Data is the engine of digital marketing. So why isn’t it a priority?
by Chris Patheiger, VP Marketing & Communications
A couple of months ago, Teradata and Celebrus published their ‘Digital Marketing Insights Report 2014‘. At first blush, it’s one of your standard corporate whitepapers – albeit fairly high-quality, and the data seems sound, even if the sample size isn’t huge – but I’ve found myself returning to it several times because of what it seems to say about the way marketers are thinking about data.
For example, take a look at this chart from the report:
I was a little surprised to see ‘email marketing’ at the top of this list, but the survey was mostly aimed at the UK, German and Dutch markets, and was promoted heavily through email campaigns (according to the report), so perhaps it’s just a function of a self-selected group.
What was more interesting to me was that while more than 50% of respondents said that email, search and social media marketing was a high priority for them, only 27% said that ‘big data collection and analysis’ was. Except – can you really do email, search or social marketing without big data collection and analysis?
It’s true that some respondents may have been put off by the term ‘big data’ versus ‘data’. I know that there are still lots of marketers out there who are unsure about when their data counts as ‘big’.
But then I saw the next chart:
(The report goes on to say that only 38% of respondents have a centralized database for customer data – in all other cases, the data is stored in different departments, on different systems, with different means of access by different levels of users.)
Here again there is a sort of ‘one of these things is not like the other’ category: the 15% wedge labeled ‘Making the data actionable’. Because the rest of your data challenges – storage, quality, legal issues, etc. – really don’t matter if what you end up with isn’t actionable.
Now, the report does go on to ask why data storage (in a single centralized consumer view format) seems to be so difficult to achieve, and it gets an assortment of answers:
I think that first response is the most true: Fixing the data just seems like it’d be too time-consuming. But it’s time-consuming because of many of the other factors: The marketing department doesn’t have anyone with the right skills; the sales department is always competing with marketing and doesn’t like to share information; individual employees still aren’t doing a good job actually using the CRM system which is supposed to be capturing data…just thinking about spearheading a database initiative brings on the same exhausted panicky feeling you get in one of those recurrent nightmares about missing a final exam that will prevent you from graduating from university because you pulled an all-nighter and now you can’t remember where the exam is or where your clothes are.
So how do we do better with data?
In many ways, I think the advent of programmatic is going to go a long way to fixing the data issues. Big-budget programmatic means new skills in the marketing department: data management, data analysis, data interpretation – as these skills become better represented in the marketing mix, it will be easier to get buy-in for data management efforts.
But in the meantime, we need to do a better job of differentiating between ‘objectives’ and ‘tactics’. ’Data collection and analysis’ and ‘actionable data’ aren’t tactics or reasons or excuses – they are the goals we should be shooting for when it comes to data. The sooner we have a better handle on those goals, the easier it will be to get to them.