Go to any marketing event, and you’ll not struggle to find someone standing in front of a podium evangelising to their flock about the gospel of data, and the endless success it will bring. There are few who don’t believe data brings opportunities for marketers, but once all of those ones and zeroes start flowing in, what does it all mean?
Overflowing lakes of data mean nothing if you don’t know what to do with them, or why you’re doing it. Using insight from various senior marketer surveys, we’ve taken a look at how marketers need to approach their data, as well as some of the questions you need to ask yourself.
The data in this blog comes from The Future CMO, a report we have sponsored for The Times and Raconteur. Download it for free here.
The journey matters
Managing customer journeys was a top digital-related focus area for the highest percentage of CMOs in a survey by Adobe this year. For a third of these marketing leaders, it was of paramount importance to understand and influence how people were reaching them, what they did on the journey, and optimising all of that to improve the outcome.
Marketers are not short on options for tracking, influencing, and understanding various steps of their customer journey. There’s a lot to be distracted by, so a focus needs to be held on which metrics matter throughout that journey, and what platforms are the best at monitoring and impacting them.
The end of generic?
Better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting is identified as a top priority for the highest percentage of marketers in Europe, APAC, and the US. There’s no shortage of personalisation opportunities with the right data, and brands who are smart can get highly granular with how they are cataloguing their audiences.
Plenty has been written elsewhere about what can be done in this area, but the more brands focus on this we have to ask what they may be taking focus away from. The most obvious hypothesis is that as brands aim for a highly relevant focus, they will decrease their spend on channels where such depth isn’t always possible.
This may not be the case for your business, but it demonstrates that brands need to be clear on what type of audience and metrics their channels are driving. Adopting the right tech platforms will help with this. For example, fixed tracking numbers on a print campaign or a simple vanity web address on outdoor adverts will help you see who has been inspired to act directly from those channels.
Revenue unlocks AI for data analysis
Adobe reveals that 55% of brands with revenue over £150 million use AI for analysis of data, while that falls to 46% for brands with lower revenue. Also, more of the larger brands use AI for automated campaigns, and almost double use AI for programmatic advertising.
There are a few chicken or egg questions that can be asked here. Has AI contributed to that additional revenue? Does their larger revenue mean they can afford to invest in AI when smaller companies can’t? Both can be true, but that’s not the real point here.
What it shows is that this technology is highly valued by larger brands, and are actively investing in it. It’s not some conference buzzword, it’s demonstrating real promise that helps them provide service, insight, and efficiency at scale.
Flexibility and access
Succeeding with using data to drive marketing is not as simple as turning on some mythical data tap. 32% of CMOs highlighted two key hurdles they need to overcome when it comes to extracting insights and making them work for them:
Siloes or inaccessible customer data
Integration of marketing and sales platforms
Not every martech platform or CRM plays well with others. Having a mess of tools and products that don’t integrate with each other will make an expensive, inefficient tech stack that leads to more frustrating questions than clarifying answers.
Likewise, if every department is putting together their own customised arsenal of data-based technology without it being connected to others, your visibility on attribution, campaign performance, and how to improve the customer journey will be greatly hindered. The possibility of having a wasted, bloated budget is heightened too.
Whenever you’re considering a new investment, the question of integrations should be brought up early on, and those without the flexibility to match your needs may need to be cut.
Research by McKinsey & Company shows that marketing departments integrating data into their creativity are growing twice as fast as the average rate of S&P 500 companies. So this isn’t just about making nice graphs and eliminating some manual work, it affects the bottom line.
This doesn’t just apply to platforms, uses, and data sources you already have, but also for discovering new ways of gathering and using your data.
...and it comes from the top
This research also found that 52% of companies with the lowest rates of growth say that their CMO and CTO rarely interact. Aligning disparate sources of marketing data, tidying them up, and utilising them to their full potential isn’t an overnight job, it can require planning and collaboration across different teams. IT, tech, customer support, and contact centre teams may need to get involved to both sort out what you already have, and help to expedite testing on new, innovating ideas.
This is all far easier if the right culture and initiatives are actively encouraged by senior leadership.
“If all were able to innovate, we'd have a plethora of disruptive companies like Amazon or Google. Instead, we only have a small number of examples to pick from because most companies don’t have the culture and structure that allows them to experiment and fail. The leading brands have had that from the get-go, and have reaped the rewards.”
Milan Sud | Head of Innovation, AXA Partners UK & Ireland (Source)
Is the future all computers and bots?
One day we may be able to get robots to run effective, brilliant, and exceptionally delivered marketing campaigns for us while we lie on a beach in Malta, but that day is not coming any time too soon.
AI is not a substitute for human strategy, creativity, and intuition. It also shouldn’t be seen as some holy grail or terminator due to enthusiastic hyperbole. The first step to unlocking the benefits of AI is understanding its limits as well as its possibilities, and part of that is knowing that it still needs our hand guiding it to truly get the most out of it.
To learn more about the role that AI will play in the evolving marketing landscape, and other topics, then download our joint report with Raconteur and The Times on The Future CMO today.