Data Strategies

Seven Secrets CDOs Should Know about Data-Driven Marketers

Today’s stakes are higher

Data has never been more central to the world of marketing than it is today. CMO budgets are rising fast, and with them rises the responsibility to spend wisely. No one can hide any longer behind John Wanamaker’s famous quote: “half my spend is wasted, I just don’t know which half”.

Today’s CMO must be ready to answer a whole host of data related questions at the drop of a hat. Which campaigns are performing well? Which aren’t? How much is Marketing contributing to pipeline? What's marketing’s impact on sales velocity? And the ultimate question: what’s the ROI of my campaigns, channels, and tactics?

I can’t afford to wait days until my weekly pipeline meeting or weeks until my quarterly campaign review. CMOs are making multiple big budget decisions a day and need answers to data question on the fly—not next week. Meanwhile, more and more vendors are in hot pursuit of the CMO’s marketing dollars and the best way to protect my budget is to know who’s spending what and understand what’s actually working. Plus, when my stakeholders or other execs call looking for that next level of detail (hey there CFO old buddy), I need to be able to drill into the numbers and answer their follow-up questions, without calling in the data ninjas for reinforcements. 

Given how much money Marketing spends, this shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?  

Yeah, right. 

MarTech is exploding

The good news is we now have more tools at our disposal than ever before to help us answer these questions. The Marketing technology landscape has absolutely exploded in the past 5 years. Check out this stat: in 2011 there were 150 marketing technologies, and today we have almost 4,0001. That’s crazy! It’s truly the technology revolution of a lifetime for Marketers. 

“Gartner Predicts CMOs will outspend CIOs on technology by 2017.”

Gartner famously predicted that CMOs would outspend CIOs on technology by 2017. And thanks to this boom in the MarTech stack, that prediction has come true. In a recent 2016 survey, Gartner found that Marketing and IT each spent about 3.6% of revenue on technology. And given the recent trend line, marketing is poised to overtake IT for the crown of “top tech spender” in 2017. In fact, the percentage of marketing budgets spent on technology is expected to grow 10x over the next 10 years

CMOs who figure out how to maximize their impact using these new technologies will be the ones to lead their companies to the front of their industries.

CMOs wear more hats than ever

While this new technology boom is creating tremendous opportunities for efficiency and insight, the rapid growth in different technologies and data sources represents a huge challenge for CMOs. How many CMOs do you think expected to be taking on CIO-esque responsibilities when they decided to get into marketing?  I certainly didn’t.

Choosing and successfully deploying new technologies isn’t easy. And buying more tools doesn’t automatically translate into buying more insights. It can be incredibly overwhelming. Especially when you realize that most of the products are a lot harder to use and harder to deploy than advertised. We marketers only have each other to blame for that one, btw.

Tying all your data together ain’t easy

The explosion in new marketing apps and data sources has had a complicating effect. Getting insights to match across all of these different systems is a nightmare. We have our ad spend—spread across platforms like Google, Social, TV, print, and digital. Then we’ve got our CRM data, our marketing automation data, our web traffic data, our product usage data, our finance data—it’s a mess trying to stitch it all together. 

This is where an experience CDO can help.

It’s also why the top hire for every CMO right now is a great Marketing Technologist. And it’s why marketers have reported that the number one technology on their buying list in 2017 is Business Intelligence (BI) software.   

Business Intelligence to the rescue?

For many CMOs today, BI sounds like the holy grail. Centralized visibility across all campaigns with ROI at your fingertips? Beautiful, where do we sign? But it has also sounded great to CIOs for decades. So what do they think?  

Sadly, BI has created more broken promises than a politician on the campaign trail. The challenge with BI is that it has always been: 

(1) super hard to set-up (ie months to deploy); and 
(2) horribly adopted (ie 22% industry average).  

That means 8 out of 10 people who try a BI product, give up. Brutal!

The #1 reason these products have been horribly adopted is because they are too hard to use. You think spreadsheets are hard? Imagine sitting through a three day training class as a busy marketing leader and then a few weeks later—under the gun—trying to remember which axis you need to drop the attribute on in order to get a chart to render properly. 

If you’re like me and tried a bunch of these products, you give up before trying. Instead, you pick up the phone to call in your favorite data ninja. It’s just too complicated! It’s not surprising the industry adoption rates are so low.

Seven secrets to data-driven success

The good news is there’s a whole new generation of tools emerging that are making powerful analytics accessible to the average marketing person—yes, even the most tech-shy CMOs. Most of us are more interested in launching the next campaign than playing with chart types and pivot tables. But seriously, it's time to take another look. Established players like Microsoft and Tableau are embracing new easier-to-use search interfaces and new entrants like BeyondCore (acquired by Salesforce), ClearStory, and ThoughtSpot are making true self-service a reality with new smart data discovery interfaces and automatically pushing insights to users.

CMOs may use a lot of data, but we’re often not the most technical people.  When the biggest users of data with the biggest budgets can’t use the solutions you’ve implemented, there’s a problem.  What’s the solution?  

Now with every new generation of technology, there’s a lot of hype and trend-washing, so you need to look closely. Here’s my advice for making sure you end up with an analytics product that non-technical users will actually use and that delivers fast and easy answers we can trust. If you’re lucky, you might even curb the need to find more data ninjas to handle demand. Here are my seven secrets to enabling marketers to make smarter data-driven decisions:

1 - Take it personally

A data-driven marketing team starts at the top. Pick an analytics product that they can actually use themselves. Not just to consume dashboards, but to actually build analyses. It’s actually possible today.

2 - Run from training

Ask your analytics vendor how long their typical beginner training classes run. Anything longer than a couple hours means marketers are going to forget what they learned and stop using it. That goes for the CMO and everyone else on the team.

3 - Know your data

Make sure the analytics product you choose can handle your data volume and various data sources. The amount of data that marketers use has exploded, but most solutions haven’t kept pace.  Find out where your data lives—cloud, on-premises, both—and make sure the product can support your data locations.

4 - Demand speed

Pay close attention to the responsiveness of the application. All the demos look slick, but when they get out into the wild, that spinny wheel of death loves to spin-spin-spin, and it will drive me insane. Ask the vendor for proof. 

5 - Respect your data analyst

Don’t kiss your data analysts goodbye anytime soon. While the next generation of products are much much easier to use, the world of data is still really complex. You need someone who will intelligently set-up the analytics solution in order to make the CMO’s life easy. The difference with this next generation of tools is your data ninja will be doing more strategic things, like adding new sources and defining shared metrics—not numbing their brains adding new columns, building cubes, or changing chart colors for me.

6 - Understand your costs

First understand how much you’re spending on your data analytics talent. There may be significant time and cost savings if you find a product that’s easier to use. Then find out how your analytics tools are priced when it comes to adding new users, data volumes, CPUs, 'cores', and devices. Some vendors charge incrementally every time you want to add a user or change your IT configuration and that can spiral out of control. Look for predictable licensing models that don’t tax you for what’s always been so elusive—adoption.

7 - Build a data-driven culture

New technology is meaningless without a corresponding change in process and culture. It’s critical for CDOs to drive change throughout your entire ecosystem of stakeholders across marketing, sales, and operations—all the way from execs down to the front lines. The goal is for CMOs to set up regular meetings to look at big picture metrics (pipeline, ROI), but also create regular opportunities for every member of the marketing team to contribute daily insights from their own analyses (ie. individual campaign performance—from lead all the way to close). While many new products have built-in collaboration features, I still need to drive engagement—especially in the beginning.

Happy decision-making

There’s a world of opportunity for data-driven CMOs to get ahead of the competition, but we need the guidance and collaboration from the executive responsible for data strategy. It’s a wild and crazy time to be a marketer, but that also means it’s a great time to take advantage. When your CMO’s campaign manager comes to them with an analysis explaining how her new campaign’s cost per lead is 20% higher, but the cost for each opportunity is 50% lower—you’ll thank me. Imagine if everyone on your marketing team was making decisions like that. Now is the time to jump on the new data-driven technology bus—and drive it! Your company’s success and your career will depend on it.