“Over the next ten years, IBM will sell more to the CMO than to the CTO.”
That’s a direct quote from Ginni Rommety, CEO of IBM, and there might be no better illustration of the change that is sweeping the art and science of marketing. The company that has built more than 100 years of technology sales is leading the shift toward marketing technology and automation.
For the past two years or so, “big data” has been depicted as a mammoth and unmanageable wave of numbers flooding businesses. Data management companies and analysts are moving toward data as an actionable marketing resource and a strategy that enables execution rather than intimidation.
“I call it getting to the data of desire,” said John Noseworthy, Digital Media and Big Data Director for IBM. “CMOs need to get at the heart of the data that matters to the customer. We can see this as drowning in click stream data and transactional data, or we could see an opportunity to find the good data in the big data. CMOs can move from demographic profiles to developing personas that make their marketing efforts more personalized. Data is transforming the practice of marketing.”
There will be data. And it will be big. But not so big that it can’t be broken down into actionable data that informs marketing decisions and enhances the customer experience.
Making Big Data Presentable
When you look at some of the companies that have been responsible for making “big data” seem like an impossible task, it’s telling that most have turned recently toward manageable data. At SAS, for example, the focus has moved from defining big data to “visualizing big data.” You can still try to wrap your head around the 10,000 payment card transactions are made every second around the world. Or the fact that Facebook has more than 901 million active users generating social interaction data. Or the 5 billion people are calling, texting, tweeting and browsing web sites on mobile phones. But SAS has also embraced the new need for data to be presentable to management teams. “Visual analytics” at SAS “empower users with data visualization and easy-to-understand analytics to drive improved decision making.”
It capitalizes on a trend identified by Deloitte in the research firm’s Tech Trends 2013 report, which stated: “Machines are very good at finding patterns, but we should still have human analysts – augmented by visualization tools – to determine real meaning and value.”
Salesforce, SAP, Datalogix, dunnhumby, Eloqua, Marketo and a host of data powerhouses have turned toward connecting data with customer relationships. In fact, there are many indications that the marketing and data conversations are becoming unified rather than siloed. Media generates data. That data is used for CRM initiatives, loyalty programs, predictive analytics, in-store experiences and online targeting. Data is a common denominator for all marketers.
Encourage, Educate, Explore And Engage
Noseworthy, as a director of both digital media and data for IBM, has designed his division’s strategy around this convergence. Data, he said, will help companies optimize content, audience, channel results and advertising yield. To achieve that, CMOs need a four-part internal process to encourage education, exploration, engagement and execution around available data.
“Unfortunately, marketers tend to have difficulty locating, accessing and collecting multi-channel purchase data, so they can quickly analyze it in a way that adds value in this critical process,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that marketers need to overlay offline transaction data with all of these other online data types – including data from various third-party sources – to gain deep, actionable insights and improve campaign ROI.”
No Such Thing As Too Much Data
The biggest issue marketers currently have with “big data” is in aggregation. But there’s a simple message, said Vikram Somaya, General Manager of WeatherFX, the marketing insights division of The Weather Company, parent company of The Weather Channel. “Data is like the weather. It’s always there and there’s always going to be more of it. There’s no such thing as too much data.”
Even at the academic levels of data analysis, there is a move toward data management in the face of data saturation. For example, Miklos Sarvary, a global expert in data usage and the GlaxoSmithKlein Chaired Professor of Corporate Innovation at INSEAD, urges companies to define information products with three core characteristics: they are digitizable;they are used for decision making; and the decision-maker pays for them. Financial data, market research, expert opinions of various kinds are good examples and represent services worth hundreds of billions of dollars in sales.
“For most businesses nowadays, increasingly, it is superior information that is at the origin of competitive advantage,” he wrote in The European Business Review. “The prime challenge in this new environment does not start with data analysis. Rather, the most important issue for the firm is to understand its information needs: what information, if it were available, would make a real difference for value creation and competitive advantage? Once the answer is clear to this question then finding information is not that hard. It is important however, that the firm doesn’t constrain itself to its own information.”
As Sarvary pointed out the world of data proliferates within and without your company. Take what you need and observe the rest.