Data-Driven Marketing Insights from Tamara McCleary

Fasten Your Seatbelts for the Wild Future of Data & Predictive Analytics

Data-Driven Marketing: An Interview with Tamara McCleary

It takes an average of six to eight touches to turn a prospect into a viable lead. A long, winding, multichannel, multi-device highway — one with many exits to your competition.

That’s why it’s your job as a marketer to keep them coming back to you until they’re ready to make their purchase. It’s no secret that companies are starting to harness the power of data and analytics to shape their marketing strategies. That’s where things can get overwhelming: There are data and tools everywhere. What numbers hold the insights that will drive results? And which tools will be worth their weight in your organization’s gold?

The biggest problem I see is that marketers are not asking the right questions of their data. Your data is only as good as the business problem you’re trying to solve.
Tamara McCleary, Thulium

Tamara McCleary, CEO at Thulium and renowned technology futurist, sits down with us to answer questions about how organizations can implement a data-driven approach from the very beginning of the consumer journey to increase brand awareness and keep prospects moving down the funnel, increasing your ROI.


A Data-Driven Marketing Q&A with Tamara McCleary

Tell us more about your background and what compelled you to enter the marketing industry.

Life and death compelled me to become an effective marketer and sales leader. In the early 1990s, I was in Silicon Valley bringing one of the first wrist-worn technologies to market. The technology could save lives, but would disrupt the gold standard for technology among cardiovascular MDs: the Holter monitor.

The Holter monitor was the tool prescribed to rule out transient cardiac arrhythmias, but it often missed the event since it was only worn for 24 to 48 hours. The wrist-worn device had no wires, looked like a watch, and could be worn for more than a month, increasing the likelihood of catching irregularities.

It seemed like a sure winner, everyone would want to buy this device, right? But they didn’t.

Why? Because they weren’t ready for the technology.

I learned an important lesson back in the 1990s. You can have the best technology and fail if the market is not ripe for adoption.

I began rebranding and restructuring the messaging of the wrist-worn technology to meet each identified target market. We needed physician backing and buy-in, so I structured messaging to talk about what challenged them the most: misdiagnosis causing patient death and medical malpractice claims. For the HMOs, managed care providers and hospital systems, I shifted the messaging to cost containment and risk mitigation.

A year later, I not only exceeded all sales goals for the worldwide organization, but I was born anew as a passionate business growth specialist and marketing consultant.

What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the marketing arena in the past five years?

The biggest changes I’ve witnessed the past five years in the marketing arena are the technological tools that have exploded onto the martech landscape. The beauty for me as a science- and evidence-based practitioner is that marketing has evolved from a creative math project to a position of proven contribution to top- and bottom-line business growth. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) paired with machine learning (ML), the IoT, and social media, we can gather critical information about our customers and prospects and deliver the level of personalization that is expected in today’s tech-savvy, demanding world.

Our culture and customers have changed, and our business models must rise to the occasion. Marketing is a critical component to business success against disruption from the two guys in the garage we can’t see yet. Harnessing the data, asking it the right questions and gathering actionable insights from it is what separates the wheat from the shaft.

How is the way data is now being collected and shared by marketers impacting digital transformation roadmaps in their organizations or the industry?

In addition to product and service, an organization’s leaders need to align on the future of company-facing workforce demands, evolving customer expectations and the unseen variables that are shaping our world, culture and business for the future.

The biggest problem I see is that marketers are not asking the right questions of their data. Your data is only as good as the business problem you’re trying to solve. Once you know what you’re trying to solve for, you reverse engineer to harness technology to deliver your results.

Talk to us about data-driven marketing. Why is it so important and why do marketers need to embrace it?

Data-driven marketing is at the core of my message as a consultant and a global keynote speaker. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Despite many companies still making “hunches” and guesing what “feels” like a good thing to “try” – only half of companies are making decisions based on data according to a recent Forrester study - the era of proving your budget spend and getting smart about who your customers and prospects are, what they want, what they worry about, and all the quantitative and qualitative aspects that machine learning can illuminate for us is here.

Predictive, smart marketing means a facility with martech, requiring what I call the convergence of marketer and machine. The ability to harness factual data and pair it with the gift of human creativity to distill the perfect marketing elixir. Do it well, and you rise to the top. Fail, and you can say goodbye to your marketing budget. Today’s CMOs must be data-science loving technologists with a keen intuitive pulse on people, not to mention highly developed creative communicators with political savvy and emotional intelligence in order to navigate the turbulent waters of the C-suite.

How can having the right combination of data and AI change the way that teams approach their marketing strategy and execution?

If you’re asking the right questions, AI paired with ML, will offer you unprecedented insights, transforming even the most well-planned marketing strategy. The weak link in many organizations is execution post-martech deployment.

I cannot tell you how many companies I have consulted over the past decade that took no action post-analysis and insight delivery, even after deploying cutting-edge martech and leveraging AI and ML. The lack of follow-through on initiatives, changing direction on a dime, throwing money at a new campaign and then pulling the plug before seeing it through is toxic to true innovation, disruption and business growth.

What data should you be tracking to really help engage your prospects, so you can move them past the initial awareness stage and all the way through to purchase?

I’m very practical and my mind is analytical, so I approach business success from this angle. What problem are we solving for our target market? How do we know it’s a problem? How are they currently solving it? What are they talking about? What keeps them up at night? Where are they? Who are they talking to? What product or service do they currently use?

Data can be collected, but it’s our asking the right question of the data that illuminates for us a depth of knowledge about our customers and their pain points. No one buys for pleasure, they buy for alleviation of pain. The gift of coming to marketing from a sales perspective is that business growth, conversion, top- and bottom-line are what I’m most focused upon. I’m concerned with loyalty and new business acquisition.

With increased focus on personalization, how do organizations need to adapt?

We live in a culture that demands to be seen, heard, understood and delivered a level of personalization like no other time in history. Yet juxtaposed to this expectation is the demand for data privacy.

How can we walk the tightrope between personalization and data privacy? Agility. Focus on relationship building, earning trust, ensuring the highest level of security and transparency to your customer base. Educate them as to why you collect certain data.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ensures we must have the correct permission in place. Be transparent about how you are using the data. If you’re sharing it, are you sharing their personal data or anonymized versions of it. In today’s climate, it’s all about establishing trust.

How do you see predictive analytics evolving in the marketing context?

The short answer to this question is: fasten your seat belts. We are on a wild ride and the speed of evolution in this realm is beyond our human comprehension. Imagine, we have algorithms running right now that are independently learning and iterating on themselves without our intervention. Let that sink in for a moment. Without our intervention, at a speed of constant iteration and at speeds far beyond our intellectual capacity.

This moment is already different than the last one. Harnessing this power of prediction means that marketing can be one step ahead of the game and position the brand’s product or service preemptively with the right message, at the right time, on the right platform, with the right audience for maximized profitability.

In the past, prior to predictive analytics, marketing was poised to respond. Response time often lagged so far behind that by the time the initiative was taken, the customer had already moved on to something else. Timing is everything. And the time has come to ditch reactive marketing tactics.

What do you think are the biggest challenges organizations face in the adoption of leading-edge technologies? How can they overcome them?

The biggest challenges organizations face in the adoption of leading-edge technologies is selecting the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck. which technologies to invest in to squeeze out the highest level of ROI for their purposes. Daily, I get no less than three emails in my junk folder offering up yet another new AI or ML solution.

As marketers, it can be blinding to see all the shiny objects dotting the martech landscape. Getting clear on what your department’s performance will be measured on is critical. What are your top three KPIs, and what is it that you hope to achieve this year?

My formula for success is achieve, grow and build upon each successive quarter, clearly showing marketing’s contribution in measurable results that your executive team values and your board can get behind. Don’t let the sheer volume of options — or data — lead to inaction.

Understand how you want to demonstrate success each quarter and reverse engineer what technologies you will deploy to accurately measure, accomplish and communicate those success goals to management. My one caution here is: Be strategic, call upon wisdom and discernment and make sure you’re not acquiring tech for tech’s sake. If you don’t know, ask. Seek sage advice from trusted advisors, and consider using a trusted outside agency or consultant who can support you in making the best decisions for your department. Ultimately, if you’re not successful in making these decisions, you’re risking your own position at the organization.

Another key for success in adopting cutting-edge technology is to ensure that everything is fully integrated. The worst messes I’ve cleaned up as a consultant are the enterprises who have a lot of technological adoption but a weak integration, and too many moving parts, compartmentalized data that cannot be utilized across channels.

Choose well, choose with full integration over time in-mind, knowing that even cutting-edge tech today can be obsolete tomorrow, so what is in place to keep it cutting edge, and what does that look like in spend? Ask, ask, ask. Asking the right questions are far more important to your success than knowing the answer already.

The Modern Marketing Mindset

You can either watch the future unfold or be a part of it. Like Tamara said: “Gone are the days of ‘hunches’ and what ‘feels’ like a good thing to ‘try.’”

Big data doesn’t have to mean big headaches for marketers. Clearly the answers to your questions are there, you just need to know what you’re aiming to accomplish. Big data, especially the right data, takes the uncertainty out of marketing so that you can change the way customers interact with your business from start to purchase and beyond.

A huge thanks to Tamara for sharing her insights on data-driven marketing and digital transformation. To keep up with the latest trends shaping digital transformation in marketing follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.