Marketing budgets have never been higher, but neither has marketing team turnover. Why? As a CMO, if you were handed an extra million dollars of budget, under the condition that you had to show the exact ROI and demonstrate how you generated that return – would you take it? In this scenario, would you place your trust in a spreadsheet generated by marketing operations or your analyst teams to help you place your bets? Or would you need something better?
Accurate data is essential to marketing operations as it powers the CMO dashboards and reports that are used to make strategic financial investments and organizational changes. Yet, far too many companies struggle to create valuable and trustworthy insight with their data.
As marketers, we have invested heavily in analytics. Marketing spend will increase 198 percent over the next three years, yet the recent CMO survey by Deloitte states that the impact of analytics is modest at best. Here lies the marketing dilemma: to gain actionable insights into marketing performance and the expected impact of future investments our analytics must evolve.
Smart marketers know we need to do more than just lead generation, monthly reports and providing a CMO dashboard. Marketing executives that push their teams to take analytics to the next level are those that can engineer coin-operated marketing machines that drive sales and revenue growth at the right level for the business. And that only happens when marketing executives invest in their teams with the goal of making each team member into powerful data analysts who can prep, predict and visualize diverse datasets.
Moving away from the ‘gut instinct’
One of the largest hurdles is getting the whole team to embrace a data-driven, analytics-based strategy – and not just in the marketing department. For years, marketers cobbled together various datasets from reliable sources to measure the success of a campaign and then align those figures with overall company goals. There have been times where we relied more on our “gut instinct” than hard data, as it just wasn’t possible to access and bring all pertinent information together. This impacted the executive team’s confidence level in the outcomes and how it was used in corporate decision-making.
To become a true data-driven team, the power of data must be put into the hands of the marketers. The self-service analytics movement has empowered marketers to access, blend, analyze and visualize data to uncover transformational insights.
Our marketing team at Datawatch faced this challenge when we underwent a leadership change and 50 percent cut to marketing budget at the end of our 2017 fiscal year. We needed to move from reporting on single datasets and campaigns to adding context and proving the value of our campaigns. By bringing in a collaborative self-service platform, our team can now emphatically demonstrate results.
Finding and using the right data
Tracking the lineage of your datasets and using the most current information is another step in securing trust in marketing outcomes in the boardroom. Cleaned and organized datasets are not easy to find as Salesforce, Google Analytics, LinkedIn and others are all formatted differently. This creates a nightmare of manual data preparation, costing hours – and even days – of valuable time to bring it all together resulting in finding answers too late to make an impact. The key is accessing and transforming the data consistently so analytics are timely, accurate and trustworthy.
We found this to be the hardest part of switching from operational efficiency to analytical insight. Pulling together the data was a time-consuming process and manual data entry meant that 90 percent of our spreadsheets could have errors. Automating data preparation freed our marketers to focus on more important tasks and empower them to drive new campaigns from an analytical perspective.
Sharing newfound insights
The one downside of self-service analytics is that it can lead to silos. All of the insight-packed data lives on individuals’ laptops where it’s all too easy to lose track of changes. Without the assurances of proper lineage and curation by an appointed data steward, trust in the produced numbers becomes severely eroded– even if the person producing them is trustworthy. As a head marketer who has struggled to get everyone using data, the last thing you want is a lack of trust in the data that’s being used to make critical decisions.
In our case, we found that making the investment to build a “data marketplace” allowed our marketers to post their work, seek input from colleagues and departments and build off metrics and reports that others have already produced. A centralized marketplace solves the issue that a recent Dun & Bradstreet’s report stated where “organizational silos, isolated data and disparate metrics impede organizations’ ability to get actionable insights from data.” As a result of sharing and collaborating on our data, we can quickly pivot and point our investments to what is most meaningful.
Aligning with the sales team
With the shift in mindset and your team using data for critical decisions, the last step to creating a true data-driven system is to align with the sales team. While the Deloitte/AMA survey reported that the percentage of marketing analytics spend will increase 200% over next three years, it won’t work unless you have buy-in from the sales team. Sales is the ying to the marketing yang and their input on KPIs related to customer segmentation, target prioritization and marketing’s contribution to revenue must be collectively agreed upon to optimize the team’s performance.
In aligning our teams, we created one “Operations” organization and it has been the one of the most successful to date. By collaborating on operations metrics, we increased our sales qualified leads and win/loss ratio on marketing generated opportunities, despite a 48 percent decrease in marketing program spend. And because everyone was working from the same datasets in a centralized data marketplace, there was no bickering over the numbers.
Data is what can take a good marketing team and strategy and make it revenue-generating. Marketing executives who put data analytics at the core of their program will reap success, drive company growth and receive recognition by leadership. In our first 24 months, we saw a significant financial turnaround, an optimized bottom line and top-line progression. If we still relied on siloed reporting done in spreadsheets, we couldn’t have generated the answers quickly enough to facilitate our turnaround. Today, we can not only measure marketing contribution to revenue, we can segment that by original lead source/campaign, and attribute campaign influence. We have data-driven ROI on marketing spend and are now moving towards predictive analytics for future investments.
Building confidence among your team to actively use data and gaining executive trust in marketing analytics will not happen overnight, but it will lead to future meaningful results. Rich analytics enable true marketing accountability and can be the Holy Grail for every marketer.
Frank Moreno is the vice president of worldwide marketing at Datawatch, where he uses self-service data preparation and analytic solutions daily to report on business-critical initiatives. With more than 20 years of marketing experience working at technology companies, Frank Moreno has a unique viewpoint on the measurement pain points experienced by marketing professionals and how data analytics can assist in alleviating those common challenges.