Big Data and the Marketing Organization

How would you like to increase operating margins by 60 percent? Or add millions in new value from existing and new customers? Yes, me too. All we have to do is capture, analyze, and utilize all the digital data that we have!

Unfortunately, we are drowning in data. Information is being created at a staggering speed. Every time any of us upload an image to Facebook, pay a toll electronically, download a document from a website, buy something online, or swipe a credit card in a store – we create data. With billions of devices pumping out never-ending streams of data, trillions of gigabytes of data are being generated every year.

Marketing automation vendors are adding a lot of functionality to help marketers address this data explosion. This includes big data analytics, attribution modeling, integrated social analytics, and spend management. There are a also a lot of standalone solutions for what I call “digital marketing optimization” – everyone from large firms like Accenture to more focused BI firms like QlikTech claim some portion of this. Optimization is one of those terms that means something different to every person – sort of like segmentation or engagement or business development. However, if you think about optimization as a mathematical challenge, then what you need is software and automation tools that actually help you earn more tomorrow than you did today.

Helpful automation technology will condense the data into actionable “views” so that you can use it to make decisions about future messaging. If the data analytics can be done at the customer level (which is unfortunately not universal yet), then marketers can integrate it directly with the CRM or marketing database in order to optimize offer placement in real time. That is where the real power of automation comes in – we want to use all the data available to make meaningful connections with customers when they are in market to receive the message. Oh, and to make that connection on the proper device or channel, too!

However, this data management challenge is not just a technology challenge. Organizations need people with the skills to translate that jumble of information into meaningful insight and real business value. We’ve heard a lot about the “data scientist” role, and it’s becoming more and more real every day for more and more marketers.

To this column’s opening question, McKinsey believes these data experts could capture more than $300 billion in new value annually for the U.S. healthcare industry; and they could increase retailers’ operating margins by up to 60 percent with better analysis of large data sets. The promise of results like this from an article in Teradata Magazine are making executives think really hard about bringing on a data scientist or two.

The problem is finding the right person or persons. Demand is high – so fast, that by 2018, McKinsey estimates a shortfall of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise. Finding someone who also has critical business savvy only adds to the challenge of making the “right” hire.

I also think that marketing organizations need an operations director in addition to data scientists. The adoption of technology in the marketing department is in some industries outpacing the spending by the IT department. This makes the marketing department a primary owner and user of software and data warehouses. Managing those vendor relationships is one aspect of it, but more important, it’s adapting the technology for the specific uses of the marketing department. Every marketer always claims that they are unique, and while vendors often grumble about that egotism, truly each organization and each set of data is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to marketing automation and BI/analytics software. Vendors will be more successful in partnering with marketing organizations when there is an operations director in place to guide them around the dynamic needs of the company and the market. The operations director role is all about eliminating friction – in the areas of knowledge, training, integration, data management requirements, and vendor management.

What are you doing to build the marketing organization of the future? In addition to your creative and strategic types, you’ll want to have a few quants and ops people in there, too. Start nurturing these people now from your existing team, or hiring for them. As they will shortly be a scarce resource.

Big Data image on home page via Shutterstock.

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