At best, marketers are doing a "fair" job of handling the explosion of data in the space. That's according to newly published research from the DMA that found only about one-third of marketers felt they had a good grasp of dealing with data. Further, data analysis is also posing a challenge to marketing teams, with a scant 3% of respondents saying they felt their data is well-aligned.
The DMA's 2016 Statistical Factbook (SFB) also revealed that direct mail decreased almost 2% year-over-year while digital ad spending increased 17% in 2015. Another interesting data point from the fact book was only 29% of companies are collecting data from social media.
Neil O'Keefe, svp of CRM and member engagement at the DMA, put the results into perspective, as well as provided a deeper look into how marketers are handling the social media marketing channel, saying what stood out most to him from the fact book was the amount of marketers without a grasp on their data. He explained the CMO Council reports only 30% of marketers felt they were handling this aspect of marketing well, while 24% said either poor or very poor and 33% reported feeling poor or very poor at analyzing data for personalized experiences.
"This is a cry for help from the marketing community," O'Keefe said. "This is the future of marketing and the future is now. More marketers are searching our education to better train existing staff and DMA hears from hiring managers that more and more their target hire is a data scientist and not a marketer."
As data-driven marketing continues to take hold, it's crucial for industry professionals from all departments to polish up their quantitative strategies and skills.
Meeting the data challenge
For marketers looking for a place to begin in taming the data challenge, personalization is a good place to start. According to O'Keefe, campaigns that aren’t personalized and relevant will be ignored, or even worse, blocked or opted-out.
As an example of where the industry is headed, he pointed to a recent DMA Twitter chat using the hashtag #andTHENchat where the DMA asked industry experts, “How has the art of #marketing & #advertising changed over the last decade?”
Here are a few responses the DMA received during that chat:
Marketing and Advertising has become personal. It's become "expected to be tailored," no longer "for everyone." #andTHENchat— Peter Shankman (@petershankman) May 18, 2016
A1. We're also moving (quickly now) from 1 to many to 1 to 1. And marketing and advertising are blending into Marketising. #andTHENchat— Jay Baer (@jaybaer) May 18, 2016
@DMA_USA A1: With greater access to customer data, there are more opportunities to customize + personalize their experience. #andTHENchat— Wilde Agency (@Wilde_Agency) May 18, 2016
The consensus, it appears, is that as data becomes entrenched in marketing, internally the lines between departments, roles and tasks are blurring. And externally, on the user end data has helped make personalization an expectation. For marketing teams to succeed going forward, data and personalization have to be top priorities.
"Customers are willing to trade their data for a personalized and relevant experience. Marketers need to keep up their half of the bargain," O'Keefe said
What social media data should B2B marketers be collecting?
Though every brand and social media platform is different, in every instance, marketers should have an eye on understanding the customer and engaging with audiences rather than selling them.
O'Keefe said the fact that only 20% of marketers are collecting first-party data from social media is significant, but noted that social data isn't truly first-party data since it's not acquired directly. Although subject to certain terms and conditions, social data comes from the social networks and can be accessed by marketers. At the same time, O'Keefe said that shouldn't take away from it's importance, but marketers can take advantage of data collection from other sources.
"Businesses can also collect first-party data through social media sign-up email collection, name address and geolocation," he said.
The biggest issue, it seems, is still about what to do with all the data once it's gathered. Data management, he said, is an issue that plagues both B2B and B2C marketers. For business marketers, database management is a more challenging endeavor due to the expensive and extensive nature of the complex sales process. There are more hyper-informed influencers involved in the buying decision.
"While social can influence the ability to target based on email match is more difficult from personal to business address. B2B has a greater challenge targeting based on contact information via social since most people use their personal email to manage social networks," he said.
A big difference in first party data collection between B2B and B2C is that business marketers have value assets like whitepapers or other information to exchange for first-party data, while B2C marketers ask for customers to stay in touch, download coupons or sign up for loyalty programs.
All of this translates into a much more tough time using and collecting social data in B2B.
For business marketers to really get something out of social media data, O’Keefe said they have to focus on certain aspects: "It’s more about the usage of the platform and the demographics of the users and how they consume content."
On the bright side, social data is also more intent-driven and can help in improving SEO by letting marketers know what people are searching for and engaging with on social platforms. This information can help drive what type of website content marketers produce that will ultimately be more relevant to their customers. Marketers can also leverage social data to identify their best brand advocates and use how those people interact on social media for insights into appealing to and acquiring new look-alike customers.
Getting into specific social media tactics, he said almost 70% of marketers say video is the most important type of social media content. Video content, he said, should be informed by what marketers know about their followers and customers to encourage engagement and sharing. O’Keefe added that video works particularly well on mobile with the “right size and great sound wherever your customer is watching.”
And while social media may offer its own specific data challenges, the channel also offers a lot in terms of informing both B2B and B2C marketers about how their audience interacts and engages with content as well as the brand.
"For a marketer, finding out who likes them evolves into what they like about the company or product and ultimately into what they will buy," he said.