Business leaders today don’t need to be told that the successful modern marketer will be data-driven.
The digitizing of the consumer path, defined by the data they churn out daily, has been a boon for the marketing industry. This digital signature of website visits, check-ins, views, likes, friend requests and mentions augments the digital purchase stream data that has been tabulated for years. This digital exhaust,’ as it is sometimes called, adds the key component to the other data points: context.
Tracking that digital trail is the purview of various “big data” projects; while those are interesting and important, we’ll leave those topics to another time. Once that data has been collected, and cross-referenced, the voyage of the data-driven marketer through an analysis of the customer journey can begin.
Putting Data Insight at the Marketer’s Fingertips
Unlocking the power of real-time marketing analytics hinges on a business’s ability to bridge the divide between Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Much has been written about the dichotomy between these two C-level functions, and their interaction with other burgeoning roles like the Chief Data Officer (CDO). Suffice it to say, that the balance of power is shifting, as with most purchasing decisions, closer to the business lines, and to the marketing function.
Organizations that bridge this divide smoothly, with true partnership between the IT and Marketing functions will be the ones that capitalize the soonest on the digital marketing opportunity that lies before them. Clear lines of communication between technical decision-makers and the marketing team enable the organization to get their hands on data-driven insight in time to make actionable decisions that matter.
It’s been said that “Mad Men” are becoming “Math Men” (and women) today. The marketing dream team’ is made up of marketers that write tag lines AND write algorithms. These are marketers that moonlight as data analysts. The key aspect is catering to the visual intellect of these professionals when it takes a picture to understand thousands of data points pulled together in context, which enables real insight.
In this reality, marketing managers are furnished with the tools necessary to access agile, easy to understand data visualizations depicting how consumers interacted with each piece of content through which channel. Dream realized, an organization then has the power to pivot in real time if a campaign isn’t having the desired effect, sink more budget into part of a campaign that’s working exceptionally well, and plan with more insight than ever before.
Data Silos’: Betting Against the Business
The conventional model still in place at many organizations is a centralized data repository. Only an elite team of IT experts and data scientists have the data at their fingertips, and are isolated from the rest of the organization. Often, IT can’t understand the day-to-day needs of the marketers on the front lines, who need access to data to make a myriad of pivotal decisions, that impact how and where company resources are spent.
When forced into these types of silos, the daily routine requires marketers to submit a request to an isolated reporting team, wait to receive results, and then make subsequent requests to obtain a different view. It’s slow, and marketers wind up operating at a good distance from the data, no matter how great the reporting team considers its output. This results in marketing executives making “shoot from the hip” decisions, while IT data analysts feel they are successfully filling requests and therefore the needs of the business. Everyone is happy, but everyone may be wrong.
The value of data-driven marketing eludes organizations with this kind of roadblock. Worst case (and far too frequently), they use a haphazard combination of methods to measure marketing engagement levels from self-reported audience demographics to accumulated likes, or the basic website analytics (page views, dwell time on company content). In this way, they don’t get to make informed decisions when planning their next campaign, and see more of what they want to see, than true insights.
What’s more, they are only able to draw many of these conclusions after a campaign is complete. They’re missing the agility and actionable insight that comes with access to real-time, self-service analytics. This lack of insight will ultimately come home to roost in the overall performance of the business as campaigns prove less and less impactful.
Faced with these challenges, some marketers just opt to take matters into their own hands. They go rogue, downloading whatever tool they can turn up that gives them more than they can get with Microsoft Excel. Realizing they need to go beyond the simple charts they can pull together in a spreadsheet is key; but going it alone without an eye to trusted data sources is a dangerous step.
The IT department, which has become the “no group” in many cases, is as much to blame as marketing. Once executives decide they aren’t going to get any help from IT, they disconnect and go it alone. The data they are drawing from and using to make important decisions is not integrated into the company’s centralized view. Business units end up planning their activity with entirely different versions of the truth in mind making for a potentially discordant set of activities that send departments off in different directions like a sports team playing as individuals rather than a collective.
Empowering Marketers with Governed Data Discovery
But take heart: Between the siloed passivity of one centralized analytics solution and total self-service analytics anarchy, there is a middle-ground that will gratify both CIO and CMO. Self-service analytics platforms coupled with governed data discovery put the power in the hands of the average business user without taking security and centralization out of the hands of the IT department. For some marketers who have chafed at the constraints imposed by IT in the past, “governance” can be a scary term. It may bring to mind bureaucracy, red tape, a loss of agility and hindered growth. But that’s no longer the reality we’re faced with. These days, agile analytics can go comfortably hand in hand with a secure, centralized view of data. Without governed data discovery, marketing analytics is likely to remain in its own silo, disconnected from the singular view of data that the rest of the company is using and that signals what could turn out to be a very significant breakdown in how a business understands and interacts with its customers.
We’re entering a bright new future where marketers and the IT department are no longer at odds, straining to get the best from the company’s data with different goals in mind. Instead, the market has shifted to welcome agile analytics solutions with governed data discovery, empowering CIOs and CMOs alike with the ability to dissolve the organizational silos that have made real-time, accessible marketing analytics a pipe dream. Empowered by self-service governed data discovery, marketing teams can now drive insightful, responsive campaigns that deepen customer relationships and grow the bottom line.
Mark Gambill is chief marketing officer at MicroStrategy.
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