/ Are we still drowning in data but starving for insights?

Back in 2013, Gary Corkin, founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, famously said that companies were drowning in data, but starving for insights. Today, the problem is still very much alive and kicking, especially for marketers. If anything, it might be getting worse.

There has been an explosion of measurable data, but marketing departments are struggling to gain true insights. IDG conducted a survey of 300 enterprise organisations, and when asked what some of the biggest challenges were to using data to achieve business benefit, the top cited problem was “Difficult to Extract Insights” (42%). “The biggest challenge is being able to actually use the data. Having accurate data is not enough to drive positive business outcomes.”


Data is still not translating into actionable insights because:

  • There is so much data: There is so much data that can be measured—some companies are producing terabytes of information daily—it’s hard to filter out the noise from the useful information. And while good people are working hard to get it done, most are not receiving the training, tools, or help required to master such an important and complex task.
  • Data is siloed: Marketers have trouble working across departments to guarantee personalised and consistent experiences for customers because departments are working to different parameters and measuring things differently. Multiple organisational silos can lead to data inconsistency and duplication, as well as gaps and errors.
  • Complex customer journeys: Customers are now investigating more (competitors, prices, etc.) and that is complicating and expanding the customer journey. It’s no longer a simple funnel where you can control most aspects, it’s a fluid puzzle where you have to consider, and have multiple, points of influence.
  • Campaign level thinking: At a campaign level, a lot of analysis is still being done on Excel spreadsheets. Having campaign level reporting is necessary, but how does it fit into the wider brand picture? What is happening to the company as a whole, as a product or in relation to a campaign?
  • Marketing is speaking a different language: Analytics should speak the language of marketing and business, as the overall strategy and goals should be the same. Marketing metrics such as social engagements, CPC (cost per click), and conversions need to become part of a wider conversation about market share, CAC (customer acquisition cost), CLV (customer lifetime value), and more.


Bridging the analytics gap

Imagine Company X launches a new marketing campaign. Looking into their web traffic shows Channel A is driving loads of traffic to their campaign landing page, compared to Channel B, that is driving considerably less traffic. The marketing team discovers the leads from Channel A are also converting as quick wins with many people starting a free trial, whereas Channel B is driving few leads and the conversion to a free trial is slow. But diving a bit further shows that the Channel A leads are not converting for the sales team past the entry point, so in the end CAC is high and ROI (return on investment) is low or non-existent. Channel B leads, on the other hand, were quality prospects and the sales team have been able to convert many of those free trials into new, paying customers.

Through investigation across multiple channels, and talking to the sales team, the head marketer uncovers Channel B leads took longer to convert, at every stage, because they were in a research phase, but once they made a decision to move forward they invested for the long term, leading to a high ROI and CLV. The fact that Channel B prospects took the time to truly research and define their needs meant their decision to buy was serious, it just came down to who they would buy from, which is where the sales team convinced prospects by clearly explaining Company X’s added value.

If the head marketer had looked at the initial numbers at face value, he or she would probably have shifted the vast majority of the campaign budget into Channel A in hopes of generating more quick leads, leaving little budget for Channel B because initially it didn’t look that promising. This would most likely have boosted the marketing numbers for that individual campaign, but the long-term business goals would have suffered. On the other hand, the final analysis takes into account the fact that customer journeys are getting more complex, sophisticated, and dynamic—many include a thorough research phase where prospects should still be nurtured until the buying decision is made.

The true lesson is that real, long-term insights could only be gained by analysing the full customer journey—across multiple channels, goals, and internal departments—so it is imperative the right data is available. But don’t forget those connections were made by a human. The numbers alone didn’t tell the story. So in actuality, it is only useful to have the right data if it’s in the right format, otherwise it will be too hard to analyse and glean insights from.


Making data insights real  

For many companies, the brunt of data and analytics has fallen on the marketing team, even though it is a company-wide necessity. The reason is most likely because marketers are on the front line recording information for analysis and are tasked with translating that into leads. But naturally, spending an exorbitant amount of time trying to get useful insights from mountains of disjointed data not only negatively impacts their day-to-day productivity, but also the efficiency and competitiveness of the business overall.

It is very time consuming and difficult to pull together data from across the board and analyse it to garner meaningful insights—success comes down to having an integrated approach. As we mentioned, not only does this lead to direct financial and marketing wins, it also helps the business overall. For example, McKinsey reviewed more than 400 diverse client engagements from the past eight years, across industries and regions, and found that an integrated analytics approach can free up some 15 to 20 percent of marketing spending.

To achieve an integrated approach, there is technology that helps make the process more efficient, and human friendly. To be truly successful, marketers need to be able to access a platform that allows them to search for the one truth amongst all the data; centralising and unifying data on one analytics dashboard, and aligning marketing KPIs to overall business KPIs, ensures that the big picture goals are always the driving force.

To find out how to do that, check out our latest whitepaper: Your marketing ROI: Risk of Inaction vs Return on Investment’. 


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