While many would have you believe we live in the age of the connected customer, the reality is that is not as true as we would like it to be. It’s not that it’s impossible to create a connected ecosystem of data, it’s just that very few have truly done this (Google, Amazon, Facebook are some examples that have done this), most companies continue to struggle with getting their marketing teams data connected. The connected customer ecosystem still challenges many marketing organizations.
The biggest challenges I see are four fold.
- Privacy management
- System integration and Organization Management
- Data analysis/overload
- The ability to think in non-linear ways
Companies that operate globally need to take into account a wide range of privacy needs and privacy management, everything from how cookies are collected and tracked, to data storage and purging. Most global companies opt to take the most aggressive standards to limit legal risk, which I believe to be a sound approach for enterprise scale, but this also imposes challenges in how and where you use both anonymous and personally identifiable information (PII). The challenge of balancing these needs creates the legal confines in which marketers must work, and defines the sandbox they must play in.
This isn’t a bad thing either, what it provides is the balance of responsibility with the need to drive functionality and relevancy. Basically it forces marketers to not be lazy and instead be smarter and more targeted in both how they use the data they have on their customers, and be mindful of protecting your privacy.
The easiest solution to solve this is simple. Build as large a base of opt-in consumer data as possible. Treat data as currency. The more value you provide with the data your consumer give you, the more likely they are to invest more data into you. As they provide more data, you must provide more targeted and RELEVANT content to them. If you’re not segmenting and learning more about your consumers the less likely they are to want to share data of who they are with you.
System Integration and Organization Management
The biggest challenges that corporations have struggled with as technology drives more business lays with their tech-stacks. Further the more matrixed and global the company is the greater the odds that they run multiple tech-stacks to achieve the same objectives across multiple organizations. It’s not uncommon for companies to have multiple data stores for customer information, multiple ways to segment the same customer groups in different systems, and conflicting business objectives to achieve with the same customer base.
The challenge of data management is even more complex due to the governance placed around customer management. More and more it’s becoming important for companies to establish a customer marketing team. A team responsible for the management and frequency of communications, platforms to communicate through, and data collection and usage of the customers. This differs from content and communication development teams, channel marketers and product marketers.
This team focuses specifically on optimizing and maximizing the message flows across multiple channels and supporting multiple teams. This team should also focus on the tools and platforms required to manage a wholistic approach to customer marketing. This team should operate across your email platforms, digital media buying platforms, social media platforms, websites, and care platforms to ensure that the messages across all platforms are connected and consistent with the customer expectation. This team ultimately owns the customer experience maps, and journey maps. It’s also where the 360-degree view of the customer should exist (yes I know everyone has a 360-degree view, but really how great is it? This team will make it shine).
You may have heard of “analysis paralysis” as a saying. Many companies are still focused on vanity metrics and executive dashboards. Companies that are truly data driven, are those that work to create friction-less data environments that enable and pass data from one platform to another in real time, and leverage models and decision trees to provide actionable results with reduced human bias and incorporates A/B or multivariate testing methodologies to optimize the creative elements.
The easiest way to overcome data overload is to remove the people from the equation as much as possible. Not every element needs to be reviewed by a human, determine what these points are, and how you connect systems through data to take action faster, and remove uncertainty.
If people must review data, also remember that most marketing data is directional data. you’re not building medical experiments, you’re trying to drive revenue growth. You don’t need to know with 100% or even at times 90% accuracy the impact something will have. If something is trending a certain direction this should usually be enough to make a call, and move forward. Waiting for the perfect results, limits your speed to market, and sacrifices faster evolution. Just understand that there will be times that you just need to know what you’ve done is a “do no harm” decision. It’s neither improved nor hurt what you doing, but moving past the decision is more important that getting hung up on the smallest details.
The Evolution From Linear Marketing to Journey Marketing
What all of this means for marketers who want to be truly data-centric is that they need to move from building linear campaigns where they expect customers to fall like dominoes and instead thinking of their marketing campaigns much like you would write a Choose Your Own Adventure book, in which there are many paths, and many potential end points.
Marketing programs shift from deployment, measure, analysis, craft next wave and deploy. To Customer journey maps that have many facets and each decision point is data driven, and enables the customer to move forward down the path best suited for them. It means marketers need to market like Wayne Gretzky played hockey, and anticipate where the puck (customer) will go.
This shift in thinking means not only greater pressure on marketers to deliver even more, but to also track, manage and understand all the paths and stages a customer may be in as they engage across their content, and create a trail of digital data to inform their marketing programs and campaigns. The biggest challenge won’t be the technology but if the people using it can understand how to best use it to build their marketing programs.