Ask any business marketer about the importance of data, and you’ll get plenty of good answers. “It’s essential,” they’ll say. “Data drives everything we do.” That’s a good thing, since marketers are under increasing pressure to manage, collect, and make use of data, according to a recent CMO Club/Gartner study. But in my experience, answers like this are just lip service. Most B2B marketers really struggle to get their arms around the reality of customer and prospect information. There are at least three obstacles standing in their way.
Of particular importance to data and data-driven marketing are these issues:
- Inattention to data and the database. While most senior marketers and other executives will pay lip service to the importance of customer information, it’s rare that they understand what is in their databases, and how to maintain and improve it consistently. Neither do they invest in the resources, human or otherwise, to manage the data properly. As noted by Derek Slayton, CMO of D&B/NetProspex, “even companies with data scientists on staff tend to ignore the nuts and bolts of minding the database itself. It’s like they have the back pain, but they aren’t doing the exercises that would keep the pain at a manageable level.”
- Organization and process. Taking advantage of the power of customer data requires deliberate consideration of goals and measurement systems to manage the desired outcomes of effective data management. Jim Bampos, VP of quality at EMC, recently explained in DMNews that his group transformed their organization around data to enhance the customer experience. They built a business case, established a partnership with their IT counterparts, and created a roadmap for the systems needed for data access and analytics. Bampos credits enabling technology, and organizational and process changes for their success in transforming the EMC’s Total Customer Experience program.
- Everything old is new again. Database marketing, also known as data-driven marketing, is being used across the B2B go-to-market process today—but it’s very likely called something different. It may be “predictive analytics,” “CRM,” “Big Data,” or a zillion other buzzwords. So classically trained practitioners need to go with the flow and adjust to the new vocabulary. Ken Lomasney, COO of the agency UMarketing LLC, provides a handy illustration of this phenomenon. With his clients, Ken never says “marketing database.” Instead, he says “knowledge platform,” to position the tool as something that provides real value, becomes smarter over time, and comprises an important company asset. A repositioning we could all learn from.
If you are reading this article, you are already convinced of the importance of data in B2B sales and marketing. As Alex Kantrowitz of Advertising Age puts it, data is the “new oil” that provides insight, efficiency, and scale. For this century’s marketers, it is a new form of currency that gives marketing a seat at the executive table, and the ability to drive shareholder value.
Great piece Ruth, completely agree with everything you’ve said. A barrier I would add to your list, even when these have been overcome, is skills and competencies. Given the complexity of marketing data management platforms, across CRM, marketing automation, analytics and more, finding and developing the right skills is crucial and challenging. As hard as my team and I strive, we are constantly coming up against the limit of what we’re able to achieve without investing in further training and development. Making these investments is vital and I’m fortunate to be in an environment where this is taken seriously, but vendors need to play their part too so that Marketing can get the most from its data and the platforms that house it.