Data is the most underutilized asset in marketing

Obstacles to Data-Driven Marketing

According to a new study on data-driven marketing by Teradata Applications (the artists formerly known as Aprimo), 45% of marketers believe that data is the most underutilized asset in the marketing organization.

Most underutilized. That’s throwing down the gauntlet. And indeed, 78% of the marketers surveyed say that they feel pressure to become more data-driven.

The research, conducted with more than 2,200 marketers at companies with $100 million or more in revenue, revealed a number of other stats on the data challenges that marketing departments are facing:

  • Less than 10% use the data they currently have in a systematic, strategic way
  • Only 33% believe they work in a true data-driven marketing culture
  • Only 32% own/control most customer data — the rest rely on accessing data from IT or external vendors
  • That’s a bottleneck because 74% still don’t think marketing and IT are strategic partners
  • Yet 42% of marketers actually identify lack of process as a primary obstacle to using data in decision-making

That last point reflects an awakening in the importance of scalable marketing operations. As the report notes, “Historically, marketers have been wary of implementing processes for fear of ruining the creative atmosphere.” But as marketers are watching the river of data rush by their door, where they’ve been laboring by hand for years, the idea of building a watermill is sounding pretty good. That energy can be harnessed for creativity at a whole new scale.

The report declares that “process is the new black” in marketing.

Rise of the Marketing Data Scientist

But for all the data challenges that marketing now faces, a new champion is galloping to the field: the marketing data scientist. (What’s a data scientist, you ask? See the P.S. at the end of this post.)

Marketing Data Scientists

Teradata’s research found that 21% to 38% of marketing departments, depending on their size, already have data scientists on their teams. But within two years, as shown above, those numbers are expected to swell to 51% to 62%.

Just as marketing technologists raise the tech-savvy of marketing as a whole, data scientists deliver a similar lift. Teradata asked participants to grade how good their department is at doing data-driven marketing. “Departments with data scientists get higher marks from their employees,” states the report. “While the average department grade from individuals is in the C or lower range, departments with data scientists are awarded A’s.”

Still, for all the fascination with data, it’s important for marketers not to lose sight of the customers behind it. In a recent article in Wired, How Technology Complicates, Benefits Innovation, Andrew Reid wrote:

“Some may disagree, but businesses aren’t actually talking to their customers. They’re swimming in a pool of data that they think represent real customer insights. By counting on information from CRM, BI, marketing automation and other tools to help map out individuals and identify their wants and needs, companies think they’ve got a handle on consumer perceptions, when in fact they’re pretty far away from this valuable information that can genuinely initiate innovation.”

Data is great, and we’re only beginning to tap its potential. But that doesn’t have to come at the expense of the qualitative facets of marketing: see pragmatic marketing vs. hype cycles and false dilemmas.

P.S. What does a data scientist actually do? Here’s a list of 10 things from a marvelous presentation by Carlos Somohano:

  1. Ask good questions. What is what… …we don’t know? …we’d like to know?
  2. Define and test a hypothesis. Run experiments.
  3. Scoop, scrap, sink & sample business relevant data.
  4. Munge and wrestle data. Tame data.
  5. Explore data, discover data playfully. Discover unknowns.
  6. Model data. Model algorithms.
  7. Understand data relationships.
  8. Tell the machine how to learn from data.
  9. Create data products that deliver actionable insight.
  10. Tell relevant business stories from data.

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