Marketers often struggle with achieving their Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) objectives due to a lack of operational efficiency in gathering, interpreting, and applying data-driven insights. Even armed with the most innovative and cutting-edge Marketing Automation solutions, marketers still can’t escape the age-old computer science adage of “garbage-in; garbage-out”. Since marketing automation operates by logical processes, they will unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, nonactionable output (“garbage out”).

Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso

This fundamental challenge can be summarized in one word: Actionability. Action is the ultimate goal of gleaning insight from marketing data. Marketers need to decipher the volumes of customer and consumer data, from seemingly endless channels and interactions – and use the data to create engaging customer experiences. And in today’s always-connected and mobile world, we must do all this data-driven and insightful marketing as fast as customers interact. However, in most cases, the speed of the customer is far outpacing the speed of the marketing organization. This is why it is more important than ever for Marketing and IT to be working together in close collaboration. In recent research at TopRight, we found that a key trait of successful, Transformative CMOs is their ability to work collaboratively with their CIO counterparts – running the business from the same playbook and making decisions based on actionable and data-driven insights.

It’s no longer just about sales and marketing aligning; transformational CMOs are focused on IT and marketing alignment.

Of course, actionability is a lot easier to achieve when all the data you need is housed in one technology solution and it is focused on a single channel – think Nielsen ratings and television. Unfortunately, that type of solution cannot keep pace with the modern digital lifestyle. Marketers are often unable to tap into all of the rich customer-centric data, as most optimization tools do not yet support sophisticated data exchange mechanisms. Likewise, most ad retargeting solutions leverage limited sets of onsite data to personalize their offsite display ads.

In actual practice today, most marketing organizations don’t have the staff required to monitor and act on data as it streams across digital platforms. It can be overwhelmingly difficult to manage and prioritize. However, large media companies and e-commerce firms have had some success acting on real-time data and offering content personalization at the customer level. Hospitality marketers have smaller audiences but base their business on earning loyalty and influence tied to customer insights.

Here are a few industry use cases that provide a glimpse into how marketers are achieving actionability:



Advertising dollars depend on maximizing audience size, so publishers are motivated to dynamically adjust content and article placements. VICE Media, the Canadian-American digital media and broadcasting company, leverages data to deeply understand their audience. They tell authentic, unvarnished stories and create highly personalized content to generate stickiness. As a result, they have achieved explosive growth, becoming a rare success story in a digitally disrupted, struggling industry.


Retailers use customer data – not just merchandise differentiation – to create personalized experiences. Data from customer engagement across websites, mobile devices, social media, and even call centers is starting to be brought together to create omni-channel customer profiles. Macy’s is a great example of a retailer using customer data to create custom experiences across channels. Marketers that are winning in this highly competitive space have recognized that “actionability is the new black” for this season!

chickfilaFood and Hospitality

Loyalty programs abound in this industry, and high-value customers have high expectations. One misstep at any level – even if it’s at a partner or franchise property – will create a social snafu or caustic complaint. Understanding the value of different customers and recognizing them across channels is imperative, so most firms use a combination of technology and human resources to ensure profitable, productive customer experiences. Quick-serve restaurant Chick-fil-a represents the gold standard in this industry. Their new mobile app, Chick-fil-A One, allows guests to customize their order, pay in advance, and skip the line at the register. Food is prepared as customers “check in” at the restaurant via the app, at which time they can head straight to the pick-up counter for their food. The creation of the app was based on the insight that 82 percent of Millennials would do almost anything to avoid long lines at fast food restaurants (it’s called fast food for a reason). The new app also doubles as a rewards program. Customers who are enrolled will be “surprised with free favorites” periodically, which is based on their preferences and previous orders.

While actionability at the speed of customer is still in its infancy, the companies that get this right seem to be primarily doing these four things right:


1. Data Integration: The ability to consolidate and integrate data from multiple sources at the individual level, including historical data, and to associate that data with a recognizable person is fundamental to creating the rich customer profiles required for 1:1 marketing and continuous conversations.

2. Relevant Personalization: Personalization is only as good as the quality and timeliness of the underlying data and the strength of supporting analytics. Taking action on a set of business rules is a good start, but attribution, predictive behavior, and seasonal forecasting are all powerful analytics models that can significantly improve actionability and ROMI.

3. Marketing Automation: Brands need to appear human and personalize the experience, but they also need to be responsive to hundreds of thousands of iterations and combinations of customer behavior. Marketing Automation must go hand-in-hand with high-quality data and analytics to ensure it is adding value at each level. One off-brand interaction can irreparably damage a customer relationship. When dealing with hundreds to thousands of interactions, the implications loom large.

4. Predictive Analytics: Most personalized marketing participation is reactive – we respond to clues that are provided through behavior, persona, scoring, or hashtag targeting. Predictive analytics is creating opportunities for engagement across devices and platforms, and giving marketers confidence to participate more actively.

Actionability requires analysis and understanding of all customer touchpoints; it requires a data-driven finger on the pulse on the business.

So, what does the future hold for marketers concerned about actionability? We recently discovered a company in the MarTech space called Influans. Influans was founded by the founders at Talend – a real-time open source data integration platform recognized by Garter as a Magic Quadrant leader in 2016. Influans’ vision is to put the power of Big Data associated with Machine Learning into the hands of everyday marketers- allowing marketers to interact seamlessly across their MarTech stack and run campaigns that are 30X more efficient than what they are doing today. An interesting side note about Influans that we have yet to see in the MarTech space: a $0 setup fee and a $0 subscription. It’s a purely transaction-based pricing model. If successful, this “pay by the drink” company could completely change the demands placed on MarTech companies by their customers.

Action at the speed of the customer is going to continue to pressure the CIO’s, developers, and IT departments to collaborate and integrate into the world of marketing. Customers are only going to expect more and more out of companies- and the companies that can reach customers at the right time in a way that resonates will be the ones your grandchildren will be familiar with. For CMOs or marketing directors, this may require reallocating resources to analytics and automation in order to keep their finger on the pulse of their customers’ wants and needs and #MoveTopRight in their competitive frame.

Learn how to bring simplicity, clarity, and alignment to your brand’s story, strategy, and systems in our latest eBook Transformational Marketing: Moving to the TopRight.