Celebrating Independence: It’s Time to Liberate Your Data

As fireworks light up the skies to celebrate independence days in the U.S. and Canada, there’s another movement afoot. It’s time to liberate your data. As a marketing team, you need to declare independence by taking control of data to drive marketing programs.

Why is this so important? You know that data generated across digital platforms and other channels holds the keys to radical improvements in marketing results. But large volumes of marketing data are hosted by third-party vendors in propriety databases behind firewalls or otherwise scattered across data silos far too numerous to list here. This is data your organization may have generated in cross-platform marketing, and it’s essential to knowing whether your marketing decisions lead to success. Yet it may be harder than you think to liberate that data in useable forms and formats.

Consider what’s at stake. Sitecore, with First Point Research & Consulting, surveyed a group of marketing managers and Web developers to “uncover the realities of today’s digital marketing landscape.” Nearly three-quarters of these marketers surveyed plan to spend more money on digital marketing this year. And predictive analytics is at the top of the list of priorities for tools and techniques to analyze the data. Nonetheless, most marketers are measuring return on investment (ROI) primarily on the basis of website visits, a metric offering only the most superficial information about marketing success. Only 7 percent of marketers surveyed said their organization “aligned key performance indicators (KPIs) with the customer lifecycle across multiple channels.”

Data and the analytical tools you use are the key to improving that alignment. Let’s take a look at the steps required to get real marketing value from your data with the end-game of improving ROI:

  • Unify Your Data: I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating. You cannot extract value from data with analytics until your data can be accessed in one place. That includes digital data from sources like websites, social media, and mobile platforms, as well as third-party information from sources like audience demographics and customer relationship management. One more point on this score. It’s not just a question of combining data from these sources, but integrating it to fully liberate the value. It’s equivalent to a recipe in which the ingredients must be blended, not just dumped in a container. Integration creates the relationships that make it possible to analyze data and produce reports that can support your marketing decisions.
  • Choose the Right Data: Data overload is one of the most pervasive issues marketers face, as big data gets bigger by the minute. Consider that Google Analytics alone produces 120 out-of-the-box reports. It’s not about big data, but the right data, generated by the “Metrics that Matter” to marketing success, including understanding the interrelationships of cross-platform behaviors of consumers. The success of any analytics project requires impeccable clarity about the questions you want data to answer. That’s where you start. If you want to improve conversions, you need data and reports showing what drives consumer decisions to purchase your products or services. Then you need to take action, test, and adjust.
  • Open/Industry Standards: If your data is being held hostage by third-party vendors in proprietary databases, you need to liberate it. Your data needs to be held in a format and by a vendor that permits you to use your choice of the best tools to answer your questions. Don’t assume one analytics tool set will answer all of them. No single vendor can produce an analytics tool capable of addressing every analytics question an enterprise marketing team has. That’s one reason why the global market for hardware, software, and professional services related to “big data” is projected to reach $30 billion in 2014, according to Signals and System Telecom forecasts, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 percent in the next six years. Ask yourself before you start using a new tool or sign onto a new service: can I retrieve the data in an open, industry-standards format that gives me the flexibility to use it for analytical purposes
  • Advanced Analytics: These capabilities may look a world apart from traditional marketing. But once you create the foundation for these capabilities, business users actually find it easier to interpret data and use advanced analytics to make real-life decisions. Solutions like seasonal forecasting, lag analysis, and correlation discovery enable you to predict outcomes and discover relationships telling you why consumers behave as they do across each marketing channel.
  • An Analytics Platform That Matures With You: Like a good constitution, your analytics platform must have staying power. It should accommodate today’s needs, yet be flexible and dynamic enough for the future. Your ability to use data and analytics is likely to grow in terms of more complex analytical processes and sophisticated statistical models.
  • Evidence-Based Decisions: These decisions liberate your marketing team from “guess work” and enable data-driven decisions. Data analysis needs to become part of decision making so that marketing decisions become evidence-based and data-driven. That extends the question of using data into the realm of organizational processes and distribution of information in user-friendly formats. The marketing organization needs to be prepared to trust the data to make decisions and then test its efficacy. Analyze, act, test, and re-adjust (and repeat!) are the key steps to the marketing optimization process.

Freedom comes in many forms, including the ability to use your own enterprise data in ways that truly benefit your business. So, isn’t it time you think about how best to liberate your data to drive up your marketing effectiveness?

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