Data paves the marketer’s path to the corner office

23.2.2015 -

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

So said the Nobel Prize-winning researcher Herbert Simon as far back as 1971. Data does create problems, but at the same time it offers vast potential. When utilized correctly, data can provide marketing professionals with unprecedented opportunities.

I recently participated in a Data Driven Marketing event in Dublin, Ireland, which provided a comprehensive view of marketing trends. New insights from the event combined with my current knowledge led me to draw the following conclusions.

Data creates better decisions

Marketing is currently broken – data is managed in fragmented silos. Websites, email marketing, social media channels, CRMs, and other services produce information, but combining and understanding such data is difficult. Marketers don’t need to have all that information at their disposal – it’s enough to handle just the information relevant to one’s own customers and products.

Marketing professionals’ greatest challenge is to gather together all the information from many different channels so that it can be examined in its entirety. The competition is stiff and if you manage to find a meaningful overview, you will find yourself in a winning position.

Customer profiles help everyday routines

The role of individuality has been over-emphasized: everyone wants to be unique and everyone has different motives, goals, and dreams. Self-expression is easier than ever and marketers are mistakenly led to believe that diversity makes segmentation even more difficult. However that’s not the case, since individuals clearly have common problems and decision making routines.

Marketers can use data to combine individual customers together to create a larger customer profile. If you can identify the problems customers encounter and find ways to help them do their work better, you can create a customer profile. They can act as the beacon in a lighthouse that helps you navigate the stormy waves of marketing.

Results with targeted advertising

Traditional display advertising is no longer effective in today’s world. However, banner advertising has developed in the direction of more personalized advertising. On a daily basis people visit an average of 93 different websites, so marketers have to solve the problem of showing the right advertisement to the right people in the right place.

Real time bidding (RTB) and its even more advanced version, programmatic advertising, offer marketers efficient tools for targeted online advertising that reach precisely those customer profiles they want to communicate with. We can use data to automate the entire buying process and to make advertising more cost-effective.

In addition to these methods, new players are entering the arena – such as the professional networking service LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides very precise tools to help identify potential contacts. Combined with a broad advertising platform, the result is a highly effective targeting tool. I look forward with interest to seeing how this all progresses.

There’s even room for the traditional media on this targeted marketing ride. The reach of television marketing has declined over the years and at the moment 86% of viewers skip ads altogether. However, television sets are increasingly connected to the web so I believe that targeted ads will soon reach audiences on the living room sofa. This development will either prove to be a wonderful opportunity for TV companies or it could deal them a death blow.

Data breaks down silos, but creates new ones

Targeting is great. Every marketing professional would surely agree. The ability to communicate a carefully crafted message to the right person at the right time is the Holy Grail of marketing. But there is a flip side to all this. Focusing on details can inevitably exclude some potential customers. If you’re in the wrong field, have the wrong job title or come from the wrong geographical area, you might never come across certain businesses.

The best part of broad-based brand marketing is its open-endedness – advertising can be used to reach a wide audience. There may be insignificant contacts, but also the kinds of customers that a business couldn’t otherwise even dream of reaching. In the future this will be a diminishing resource and broad-based marketing will become a luxury to be enjoyed only by major brands.

Marketers, the future fakirs of the funnel

The funnel has traditionally been a tool used exclusively by sales teams. The role of marketing has been merely to fill the top of the funnel with prospects and to leave it to sales to handle the rest of the process. Nowadays the roles have been reversed, since marketers now manage the entire funnel and sales teams play a supporting role. What does this mean in practice?

Marketing uses content and advertising to fill the funnel. Potential prospects should be steered toward the desired end result – in other words, to become (paying) customers. This modern shepherd’s work is done with the help of data. Marketing has information about every customer and data on what pages they’ve visited, what they’ve read, what videos they’ve watched, what research papers they’ve downloaded, and in which social channels they’ve interacted. This data helps determine where the customer is in the purchasing process. This allows us to always provide the right information at the right time.

When certain criteria have been met, a potential customer can be categorized as ripe for a sale. At that point we contact sales who either close the deal or return the customer to marketing to be further nurtured.

In this way sales teams get their ideal purchase-ready customers, and avoid unnecessary footwork. Sales can focus on customers with the greatest likelihood of closing a sale. This is every salesperson’s dream.

The modern funnel doesn’t close once customers have parted with their money. The long-term courtship shouldn’t come to an end with the first order, rather the relationship should be cultivated. An existing customer has completely different needs from one who is still considering the first purchase, and therefore requires an entirely different approach. Marketing’s job is to keep the customer, strengthen the relationship, and aspire to make them a brand ambassador.

Marketers make it to the corner office

Marketing has become a strategic pillar of business. Instead of merely running campaigns and brand marketing, marketing has become a driving force behind business activity, one that nurtures customers and pushes them through the funnel. Substantive expertise lies at the heart of business activity, but spreading the word about it has become even more important. If you understand your customers’ needs and know how to communicate effectively, you will be able to show what you can do.

CMOs will rise to be a crucial part of executive boards and will work with other business leaders to build better companies. People have less and less time so they need tailor-made solutions when they are considering a purchase. Selling takes place on the customers’ terms so understanding the customer is of immense value.

We’re already making use of data in marketing. It’s not yet completely watertight, for example, we’re still lagging behind in terms of bundling mobile devices with computers, but we are beginning to see a larger picture taking shape. We’re in the middle of an exciting phase in marketing. The period of wandering around with blindfolds on is nearing an end. I have the opportunity to understand our customers and to serve them even better. What could be more satisfying than that?

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