Marketing Execs Struggle to Fulfill Big Data Potential

Ann All

Updated · Dec 10, 2013

While Big Data technologies present some exciting new opportunities for marketers, few marketers appear to be realizing Big Data benefits. According to a Customer Sales Intelligence Scorecard and report compiled by the CMO Council, the majority of marketing executives are not confident in their organization's ability to deliver insights to sales representatives and other customer-facing employees.

According to the research, survey respondents ranked their organizations highest in “effectiveness in accessing key account decision makers.” The area receiving the lowest marks was “real time delivery of sales intelligence and breaking news.” Also ranking near the bottom were “customer data accuracy, depth and reliability,” “remote, mobile user interface to customer data” and “front line access to the right level of customer intelligence.”

Big Data technologies promise to bring marketers closer to real-time insights and also to help them better leverage unstructured data found in such places as social networks. Yet marketers continue to rely heavily on data that requires a great deal of manual upkeep, including internal proprietary databases, which 51 percent of respondents use as a primary source of data, and prospect data entered by individual sales representatives, cited by 44 percent of respondents. Sixty-five percent of respondents admitted they update data through manual entry or individual file transfers.

This is “incredibly frustrating” to marketers, said Liz Miller, vice president of Marketing Programs and Operations, CMO Council, because they know other types of data collection are being automated.

Data Management and the ‘Moment of Opportunity'

A marketer wants to know that if she calls an executive at the phone number that's in her company's CRM system, the number will be correct and the exec will still work there. Yet marketers tend not to trust their company’s data. More than 60 percent of respondents say data is being managed poorly or not that well.

This desire differs somewhat from the longstanding wish for “clean” data, said Miller. “It goes beyond data quality to wishing that they had a data repository that is almost automatically updated and can include information from different resources.”

Ultimately, she said, marketers are seeking data that can yield “a moment of opportunity.” To create such opportunities, many marketers are “trying to tackle Big Data by managing their own social and marketing data and attempting to mix and merge it together themselves,” she added.

A more effective approach, Miller suggested, is for marketers to create a data strategy with the help of their IT organizations. “They should work with their IT partners to say, ‘Here is my version of data nirvana. How can we get there?' IT can help you discover both internal and external data sources and determine how to integrate it with your existing data.”

In fact, some forward-thinking marketing organizations are introducing a new marketing technologist role that Miller described as “a marketing person who is really well versed in IT” and who can serve as the “ultimate translator” between the two functions. “They can help ask questions like ‘why do we have three CRM systems?' or ‘why do we have two email platforms?'

While there are some technical challenges associated with data quality and data integration, the biggest issues involve corporate culture, Miller said. “If you don't embrace a culture of customer centricity – by  focusing all of your people, processes and technology to not only be a sales enabler but also be committed to elevating the voice of the customer throughout the organization – you are never going to get to that state of Big Data nirvana.”

Your Data Is My Data

Another striking finding, Miller said, is the serious lack of data sharing between marketing organizations and their colleagues in sales and customer support/service. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said customer information systems did not extend out from sales and into customer-facing, front-line functions. Three-quarters of respondents said there was either limited sharing of data or no sharing at all because data is contained in two completely different systems.

Marketers are partly to blame for this, she said, noting that “somewhere along the way marketing lost its focus around sales enablement,” perhaps because in recent years marketing organizations have expanded their role beyond managing a company's brand and advertising budgets to encompass the broader customer experience. “Marketers use data to personalize campaigns and target promotions, but when it gets down to helping the front line do their jobs, we are not doing so well.”

Big Data and other emerging technologies are creating an opportunity for marketing teams to serve as “the connective tissue” between sales, service, support and IT, she said. Such data sharing is important, for example, because sales teams will want to take corrective action if they discover their best customers are frequently contacting customer support to resolve problems with products or services.  

Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.

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  • Ann All
    Ann All

    Public relations, digital marketing, journalism, copywriting. I have done it all so I am able to communicate any information in a professional manner. Recent work includes creating compelling digital content, and applying SEO strategies to increase website performance. I am a skilled copy editor who can manage budgets and people.

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