By Mark Barry
It may sound like semantics, but although much of our industry is well on the way to embracing the power of data, many companies are thinking about it as an addition to their core business operation rather than an integral and valuable thread that runs through it.
Those who do make it a core part of their business strategy (and use their own data to drive these decisions) are reaping the rewards.
No matter how technology shapes the way we execute our ideas, creativity is still at the heart of our industry and it’s what gets most of us out of bed in the mornings. The world’s most meaningful brands find inventive ways to engage consumers, forging relationships that impact business and brand performance. But those who super-charge their business with data can boost their results even further.
Brands that really matter to people today are those that understand and specialise in engagement, and engaging activities. There is no need to use intuition or guesswork. Most businesses have the capacity to only do a few things really well, and this means being selective about which plans to act on and which to ignore. Data can help you make those choices with greater confidence.
A surprising number of businesses are not aware of the kind of data they possess. A study undertaken by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Iron Mountain, showed that one in five executives did not believe their businesses understood the data sources coming into their organisation. 23% said they didn’t know how that information could be transferred across the business. So if the people in key decision roles aren’t aware of the kind of data at their fingertips, are they in danger of making mis-informed business choices?
Even those companies who have hired a Head of Data often already employ Chief Marketing, Technology, Information and Digital Officers, meaning the management of data ends up sitting in another silo, where it cannot influence the rest of the business.
For many CMOs, data innovation is still in its infancy. According to a report by the CMO Club and Visual IQ, many factors are standing in the way of implementing an omni-channel approach. Some 85% said their efforts are being thwarted by a lack of access to tools and technology, while 82% of the same respondents complained that their inability to measure cross-channel is hindering the creation of a proper data strategy.
No matter how forward-thinking your business is, it is not realising its full potential if data is an afterthought. A truly forward-thinking business is one that thinks about data as a driving component rather than a back-end operation.
A ROADMAP FOR CHANGE
Transforming an organisation into placing data at the heart of everything it does can be a complex task. Having a clear vision of how data can help is the easy job but understanding how you can change the way you operate as a business whilst still generating business value is the more difficult key to the success.
By identifying where various business units are on their journey to puts data as an integral part of the day-to-day activities, and provides a clear path to change.
STEP 1: BE DATA AWARE
Most (if not all) organisations have a way of understanding what is happening in the business, allowing management to have a view of what is working and what is not. However, this typically happens once marketing activities have completed, and is normally viewed from a silo of individual channel campaign reporting.
Developing a measurement framework that can be used to define both the strategy for marketing activities but also report them back to actual business goals is an important step. Having clear achievable objectives that highlight how each activity is aligned to contribute to a high-level business goal (i.e. Awareness, Consideration, Sales, Retention) and how each campaign, tactic, communication delivers value will help increase overall performance.
Enhance this with a culture that consistently looks to optimise activities whilst they are running rather than wait until they are complete by using previous campaign experience to inform what they should do. Ultimately allowing the business to move from being reactive to being responsive.
STEP 2: BE INSPIRED BY DATA
Brands that use insight to develop their strategies uncover hidden opportunities and increase their likelihood to be relevant. It’s important that this is not constrained to what the business knows today.
Analysing the profiles of existing customers, their interactions they have had and their feedback is one dimension. More and more, brands are looking to understand what is happening outside of their organisation, looking at different audiences, their behaviours and the conversations they have to provide increased insight.
By combining these two dimensions, organisations can create differentiated and unique strategies that are both contextual and relevant to their target consumers.
STEP 3: BE DATA DRIVEN
Developing an omni-channel approach can not be fulfilled by simply buying technology, centralising decision making or hiring a Head of Customer. Where various business units, agencies and partners support execution within channels, data needs to drive how consumers experience the brand.
So by assembling a rich-view of both a business’ own data and ‘open’ data available to anyone, and connecting this to each channel through smart profiles, developing this approach can prove to be more cost effective and powerful than remaining in a single channel world. Organisations like Disney, Mastercard and Burberry have already seen significant benefits from optimising the way they advertise, increased engagement through personalised experiences and loyalty through relevant messaging.
Data should be integral to a business’ strategic goals, informing the plan through insights and analytics, joining up disparate channels, and enabling continuous improvement. Moreover, marketers, with their operational view of customer experience, are often best placed to influence this plan. It is not too late to transform your business.