As we’ve discussed on this blog before, technological changes and economic variables are putting more and more pressure on marketing teams and businesses in general to justify strategies and quantify results with data. The problem with data is that data, in its simplest, just-collected form, is completely raw. Knowing that 10 of your leads this month came from Ohio doesn’t really tell anyone anything about how well you did or how you should run your business going forward. Is that number high or low when compared with how you’ve done in that state in the past? How does it compare to other states? The point is data needs a context before it can have meaning and be useful.
Here’s the problem with everything I just said, though: The person who manages the data collection often isn’t the person who is best qualified to place the data in a useful context. There’s a data integration process – from collection, to management and filtration, to analysis, to action – that relies on technology and systems, and someone has to maintain those systems (usually IT). But, IT isn’t the department actually needing/using the data (that would be marketing and/or sales). At some point, the data baton needs to be handed off, and figuring out how to do that is the real challenge for businesses.
How to integrate data into your marketing strategy
The first step to getting meaningful data in the right hands is first determining the scope of data you want to pull from. Assuming marketing is the internal customer here (and for our purposes, we will), this falls on the CMO or marketing director. If the right processes are in place, data can be collected from anywhere, from web analytics and lead forms to reports from your customer service reps or account executives.
Once the desired data are identified, the bridge needs to be built between the collector (IT) and the end user (marketing). This is addressing the “skills gap” discussed in previous posts, and can be as simple as appointing one tech-savvy person with a marketing background to be the cross-functional liaison and as complicated as hiring a whole department of marketing technologists to oversee data integration. The right solution just depends on the resources of your organization and the breadth of data being managed.
Next, you’ll need to define and communicate marketing strategies, objectives and other key performance indicators to your technical liaisons. They can’t properly contextualize the data in your CRM or marketing and sales dashboards if they don’t know the end goals and theory/concepts behind what you are doing. As Peter Chase of DestinationCRM.com notes, however, integration should not be confused with functionality. Merely connecting the data collection process with a marketing platform isn’t the objective. Real integration “should help you rationalize and organize all the data collected about your customers and leverage it across all of the channels of communication.”
As mentioned before, technology does play a major role in this process. Marketing automation tools make the aggregation process simpler and give the data mangers an organized starting point. CRM and marketing resource management (MRM) systems contribute from a metrics and evaluation perspective and can help parse and sort lead lists based on various data points.
Act with urgency
Marketing is often a long-term process, sometimes to the point of trying the patience of executives and stakeholders. That’s why it’s important for businesses to begin addressing the challenges of big data integration now. The sooner you get the right personnel and processes in place, the sooner you can use data in the support and execution of your marketing strategies.