Transforming Data Into Insights
The era of ‘big data’ is now upon us, but how can we turn masses of datasets into actionable insights capable of delivering operational efficiencies, and improve ROI? Martin Kirov, Telerik Sitefinity, VP, product management and marketing, discusses some of the new marketing technologies that may do the job.
Disruption is nothing new to the business world – throughout time, businesses have had to shift gears and incorporate innovations to stay competitive, such as the laptop, smartphones and, recently, social networking. These ‘disruptive’ technologies represent the natural evolution of the changing customer buying process.
They also help to shape it. As a result of disruptive technologies, today’s customer journey is less linear and more multi-channelled than ever. Marketers need efficient ways to view and analyse all paths, then quickly react and change tactics.
Those tactics, however, have grown extremely complex: access to data and advanced analytics enables marketers to account for different buyer personas and tailor their approach accordingly – but it’s a lot of work.
The most recent disruption in marketing automation will change the way we collect, analyse and use data to make more informed decisions about how to talk to customers and prospects. A new concept has emerged that connects customer engagement systems in a cloud-based digital marketing command center to provide a 360° view of known and anonymous individual customers.
Using data from customer relationship management (CRM), web content management (WCM), marketing automation and other systems in one place, marketers can analyse and align that with lead scoring and persona profiling tools to eliminate data disconnect and enable more meaningful interactions with potential and existing customers.
Making the metrics matter
Despite – and maybe because of – the volume of available customer interaction data, progress has been slow in terms of translating it into meaningful insights. Stored in numerous disconnected systems, data is difficult and time consuming to analyse. Proving the effectiveness of marketing programs with accurate results is challenging; and adapting the brand experience to customer behaviour in real time is impossible for most businesses because of the fragmented way we engage customers.
To make matters worse, new data pours into business systems daily, and the reports from two weeks ago may often be outdated by the time you read them. According to a report by the US Chamber of Commerce, 90% of all data has been created in the past two years.
The usual spreadsheet-based analytics just can’t keep pace or provide the necessary insight. Even when relevant, reports usually tell us what happened, rather than what’s likely to happen and how to improve it.
Organisations also struggle with knowing which marketing metrics to measure and making sense of the relationship between them. For example, demand generation teams, social media marketing, corporate communications, sales reps and customer service reps all have their own KPIs, (sales activities, tweets, page views on news releases, support tickets, and so on).
Rarely do the various business units measure success as it relates to key goals of the business as a whole (such as average customer value or revenue growth). At the end of the day, organisations have a lot of data and even more confusion over its relevance.
If all data were collected and analysed in a central place, KPIs used by each business unit could be analysed against KPIs for overall business success. In this way, a clear picture of how each activity contributes to the company’s results would emerge.
By connecting the dots, companies can begin to see a higher degree of continuity between various customer engagement points, which will ultimately result in a more relevant experience for every person interacting with the brand.
Wrangling data requires more than a horse and lasso
Creating an accurate ‘big data’ picture of where prospects and clients are in the buying process requires tapping into all systems that record customer information and interactions.
CRMs and marketing automation systems, as well as web content management systems, all have relevant information to offer.
Some will simply provide background data, while others can run programmes or make adjustments to push groups of individuals toward marketing, or client satisfaction goals.
Leveraging real-time machine-learning technologies and new cloud-based analytics platforms can track how customers and prospects interact through all channels and recommend next steps for engaging with every individual.
This information can be shared automatically across sales and marketing teams at a time they can actually make a difference, rather than in a ‘what happened’ report weeks later.
Unlike simple marketing automation tools that rely on authenticated contacts (contacts with an assigned name and profile), platforms that leverage real-time machine learning technologies can inform us about both known and unknown contacts – an important distinction when you consider that in most organisations, only 2-3% of all contacts are authenticated.
The ability to build personas for unnamed contacts means you can send relevant content and offers to prospects you don’t even know. For marketers, this provides a much more informed view with which to build engagement techniques.
See it all from your command centre
The concept of a digital marketing command center is taking hold and will change how we market to, and nurture, leads. Imagine a typical email campaign that’s informed with very detailed prospect and customer data.
Using the data in your digital marketing command centre, you can segment audiences with a high degree of granularity, and customise messaging and offers to appeal specifically to very niche groups. An email promoting a product can be tailored to emphasise features based on a prospect’s particular needs or interests.
An invitation to an event can be customised to speak directly to a prospect who has never been to such an event (‘Make this event your first’), and one that has attended many (‘This event is unlike any you’ve attended’).
Some platforms, for instance, use connectors to collect and collate data from various marketing systems, then use the data to measure exactly how marketing efforts contribute to goals, such as revenue or growing the sales pipeline.
All information relevant to marketing a product or service effectively can be discovered here and put into play by marketing and sales teams at the time they can make a difference in winning or losing a customer.
Although this is one of the first platforms of its kind, the trend towards data-driven marketing will surely give rise to more.
Get ahead of the pack with data-driven marketing
The shift toward data-driven marketing, and the emergence of cloud-based platforms that unify data analytics and marketing, together will disrupt our existing marketing models and enable us to move away from aging concepts such as the marketing funnel, click-counting, opinion-driven decisions and one-way communications.
These measure activity, but don’t predict customer behaviours that can inform a successful sales strategy. In the cloud, marketing infrastructure can become a smart, self-improving intelligent system that enables real, very relevant and productive customer conversations, while ensuring no data is collected or analysed in vain.