Data Driven

As I talk to marketing executives at large brands about their marketing measurement efforts, I often get asked for my opinions on what they can do to put data to use more effectively. Since I get asked this fairly often, I decided to put some thought into the topic and I came up with a series of tips for executives on how to become a “data smart” marketing organization.


Think Big Picture

Foremost, I think marketing executives need to have the big picture in mind while developing a measurement framework. More specifically…

Set goals that are tied to business objectives. Company-level goals for the measurement initiative should be defined. These goals should be small in number (one or two) and may be different than the goals for a particular product brand or geographic region. These goals ultimately help set the context in choosing the right set of marketing KPIs.

Use campaigns and the customer journey as the framework, not channels. It is easy to use channel-based KPIs as a measurement framework since they tend to be easy to measure. Using channels as a framework, however, is generally not effective since a company’s business objectives (see above) are usually not tied to what happens in particular channels. Campaigns or the customer journey (awareness, intent, education, purchase, etc.) are better measurement frameworks since they tend to map to a company’s objectives more effectively.

Implement the measurement framework enterprise-wide. It is important for organizations to have a single yardstick company-wide to understand the performance of their marketing activities across the entire enterprise, spanning their different operating markets, brands, divisions, etc. Having a consistent framework enterprise-wide improves accountability, increases effectiveness, and enhances collaboration. (Read this post for more details on this topic.)


Strive To Become Agile

To become “data smart,” a marketing organization needs to strive to be agile in its decision making. Here are some tips on how to make that happen…

Tighten the feedback loop. Historically, the measurement of marketing activities came after a campaign was over. This made sense in the days when all activities had long lead cycles and market feedback was collected via offline mechanisms. It no longer makes sense to continue this practice. Organizations should be striving to tightly integrate the measurement of campaign performance with the execution of activities, and to use a tight feedback loop to make adjustments throughout a campaign. (Read this post for more details on this topic.)

Experiment. I recommend marketing organizations to take advantage of today’s digital marketing technologies — with its short lead cycles and rapid feedback — and develop a culture of experimentation. In order for this to be effective, a sufficient amount of media spend (5-10% of media budget) must be allocated.

Invest In A Strong Technology Infrastructure. A recent Gartner study showed that there is a correlation between the percentage of company revenue that a marketing organization spends on marketing analytics and their effectiveness. This is not a surprise. However, to become a “data smart” marketing organization, it takes more than just throwing money at the problem. Here are some things to keep in mind…

Automate the measurement process. It is no longer necessary to rely on manual, error-prone processes in order to bring disparate marketing data together, like many organizations still do with spreadsheets. It is now possible to automate the entire process, from the collection and storage of data from multiple sources to the derivation of key insights that spur action. Automating the process is critical in order to tighten the feedback look and become agile.

Separate execution from measurement. It is important to keep the systems that execute activities separate from the measurement system. Relying on the measurement capabilities of execution systems results in insular perspectives, rather than a holistic perspective that is tied to business objectives.

Think of your marketing data holistically. To understand the business impact marketing activities are happening, it is not enough to just look at basic metrics like clicks, likes, opens, etc. You need to think of marketing data holistically, from the creative assets and the performance that are tied to activities, to targeting and audience data, to business impact data (spend, revenue, etc.).

Don’t forget that “garbage in” means “garbage out.” It is important to make sure that the measurement data that is collected and used is of the highest quality. Decisions are no better than the data on which they are based but the process of collecting and storing high quality data is not an easy one. It involves, among other things, understanding the detailed nuances between all of the different data sources and dealing with inconsistencies in terms of how certain data elements (like time) are handled.

Beware of “generic” offerings. There are different approaches organizations are taking to implement what we at Origami Logic call a Marketing Intelligence solution. Some organizations are trying to use generic BI technologies and some are starting to explore the use of enterprise data hubs. I warn you to be careful about using generic offerings to build something that needs to be specifically tailored for marketing. You can read my detailed thoughts on the generic BI approach here and the enterprise data hub approach here.


Partner For Success

Organizations are more collaborative these days and that is also important when it comes to becoming a “data smart” marketing organization. Here are some partnerships that are critical for success…

Strike a balanced partnership with the CIO. A strong partnership with the CIO is critical in today’s technology-driven marketing world. I think a healthy relationship can be achieved by striking a balance between the systems a marketing organization needs to own in order to make decisions in an agile manner, and the enterprise systems, owned by the CIO, that report on top-level, company KPIs and that require (aggregated) data from various functional areas.

Give authority to a central team that collaborates with product and regional teams. You must have a centralized team that drives the measurement initiative, whether it is a global center of excellence or a marketing analytics group. Organization-wide, it must be clear that this team has a mandate and authority. Yet, it is critical that they partner and work closely with the various business units / divisions during the design and implementation of the framework to make sure that issues unique to a particular product or brand are taken into account.

Team with agencies. Since marketing organizations rely on agencies to execute many of the marketing activities, it is important to partner with them in order to get the performance data related to their areas of responsibility. Without this data, you cannot have a complete picture of what’s happening and how it is impacting the business.


Those are my tips for marketing executives who want their marketing organization to become “data smart.” I am interested in hearing about tips that others have. If you have one, please leave a comment below. Thanks!