Why the "Tsunami" of Data Feels Like One Big Dust Bowl
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’ve probably been hoodwinked. These days, practically all we hear is, “Marketers are drowning in data.” Presumably, the only way out of this predicament is to succumb to “Big Data” chaos or manage to make sense of it. At the mercy of a data deluge, we have two choices: sink or swim.
The good news is that this isn’t the only scenario for marketers in a “Big Data” world. The bad news? The data tsunami may not be our biggest problem. New research from Black Ink ROI reveals that marketers aren’t as worried about becoming engulfed by data as they are about making do with small puddles of it.
According to the C-level 2016 Marketing Study, marketers say they’re unable to access the data needed to perform advanced analytics. The upshot: their marketing isn’t nearly as targeted or optimized as it could be.
“For me, this is the spookiest thing about the report,” says Jeff Winsper, president of Black Ink ROI, a customer ROI analytical solutions provider for P&L leaders. “Marketers want to swim in the deep end, but they don’t have access to the data sources they want.”
While marketers have more access to financial data than any other desired data source, they don’t have full access to it. In fact, they say there is no data source category to which marketing has complete access.
The Black Ink ROI study suggests many marketers don’t have a decent data lake to dive into. Meanwhile, the C-suite assumes we’re well on our way to dog-paddling through it. If you’re a marketer who’s been looking down at a dust bowl for a while, it may be time to hop down from the diving board.
Where’s the Data?
The skeptics reading this are probably thinking, “How is this possible? How can marketers come up data-dry? Doesn’t a customer relationship management (CRM) system store all the information they’re looking for?”
Winsper says this assumption appears most often at sales-driven organizations.
“Everyone thinks marketing is the puppy chasing after sales for information,” he says. “But the reality is that most CRM data is post-sale, not pre-sale, information.”
This is not to say that marketers aren’t interested in the customer data inside a CRM. Far from it, especially as they grow to think more from a top-down, business-first perspective. According to Black Ink ROI’s C-level study, marketers’ top priorities today tie back to driving demand and filling pipeline. But as marketers become more ROI-focused and revenue-driven, they’ll be calculating lifetime value – a task that requires a full line of sight into customers and prospects. Meanwhile, marketers should strive to learn basic post-sale information, including whether marketing-generated leads close, how much the deals are worth and if the contracts renew.
“Information is the indirect currency of the business. And no one is in a better position than marketers to capitalize on customer intelligence,” Winsper says.
But marketers won’t be able to turn customer intelligence into revenue if the current state of data access stands. As we wait to get our hands on the information we need, smarter marketing decisions hang in the balance.
“Say, for instance, you want to go after a new market. To do this, you may need to trade off short-term margin to get long-term customer lifetime value. How much are you willing to forfeit?” Winsper asks. “Without robust analytics, it’s difficult to make a good decision.”
Mind (and Mend) the Access Gaps
When it comes to making data and analytics more accessible, the most important thing marketers can do is forge alliances – including, but going beyond, IT. These relationships come in handy whenever delays surface (e.g., marketing’s IT request for data/analytics access gets stuck in a project queue). If this happens, and the CIO can’t expedite things, Winsper advises going to the CFO for help.
“Most marketers are uncomfortable walking into the office of finance, but it’s imperative for CMOs and CFOs to work in partnership,” Winsper says.
According to Winsper, the best way to initiate the data access conversation with the CFO is to ask what s/he thinks is important to measure in marketing. After you both agree on the appropriate marketing metrics, it is easier for the CFO to request the data for you to conduct the analysis, which can then be incorporated into finance’s monthly reports.
However, if you discover your organization is unequipped to run these reports because of siloed data sets or inappropriate data models, go back to the CFO and argue your case again. Reiterate why access is so important for marketing (and what’s in it for finance).
“With good customer analytics, marketers are better prepared to answer two questions that are top-of-mind for CFOs,” Winsper says. “‘What’s the value of the last marketing dollar spent?’ and ‘What will be the value of the next dollar spent?’”
Agility After Access
Gaining access to the data and analytics we want is a victory, to be sure. But when it comes to hyper-personalized, contextually savvy marketing, it’s just the beginning. We can learn a lot by analyzing actions and events after they happen, but it may be too slow to take advantage of in-the-moment opportunities. We can’t forget that ultimately, we’re swimming to the buyer’s choreography, which can change in a matter of minutes.
“Let’s say your airline company runs a special on $99 flights to St. Petersburg, Florida, and a couple days later, your competitor starts promoting the same flight for $59,” Winsper says. “What if you’re running one million dollars’ worth of TV advertising to promote your $99 special. How fast can you react to learn if only price is the driver for any market share change?”
Because most buyer engagement is through marketing channels, marketers can potentially capture as-it-happens data and analyze it on the spot to stay in step with the customer.
“Marketers are collecting buyers’ behavior in real time, which puts them in a much stronger position than their peers to use data analysis to their advantage,” Winsper explains. “It prepares marketers to move at nearly the same pace as buyers while other parts of their organizations are lagging.”
Real-time insight cues up real-time action. Conversely, post-event analysis leads to action that, in Winsper’s words, is “slow and low” (ROI-wise).
As Winsper explains, the very nature of marketing itself requires it to be plugged into real-time advanced analytics.
“Marketing is a process, not a department. It’s a social science, and it evolves quickly,” he says. “There’s no right or wrong with marketing campaigns. We observe, learn from yesterday’s learning and apply to tomorrow’s action.”
“It’s not surprising that the best marketers are native Chief Analytics Officers.”
Could it be any clearer? The marketing superstars BlackInk ROI talks about aren’t diver wanna-be’s, hovering above dust bowls. These pros carry surf boards and catch waves.