For Marketing, Digital Transformation Has Always Been about Data

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For marketing, digital transformation has always been about data. Data has been the essential raw material used to identify market segments, market size, audience, buyer preferences, message content, contact qualification and all the other metrics and values required to market a product.

Marketing departments have struggled over the years to get the data they need and also to refine that data into something usable.

Digital transformation of marketing has been primarily about the efficient gathering of data and the processing of that data into useful information.

These two facts should form the basis of justification for funding any marketing project that involves the digital transformation of processes.

For years, marketing had to manually collect information about companies, contacts and product preferences from service reports, call logs and assorted survey questionnaires. They would also rely on third parties who offered contact lists for sale, but the quality of these lists was questionable.

Results were often short of expectations, and the expense of maintaining large outbound call centers tasked with collecting this data was enormous.

It took roughly one decade for all of that to change.

The message of digital transformation immediately resonated with marketing research professionals.

Marketing is now well positioned to initiate digital transformation within the enterprise. They have the demonstrated need and the means available to effectively transform the marketing function.

Marketing Insider Group provides a convincing argument for why marketing should lead the digital transformative efforts within any given organization.

Where Does Marketing Get Its Data Today?

Digital information is generated by the enterprise in prodigious quantities. Almost every customer-facing process produces useful information for marketing.

Here are some examples of how specific data types can be used within a marketing operation.

Customer Information Systems

For many years, they consisted of office location, contact files, addresses and phone numbers. Today they will likely include executive biographies as well as biographical info on important contacts. The contact title is nice to have, but better yet is something more akin to a profile of responsibilities and duties.

Credit and Collections Data

Backed up by resources such as D&B, this information is useful for identifying a prospect’s financial health.

Order History

This provides a history of what the customer buys and uses. This information is critical when looking for up- or cross-selling opportunities—establishing environmental profiles and understanding specifics about what the customer does to earn money.

Problem Resolution or Case-Management Information

What issues does the customer face? How are the incumbent products performing within their company? The addition of IoT-generated data about installed products provides a look at how products are being used and how they are performing. Telemetric data provided by onboard sensors and meters reveals a detailed view of the customer’s internal operating processes.

Website Visitor Logs

Who comes to your website? What do they look at, download and share? Marketing uses this to obtain a good look at what prospects and customers are interested in. This data is useful both tactically as well as in support of strategic marketing decision-making. These and other specific data types are used by marketing automation systems to automate many traditional marketing processes.

Marketing Process Automation

Once data is gathered, refined and normalized, it is useful for many processes that are familiar to anyone who has been involved in marketing. The tough part is analytics.

Geoffrey Moore is quoted saying, “Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the Web like deer on a freeway.”

The difference today is the number of options available to companies seeking analytical capability for the massive amounts of data to which they have access. Third-party tools are widely available to help companies in this regard.

The successful track record of these tools should provide strong incentives for marketing groups to proceed with automation projects and equally strong justifications to seek funding for those projects.

This can be accomplished on a process-by-process basis.

Some of these processes include:

Demographic Research

Data related to choices and preferences made by specific identifiable segments of a particular demographic are now available from any number of sources. Combining this with internally generated data provides valuable market information regarding what buyers want or need as well as how they use products.

Competitive Analysis

Knowing how the competition stacks up next to your solution in terms of strengths, weaknesses, features, price, message and market perception is critical in almost any space.

The goal is not so much to identify information that is useful for attacking your competition, rather it is to find areas that competing solutions do not address.

All of the other information is nice to have, but the ability to differentiate your product above others in your space will provide an invaluable competitive edge.

Contact Identification

Being able to isolate all of your contacts with specific commonalities germane to a particular market or product is the basis of any effective campaign.

Just having a list of names and titles is little more than having a phone book. The ability to analyze, sort and group contacts is delivered by CRM systems that maintain customer and contact files.

Content Management

Buyers and prospects visit websites looking for information about specific issues. The content available on any website is the key to attracting longer visits, more frequent visits and ultimately developing a relationship with a potential buyer.

Content management systems allow marketing departments to create specific content (blogs, white papers, vlogs and customer stories) that are then organized and indexed.

As a visitor consumes one offering, additional offerings are presented to further define the visitor’s specific interest. These are tracked, and an interest profile is formed. This profile drives other follow-on responses and calls to action. Ultimately, this data forms the basis of a qualification assignment.

Campaign Management

Campaign management tools oversee the assorted elements of a marketing campaign. The message, audience, offers, calls to action and other traditional parts of a campaign are controlled and tracked using an automated system.

This provides real-time information to campaign and sales managers allowing them to make response decisions quickly and effectively.

Marketing Makes a Strong Argument for Digital Transformation

Marketing can argue effectively that their case for automation is strong from the standpoint of a proven need for valid data.

They can demonstrate the beneficial effect of valid data and the great expense required to manually process and analyze that data.

Now, the availability of so many proven tools to automate the collection, analysis and effective use of that data makes that argument even stronger and the justification or ROI case more evident.

Tools designed to perform the analytical work are available in a stand-alone configuration and they also are frequently built into marketing automation software packages.

Cloud-based or on-prem, centralized or client-based, the power is available to handle the vast amounts of data generated on a daily basis using AI and other technologies.

Marketing is a great starting place for digital transformation because the marketing mindset is already oriented toward data-driven decision-making.

Automating that payback for marketing automation will be both fast and substantial.


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