The 4 most common dead ends, watch outs and cautions when assessing data driven marketing

There’s never been a better time to be a marketer.

(Sorry to borrow and modify a phrase from our esteemed Prime Minister).

Whilst it is an exciting time for marketers with technology, it’s also an extremely confusing time.

It has never been more complex to identify the right path for your activity.

Clients are increasingly looking for independent advice when it comes to approaching data-driven marketing. Advice to help identify dead ends, wrong ways and cautions.

Over the past few years we’ve been lucky enough to help with more and more requests to:

  • search the market for innovation and technology providers
  • assess CRM/Digital/Social/Content marketing agencies and vendors
  • assess programmatic media platforms and approaches
  • identify the true value of agency costs
  • identify hidden costs in supplier arrangements
  • assess data planning models
  • assess the approach to single customer view, data flows and governance
  • map end to end processes across internal departments through to multiple external agency suppliers to identify duplication
  • review roles, responsibilities, and the mix of digital resources
  • identify current management and performance measurement reports
  • benchmark service level and support agreements
  • and the list goes on

Whilst some people are shouting that content is king, big data should be the big focus, and that video will kill everything, when it comes to data-driven marketing, I’d rather whisper a soft reminder – caveat emptor.

Let the buyer beware

Today, marketers should be aware of technology opportunities and limitations.

It’s easy to be hoodwinked by a shiny new toy with amazing functionality. However you need to ground the enthusiasm in your current capability and level of data-driven marketing maturity.

We see many agencies and vendors trying to sell an opportunity without having done the due diligence to understand a client’s ability to deliver on the solution.

And equally we see many marketers excited to implement new solutions without identifying the current state of play between their departments, their digital and data ecosystem, and current governance processes.

For this post, I thought it would be valuable to outline the 4 most common themes that are reoccurring across the digital and data-driven marketing activity that we assess:

1) Strategy before structure

This gets top billing.

At a time when cost management is so important, many marketers are struggling to focus on strategy without being sidetracked into structural changes – whether that be within their marketing team and functions, inter company and across business units, or with external agencies and other outsourced partners.  

We recently completed an assessment of conflicting approaches to data-driven marketing. From data modeling and programmatic media perspectives.

Whilst the approaches were sound, the client had not agreed a clear operational plan to deliver on the data-driven strategy.

So rather than discuss outsourced agency solutions, it was recommended to align internal departments and identify a clear plan that would phase their data-driven marketing maturity over the coming years.

Insight #1:

A data-driven strategy doesn’t need to be world class, earth shattering or complex. It just needs to outline a united positioning (one of the biggest stumbling blocks in organisations today), a differentiated value proposition, clear target audiences, a top level path to achieving success, and most importantly how you’re going to measure performance and therefore know whether you’re succeeding.

2) Governance

This may sound boring, however it’s critical to discuss before entering down the road of new technology and innovation. And it’s one of the major areas that organisations are failing to focus on before developing activity.

I’ve just come from a meeting where a marketer has numerous agencies and one of the agencies is constantly thrown projects at the last minute to sort out where the data should flow to AFTER web forms have been built and sent live on the client’s website.

How could this happen I hear you ask?

Because there are digital and CRM teams on the client side that aren’t aligned.

The digital team is excited to be creating new opportunities, however are forgetting that it has a flow on affect in terms of data capture, data usage, data consolidation, and data analytics.

And most importantly neither team is coming from the perspective of putting the consumer front and centre. They are merely implementing a series of activities relevant to their desires.

So it’s worth asking the question. What is governance?

I like to think of it as the processes of managing activity – which includes 3 key aspects:

  1. a governing team (which I often refer to as a Jedi Council) who has the authority to prioritise opportunities and resolve conflict
  2. defined processes and procedures to get activity through and out of an organisation  
  3. security measures when executing activity

Another new client asked us to review their approach to content marketing. Governance was one part of our 7-point assessment.

Whilst they were very strong on risk and crisis management, and workable guidelines for design and editorial publishing, they fell short on accountability.  

Ownership had not been clearly assigned between functions and business units. And roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined internally or externally.

This was leading to duplication in effort and inconsistency in message and reputation.

Insight #2:

So if you’re an agency manager, then you need to first understand your client’s governance policy and working procedures. Only then can you determine your role in helping transform their activity. So less pitching of exciting whizz bang ideas, and more diligence in getting to know their flow.

If you’re a marketer, then please put the blowtorch on your activity and identify whether it has been documented in terms of the above definition of governance.

3) How can you prioritise without a plan

Seems obvious, however without clearly documented, and agreed, strategic and operation plans, organisations can’t effectively prioritise activity.

Decisions end up being made by the person who shouts the loudest, based on budget, or worse still, based on management ego working ‘the system’.

Prioritisation has become one of the biggest issues facing data-driven marketers. Mainly because of non-aligned and competing business units (silos).

We see e-commerce teams off in their own world. We still see ‘digital’ teams forgetting about the other half of the equation (brand and physical world). We see data, insights and research teams running down too many rabbit holes of analysis without real insight.

We see IT teams lacking any marketing and consumer focus. And we see lots of communication activity that is competing for internal resource due to the lack of any centralised activity calendar.

If you have a social media calendar, email publishing calendar, CRM activity calendar, event calendar and so on – all of which don’t map to one united marketing calendar – then the activity is at risk of being ineffective.

Insight #3:

You need to prioritise based on an agreed principle that suits your business.

As outlined in 2 above, you can create a prioritisation team from a governance perspective.

You can create a centralised calendar to at least get all the activity on a page. Then you have the opportunity to reduce the amount of activity that isn’t really aligned.

Or, as per 1, you can stop and actually refine your strategic approach.

4) Is it actually adding value

To refine your strategic approach you should assess current and future digital and technology opportunities by answering:

how does this add value to my marketing activity?

Inherent in this question is the ability to articulate the current state of play in terms of budget spends, activity, and performance measurement.

We see many marketers and agencies doing great things, however it is often without a grounding in identifying the resulting business value ie: profitable performance and return on investment.

We are regularly asked to assess and benchmark costs and when we do we get into the discussion of cost versus value.

Procurement teams are particularly interested in lowering cost but fall short when pushed for their capability in measuring marketing value.

So in analysing value it is critical to identify the following:

  1. the current state of your digital and data ecosystem including first party data, technology, digital systems, as well as 3rd party platforms and data flows. Having identified the current state, it will be clear as to how everything works together, or not. Hence you can make a value judgment.
  2. the data-driven marketing ratio (as a percentage of your overall marketing budget). It will be critical to know what % is being allocated and as your level of data-driven marketing maturity increases, what this ratio is doing. In some cases it makes sense to be increasing as you allocate more and more budget to effective areas. And in other cases it may actually decrease as you become more efficient and harness the power of ‘owned’ platforms and consumer advocacy.
  3. the level of consumer centricity and what this actually means in terms of a united segmentation, targeting strategy, and desired behavioural changes.
  4. reporting frameworks that map back to objectives (beyond top level engagement dashboards and campaign analytics reports)

Insight #4

If you’re not putting a value on what you’re doing then why are you doing it? It’s now possible to answer the question: which half of my marketing budget is working?  

To conclude

Hopefully you’ll take a few tips and ideas away from this post.

As outlined, once you’ve articulated your data-driven strategy then you can assess:

  • the level and mix of internal versus external resources required
  • the processes to be most efficient (including governance, data-management, ownership, and roles and responsibilities)
  • and then the technology requirements to plug any gaps in capability that you may have, or to harness new opportunities

Hence technology discussions commence as a third step in the process, not the first.

Maybe an action item is to identify all the technology discussions currently being held across your organisation and identify the impact for marketing.

You may be amazed by the list.

Are you struggling with the complexity that digital and data offer to business? Let TrinityP3 make sense of the new digital ecosystem for you