To ease the pain caused by the summerless summer vacation we introduce “The Laid Back CMO’s Summer Reads” – a weekly updating 5 series blog post on the must-have things that need to be in place before data-driven marketing can possibly happen. Delivered with real cut-the-crap-style by Annalect Finland’s managing director Jussi. The posts stem from Jussi’s experiences from over 15 years in marketing management positions as well as the more recent overview of the Finnish marketing scene and international benchmarks enabled by Annalect & Omnicom Media Group.
Why should you read Laid Back CMO’s Summer Reads? First, because your company’s marketing needs to become more data-driven and second, with over 7 years of experience in building data-driven marketing capabilities we know how to get there. Annalect’s whole existence is based on enabling data-driven marketing and if we didn’t know what we’re talking about, our raison d’être would also seize to be. Making business decisions based on data is a nobrainer as such. However often the real-life processes and actions pursuing this nobrainer are either non-existing or flawed – tradition and old ways of doing still overrule in many places.
Businesses are different and not all are as advanced as others. At Annalect we use the above depicted metaphor to position organizations based on their data management and marketing capabilities. In order for organizations to develop from crawlers to walkers and from walkers to runners (etc.), we’ve also mapped below the key elements which data-driven marketing requires. During the upcoming 5 weeks, we will update this blog post once a week with a new chapter about one or more of the elements.
By the way, after the implementation of this process we’ve witnessed on average double digit growth in our clients’ return on marketing investments. Now that, my friends, is a proper carrot.
All Good Marketing Starts with Data
Data is the be-all-and-end-all of many modern marketing and business discussions. Unfortunately most of these discussions are fundamentally flawed. Stop discussing data, do something with what you already have.
Step 1: Stop the great data race
I’d say 99,5% of the companies we have met and discussed with have either enough data in their disposal or very easy access to it in order to make data-driven marketing a reality. Data-driven marketing at its core, with all the hype cut away from it, is really just marketing based on factual decisions.
Still, the focus of many organizations is in gathering data. Stop this.
Organizations focus on gathering data to vast data lakes, as the naive belief is that with that huge data lake they will be able to make data-driven marketing a reality. Bullshit. If you are not able to use the data you have available now to make better marketing decisions, how do you think you would be able to use a far greater amount of data to your advantage? The more data you have, the harder it is to use it. The harder it is to activate the data for decision and actions, and the harder it is, the more competence you need to manage it.
If you can use the data you have for better marketing decisions and more effective marketing actions, then, and only then, start the hunt for the (big) data. You really cannot sprint before you crawl. Just look at the toddlers around you.
Want to hear more about data driven marketing?
Technology, the engine of modern marketing
We Finns are good at buying technology. Really good. And yes, Swedes like to buy technology too as do Americans. Why? Technology is very concrete, easy to understand and to talk about. It is very tangible. And well, let’s admit it, buying technology is easy.
Getting technology to work, well, that is hard. Globally it is reported that more than 50% of IT projects still fail. This is said to be mainly due to involvement from senior management and bad project management skills (to simplify the list a bit). This is not, however, my point.
If we would add to the failure rate the technology/IT-projects, which don’t deliver the benefits dreamed about, the failure rate would be much, much higher.It is very easy to buy technology, it is relatively easy to implement it, it is very hard to get it into everyday use.Technology on its own doesn’t do anything. Please remember that.Getting technology to work for you is hard, because it involves people and very often it involves change. And we as people, let’s admit it, tend to not like change.
Step 2. People first (not America; yes, the bad pun was intended).
Technology is there to make the usage of data easier and faster. It is there to help you manage the data. And if you have dared to enter the realm of the Huge data (read on data, are you sure you should focus on it?), you will need technology to actually use the data to your benefit. Then it becomes critical. Very critical.
Make your data engine roar and give skills to the people to drive your marketing.
In all the cases, you should still put people first: their competence and motivation. If data is the fuel of modern marketing then technology is the engine; but people, people are the hands behind the driving wheel and the foot above the clutch. Without people behind the driving wheel, the car doesn’t move anywhere, and neither does your marketing – no matter how high-octane your data-fuel is and how pimped-up MarTech-engine you installed. People, not data or technology, is the critical component many companies forget.
Now all you tech-savvy naysayers try to be smart and say that you cannot get a car moving without an engine either. Yes you can. You pull or push it – you smartypants.
Once you’ve equipped the people to drive your data driven marketing, then you can upgrade to the most bad ass Martech-engine around and make it roar for you. So yes, in the end, you can buy that dreamy tech solution that will make your and everybody else’s life so much easier than ever before.
Corporate culture is not dead
Technology may well have changed the marketing landscape for good. However, keep in mind that technology alone won’t solve any of your marketing problems, you still need skillful people with the right attitude to operate that engine. You still need the people to gather those insights and analyze the results of your engine. The right corporate culture is crucial step towards data driven marketing.
“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.”
– David Cummings, Co-Founder, Pardot
Step 3. Put people first, excellence in data driven marketing will follow.
If you want to make data driven marketing work for you, people are the first thing you should focus on. Their competence, their skill set, and above all, their motivation. If you do this, everything else will follow. Focus on training, focus on recruiting, focus on creating a culture where using data and making decision based on facts is appreciated, if not even rewarded.
“Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one.”
– Lara Hogan, Senior Engineering Manager of Performance, Etsy
Would you like to stay tuned for similar insights straight to your e-mail inbox?
Getting your processes and working methods right
Process is what happens when people work together towards a goal. Trivial goals cause trivial acts. Trivial acts cause senseless processes.
Smart people will form perfectly functional processes when the goal is not trivial and you try not to impose stupid structures on them. If you keep the goals trivial, you will soon have a well-formed, extremely senseless process. Trying to force a change to a well-formed process is like trying to force yourself to write with your weaker hand.
Damn fucking hard.
Change your goals before you change the processes.
– Jussi Piri, Managing Director, Annalect Finland
Step 4. To change a process, you need to redefine your goals.
Managing change is really about managing a group of people towards a common goal. Nothing else. There are many frameworks to guide your thought process and frame your way, of which Kotter’s eights steps for leading change is probably the most well-known. For me it is simple enough framework, and truthfully, I have found no bigger faults in its logic. If you haven’t tried it, try it the next time.
The key is a meaningful goal (or a vision) that makes the change possible. It doesn’t always need be a grand vision, it also works on ‘micro-instances’: create a meaningful goal and the change will happen on its own if you give the people the possibility to do the change.
You might think that getting data driven marketing to work in your organization would mean no change in your processes. Or that your process is already the best it can be.
If you think you are done, you should start looking for a new job, you are not at the right place, sadly. I’d say hurry up and go here. If you aim for excellence, you are never ready.
“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
– W. Edwards Deming
So what else do you need to get your data driven marketing working at sprint-speed?
The simplest answer to ‘what else do you need to get your data driven marketing working at sprint-speed’ is two things:
You need to use the data, draw insights from it and make decisions based on data that people make actionable or you can trust the machines to feed the operations, be it messages, price changes or new distribution arrangements, so that you don’t have to bother. Does the latter sound like a dream or nightmare? We’re not that far from it given the current capabilities of most advanced neural networks and machine learning combos.
You need to constantly re-work and optimize the heck of everything. Yes, everything.
Delving deeper into how all of this is done, really done, is not a topic for the frivolous summer read while you’re sipping the well-deserved Rosé under the Mediterranean sun (ok I know you’re actually in a cottage hiding from your spouse and kids, but we can all dream can’t we).
How all this is actually done is a talk we should have once we meet. With a few weeks of vacation-time under my belt, I guarantee I’m much more pleasant company to discuss with than the texts show. Honestly, even my mother told me that.