In my previous post, I discussed the vital role that data plays in marketing. In this post, I want to expand on why more data doesn’t necessarily guarantee insight or better-informed marketing decisions.
Just capturing and storing data will not get us far. Disconnected and fragmented data can’t paint a complete picture of the 360-degree customer profile or the end-to-end customer journey because different segments linger in a detached state or in isolated buckets.
There is No Shortage of Marketing Data
The amount of both structured and unstructured data captured by organizations has been growing at incredible rates. Structured data deals with, for example, customer and transaction data while unstructured data may include, for example, data collected on the customer experience from social media that cannot be easily queried with traditional tools and technologies.
At the same time, new technologies such as cloud, mobile and in-memory continue to make it easier and more cost effective to capture and analyze these required data points. In some cases, these large data sets are quickly approaching big data territory—if we haven’t crossed into it already.
As a result, every day we are discovering new ways to reach or engage with our customers. On the flip side, there is a fundamental shift in the way consumers are using technology and how they are making buying decisions. Technology is a key driver for this shift. And data generated from these activities is feeding this storm. But how relevant or meaningful is the data we capture to the marketing questions we need to analyze?
Marketing Data Deluge can be Overwhelming
All of these different data sources can be overwhelming, especially for organizations with limited resources. And at first, these data troves may all seem unrelated. But when harvested the right way, they offer invaluable opportunities whether we are talking about customer engagement or more personalized customer touch points.
In business intelligence or analytics, we refer to this as:
- the right data,
- for the right role,
- at the right time.
The same concept applies to marketing—or customers for that matter. If we don’t promote:
- the right product(s)
- to the right customer(s)
- on the right channel(s)
Then we may not only lose the opportunity but also annoy or frustrate our customers in the process.
Marketing Data Integration is Critical
We need to integrate these different data sources by transforming them into cohesive and compatible building data blocks. We must also cleanse them (and in some cases complete them) to avoid the “garbage in, garbage out” syndrome.
Then we can study these integrated data sets with confidence. First, we want to sort through the noise in order to extract the relevant pieces. When we are done, the final step is to deliver actionable insight from these analyses that can be presented on mobile platforms with easy and simple user interfaces.
Integrated data and technology platforms are a prerequisite for enabling organizations to make faster, better-informed decisions. But remember, data and analytics don’t guarantee better decisions, only better-informed decisions (more on this in a future post).
Set aside some time with your team and review your data map in conjunction with your short-term and long-term strategy to determine where the gaps are. Keep it simple and focus on delivering actionable insight.
Here are three quick considerations:
- Link to Strategy: Always consider the link to your business and marketing strategy as you review your data portfolio. Everything we do must contribute to or complement our strategy. Identifying that link and validating its relevance are critical.
- Identify Key Data Sources: This sounds simple, but you may be surprised how complicated or confusing it can get—even for those data sources, which you may take for granted. Which data sources are missing? How critical are they? What value do they provide?
- Narrow the List: Once you have the list as part of your data map that includes the underlying detail, begin to review each one. Assess:
- Feasibility: Is it possible? Can you capture the data?
- Resources: What’s needed? Do you have the right resources?
- Timeline: How long will it take? Can you do it in a timely manner?
History is filled with examples of leaders making “bad” decisions even in light of ample amounts of data to support the decision making process. Ultimately, when the final decision lies with us (humans), we either choose to ignore the data or choose to use it in our decision making—assuming, of course, that it exists and we can trust it.
We need to use data to support our arguments instead of using arguments to support our data. And if designed and implemented effectively, robust data and analytics platforms can enable us to make faster, better-informed marketing decision at all levels of our organization. This, in turn, helps us drive growth and profitability.
As I always say: It starts and ends with leadership; our success depends on it more than any other piece. Technical or business know-how 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.