Harvard Business Review recently declared data scientist the “sexiest job of the 21st century.” Gartner predicts by 2015 big data demand will reach 4.4 million jobs globally. The New York Times recently ran a story referencing a study of 179 large companies and found that those adopting “data-driven decision making” achieved productivity gains that were 5 to 6 percent higher than other factors could explain. These items point to a larger trend that’s been creeping over the world for several decades, but even faster over the last few years: the importance of mastery over data.
We know data has become ubiquitous. Unstructured data now being processed lets us understand how a global workforce functions by monitoring metrics like emails sent or meetings scheduled. It lets us create effective marketing campaigns by analyzing digital analytics and understanding social. Through operational intelligence of this data, we can gain real-time insights that enable brands to do previously difficult things like spot and fix server problems in a large cluster before they cause issues. Concurrently, we’re using structured data to improve our customer service, run our sales organizations, and a whole lot more.
Data permeates and provides insight into all layers of an organization: from marketing to sales to IT to operations and basically everything in between. Buzzwords like “big data” aside, it’s a big opportunity because while the technology to analyze it is here, it’s not yet being used to its potential. Avinash Kaushik, Google’s digital marketing evangelist advises the ideal resource breakdown for an organization looks approximately like this: 15 percent data capture, 20 percent data reporting, 65 percent data analysis. The issue is that right now it’s flipped: most organizations spend a majority of their time capturing and reporting data but don’t yet analyze and act on it properly. Companies have the tools, software, and pretty reports, but lack analysis and action.
In most cases this is the result of a leadership still learning to embrace a data-driven world. An organization’s top executives must be fully on board to successfully invest the resources as well as build and train a team to take advantage of the seas of data we swim in. To do this, leaders must be equal parts technical and business-oriented. Whether this manifests in the form of a chief data scientist, CIO, or digitally-savvy CMO isn’t the point. The title doesn’t matter, the leadership and push from the top does.
The benefits are numerous. Organizations skilled in data analysis optimize marketing and sales results like a well-oiled machine. They bust bureaucracy and focus resources on the things that matter. They fix most IT problems before workers ever experience them, improving productivity. Their team members own their results through hard numbers as opposed to “gut feel.” Currently, most of the companies living this are still in the minority outside of places like Silicon Valley, and we live in a business world that’s greater parts emotion than logic-driven. But that’s not the future. The future is data-driven leadership and teams.
Data chops can no longer be locked away in pockets of your organization. It needs to be a part of a company’s culture from the top-down. It needs ongoing reinvestment and education to understand how to use new data sources, what opportunities they unlock, as well as best use of the tools and technologies available. It’s a big step, but one companies need to take to become digital-first and unlock the invisible opportunities they currently miss daily.
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