Today’s CMOs face a key leadership challenge as they shift their marketing organizations to take advantage of the data revolution. Social media, mobile devices, analytics and cloud computing are dramatically reshaping what is possible for the modern marketer. But getting your marketing team to take advantage of this new paradigm is not easy.
I recently had the chance to keynote and spend the day with several dozen CMOs and leaders from firms like Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, Kimberly-Clark, Cisco, and WestJet at IBM’s Think Marketing summit in New York. Their diverse stories of data-driven marketing revealed a common set of challenges for CMOs.
Stitching the data together
The first challenge is to link together diverse sets of data in order to paint a complete picture of the customer. This is especially difficult for companies that don’t sell directly to the consumer. But marketers are putting the pieces together, by observing online behaviors (from website, email, and paid media), using social authentication (a Facebook login can be invaluable), purchasing demographic data from third parties, and sharing data with strategic partners. Caterpillar now requires its dealers to enter into valuable data-sharing agreements, but in return provides the dealers with benchmark and tools to improve their own sales efficiency.
Turning data into customer value
The next challenge is to turn a coherent data picture of customers into a source of new value. That starts with behavioral segmenting (Coke found that baby boomers preferred rewards programs that delivered discounts, but younger segments responded more to app-based social games). Next comes predictive analytics (e.g. deciding which of a portfolio of products to emphasize to different customers, based on social signals, and real-time context). Ultimately, the goal is to understand and match the customer journey. Kimberly-Clark is segmenting and following moms through a path from diapers to pull-ups to swimwear for tots, targeting their marketing to maximize revenue.
Making the financial case
Building a data-driven marketing operation requires investment in new technology and skills. With budgets flat, CMOs are shifting money from events, trade shows, and person-intensive tactics. Cisco has seen costs drop significantly as it shifts marketing budgets to social, mobile, cloud, and analytics. Other firms reported solving customer needs with online solutions that were 30x cheaper than in-person service. Across the board, marketers found increased efficiency of spend as they deployed more marketing automation, delivered more targeted messages to customers, and stopped wasting money to reacquire the same customers across different channels. (Once they learned to link the data, they could recognize the same customer across email, website, Facebook, and loyalty programs.)
Changing habits and process
Before jumping head first into buying new technologies, CMOs say they need to think through the changes in business process that data-driven marketing will entail. Targeted messaging to dynamic customer segments requires a different approach to copyrighting – “hyperversioning” of content, where many variations of the same pitch are crafted in advance. Getting Coke’s brilliant content people to “think digitally” was essential before it could fully leverage the power of customer data. And while global firms have built powerful teams for data-driven marketing in the U.S., many still struggle to replicate those successes in overseas markets – with different data, and consumer media habits.
Taking ownership and responsibility
Lastly, data-driven marketing requires that CMOs take responsibility for technology issues to a new degree. No longer can they rely on cloud solutions to work around the CIO and run a “shadow” IT operation. Today’s CIOs are willing to show flexibility in order to partner more closely with marketing. That means CMOs have to weigh in on thorny issues like data security, and when to place data in the cloud vs. keeping it on-premise. The answers aren’t always simple, and they aren’t just technical, as consumers place their trust in brands, but quickly withdraw it. When it comes to customer data, “if you break it, you own it.” Today, how you treat customers’ data, and whether you use it to improve their lives and their experiences, is a responsibility for the CMO before anyone else.
This article originally appeared in Forbes CMO Network