the same group of internal data.
Even though each department has its unique function and use for the data, Godfrey said everyone is working toward the same overarching goal – to provide an excellent customer experience that drives sales and revenue. That goal is strengthened when each of these groups aligns their process.
In terms of fostering this type of internal alignment, she pointed out that although marketing and IT tend to speak different languages, establishing an ultimate set of goals that suit both teams’ habits and daily workflow is a way to get the groups on the same page.
"Team-bonding activities can also help build a level of rapport and familiarity that is critical for achieving shared wins," she said. "Marketers should celebrate individuals that contribute to the success of joint projects, recognize when teams go above and beyond to collaborate, or even encourage both marketing and IT staff to attend a local monthly trivia night. Doing so will strengthen bonds that translate to a fortified working relationship between departments."
What is Marketing’s role in data handling?
Marketing's role in dealing with data is still evolving, however, it's clear that data will no doubt need to be something marketers understand and know how to read.
"Because CMOs are now being held accountable for revenue, it’s important that CMOs have an accurate view of the entire funnel, meaning they have to have some say in how internal data is handled," Godfrey said.
She explained that even if the CMO doesn’t have the final say, they have to work closely with CIOs, CSOs and Sales Operations to make sure internal data is accurate and up-to-date. Chief marketers also have to see to the database being augmented with appropriate third-party data.
She pointed out this information is invaluable to CMOs and warned that if they don’t have a hand in data hygiene or purchases practices at their companies, they should.
“In the end, CMOs are trying to get to a revenue number,” Godfrey said. “Every interaction captured in the database along the way helps to tell the story of why one deal closed and another didn’t.”
For marketing teams looking to get ahead, data paralysis won't cut it.