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Data is a Strategic Marketing Asset

Big data, marketing analytics and business intelligence are all strong trends supporting improved business decision making. However, there are three important considerations you must tackle to make success possible.

Note to Readers: This article is an introduction to a larger series authored by SAP’s Kaan Turnali. Stay tuned for more posts on making data-driven marketing and business decisions in the coming weeks!

In the late ’90s, when I decided to become a consultant, I wanted to gain exposure to as many roles as I could in the integration of business and technology because I was interested in understanding the importance and unique viewpoint that each role had to offer.

As I transitioned from one engagement to another, I not only had to adapt but also quickly become an expert in my customers’ industry language and understand intimately their line of challenges. However, one thing remained constant: The vital role data played.

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A Culture of Data-Driven Decision Making

In business, better-informed decisions often start with a strong appetite for data, followed by a healthy dose of skepticism for it. If available, our collective insight becomes the guiding light for our decisions enhanced by data. In the absence of it—when we are left to decide by ourselves—we seek wisdom in our own experiences to fill the void where we can’t find or rely on data.

I am passionate about data because I see it as both a strategic marketing asset and essential raw material for promoting a culture of data-driven decision-making. Coupled with the right technology, design and implementation, marketing analytics platforms can deliver on all three pillars of business intelligence:

  1. Insight into the right data,
  2. for the right role,
  3. and at the right time.

Data is Key In Gaining Customer Insight

One of my favorite quotes about marketing is from Peter Drucker:

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

If we see marketing as the art and science of value exploration and delivery for customers’ unmet needs, then data is a key ingredient for gaining better and deeper customer insight. So it plays a critical role regardless of the industry or the size of the organization.

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Data Deluge Presents Challenges and Opportunities

Businesses invest a lot of time and resources to better understand who their customers are, what they like and don’t like. They collect a tremendous amount of data about them. Sometimes we have more data than we can handle using traditional methods or applications. This data deluge presents both challenges and opportunities for marketing organizations.

Advancements in technologies such as cloud, mobile and in-memory continue to make it easier and cost-effective to capture, store and consume these large data sets, approaching big data territory—if we haven’t crossed into it already.

In some industries, we have to process data faster than usual because the analysis may require real-time measurement. And adding to the mix unstructured data sources, such as social or multimedia that would require new processes to drive insight, makes the equation even more complex.

We Need to Ask the Right Questions

All of these data troves can provide invaluable marketing opportunities. However, having all the data and technology doesn’t do much good unless we are asking the right business questions—and have the right marketing analytics platforms to answer them.

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Where do You Start?

Similar to a gap analysis, start with a simple assessment to determine your organization’s maturity level. This is less about technology and systems but more about people, processes and culture.

Here are three quick considerations:

  1. Link to Strategy: Start with the strategy and vision of your marketing organization. What is your business strategy? Do you have the data you need to define and execute that strategy? Anything we do must have a direct link to strategy.
  2. Perception of Data: Consider your culture. How is data used, treated and perceived by your teams? Do you demand or expect a data-driven decisions on topics that can enable better-informed decisions?
  3. Your Current Environment: Assess your current environment as well as your marketing reporting and analytics platform if you have one. How do you acquire, transform and deliver insight? Is it static and/or manual? For example, can you easily ask questions and react to changing market conditions?

Bottom Line

Just capturing and storing data will not get us far in gaining customer insight. Disconnected data can’t paint a complete picture of the 360-degree customer profile. Fragmented data points will have limited value for the end-to-end customer journey.

The goal is not to invest in all data, but harvest only what contributes directly to our strategic goals. Data alone doesn’t guarantee better decisions, only the raw material for better-informed decisions.

It starts and ends with leadership; our success depends on it more than any other piece. Technical or business knowhow alone won’t guarantee a successful outcome; our team’s talent and passion will be the determining factor. And the right technology solutions will make it possible.