There is a misperception, especially among IT resources, that marketers are airheads that need to be provided data that only specialists, like data scientists, can provide. This ignores the fact that some marketers saw the possibilities of GIS and shopping basket data many years ago. They built comprehensive spatial knowledge bases of gravity groupings and their buying behavior that could be used to plan the best location for shopping malls, or predict the need for a new product across a particular demographic. These experienced (but soon to retire) marketers will find it simple to take advantage of the avalanches of new data available.
In “new data” we include the data gleaned from:
- social network usage by potential and actual customers
- interaction through customers’ smartphones and other devices, such as wearables
- machine-to-machine data from IoT (internet of things) devices, for instance beacons and
geofencing in location-based marketing
- feedback from customers via text messages, emails and chatbots
Naturally, this data is not collected directly by marketers, and is stored in various types of data storages. In most organizations, the initial data management is in the hands of business analysts and data technicians. There may be quite a delay before the data is released to business users, by which time it is stale and irrelevant. Today’s marketers need information as close to real-time as possible, and the autonomy to extract it themselves, in order to gain the insights to drive the business.
Enter a New Breed of Marketer: the Marketing Technologist
The need to acquire and translate data into meaningful analytics in real time has started a sea change in the marketing space, with recruiting of data scientists into marketing teams rather than IT ones. Also, there has been a rise in training of general marketing resources in data analytics, although the number of people trained lags far behind the demand.
In a survey conducted by Adobe, and reported on in CMO.com, 67% of respondents in marketing were still relying on analysts to provide them with the analytics they need, and only 30% had received the appropriate training. Recent research has gone as far as to predict the rise of a new executive, the “Chief Marketing Technologist” (CMT). This individual will oversee a partnership between the CMO and CIO and will have critical tasks to commit to from day one, such as the need to streamline all the software and platforms that an average marketing business unit uses. This blend of technology and marketing has been driven by the growth in digital marketing and gave rise to the new word “Martech”.
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The growth of technology in this space is phenomenal. Scott Brinker of ChiefMartech.com has been watching the entry of new niches and the rise of competitors in marketing technology since 2011, and publishes an annual infographic. The change year on year has been almost exponential: in August 2011, there were 150 companies; as at March 2016, there were over 3,500 companies, with some companies represented in several categories, to give a total of 3 874 overall.
CMT’s Top Priorities Going Forward
With so many companies offering products and services in this field, it is easy to understand why most marketing business units are struggling. They generally have acquired tools in some or all of the niches above and the data assets for these are scattered in disparate databases. These databases are generally still under the stewardship of IT.
CMT’s first priority is to cement a relationship between marketing and IT, which he or she will facilitate. Once this has been initiated, attention can be directed towards the maelstrom of marketing software products and assets.
The next priority is to consolidate and simplify this complexity. This can be done by first adopting a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which can be used to provide a unifying foundation for all the various marketing systems that have been purchased. The industry has recognized the need for a CDP and has formed the CDP Institute, a neutral body for assisting companies who need to implement the platform.
Even before the platform has been implemented, or is on the radar, it would be advisable for CMT, in conjunction with CIO, to source a company that has made a reputation in analytics. This company should be well-versed in managing data storage, whether it be relational or NoSQL databases, cloud or on-site, with the intention of providing a workable hybrid solution.
The third priority would be to assess the existing marketing software and determine whether it should be retained or replaced. As we have seen, in 2011 there were only 150 players, with only a few in each niche. What has happened in the last 5 years is that key players in one field, such as CRM, have expanded their portfolio to bring in new products (either developed or acquired via takeovers). It could be advantageous to switch to a single vendor with a comprehensive portfolio and dismiss some of the niche products with multiple vendors. Again, this should be managed in consultation with both CIO and CMO. External consultants could be helpful here, because of the sheer scale of choice.
Finally, but most importantly, CMT should enlist CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) to assist with building a training plan for all the marketing employees to upskill in data analytics. Where skills are needed in the short term but are not in-house yet, such as data scientists, new hires may be required.
Data discovery software has been developed by a variety of vendors to allow even not quite experienced employees to perform predictive analytics and extract new perspectives. Such software uses machine learning to perform complex computations and to detect patterns in data proactively, rather than depending on queries designed by data scientists. This is a critical development, because the demand for data scientists will exceed supply for the foreseeable future. Another option is to find an analytics company that can build some reusable complex queries that are required to extract the base data for any predictive analytics that need to be done. The results can then be manipulated by a competent data analyst within the company.
The Dilemma of Small and Medium Businesses
While large companies have already started moving towards marketing technology management, small and medium businesses are mostly too under-resourced in marketing and IT to allocate permanent resources for this task. In this case, it will save considerable time and costs to outsource CMT’s tasks to a trusted partner. While it takes considerable investments, otherwise a company can lose any competitive advantage it currently holds. Digital marketing is non-negotiable in the 21st century, as is the ability to interpret the data it brings into the organization. There is a difficult yet rewarding road ahead for today’s marketers.