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Over 700 marketing leaders  attended this year’s Forrester Marketing Forum in New York. The Forrester team did a predictably nice job in pulling together a stellar community of marketing execs, practitioners and vendor partners. Goes without saying that the event was chock full of thought provoking ideas, practical advice and a peer group full of insights and battle scars from the coal face of marketing execution. I walked away from the two days at the forum with two overriding impressions.

First, I was struck by how data was at the center of mostly every meaningful discussion topic. There was so much structured and informal discussion on data and various dimensions of analytics. The experience felt like on occasion we were in a breakout at Strata or at the very least an eMetrics event.

Second, the notion of the Post-Digital era felt very natural. Forrester has been writing for years about the Age of the Customer. At the forum, Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk challenged the attendees to take this further and to think beyond digital to what they define as the Post-Digital era. Shar’s advice to us all was to “be human, be helpful, and be handy.”…….

Irrespective of the Forrester language, we are all living the reality of massive fragmentation of channels and media types and the resulting variety and volume of customer interaction data.  Depending where you sit on the maturity curve, this is creating some significant but not insurmountable challenges. In fact, Forrester will tell you that 47% of analytic and measurement professionals struggle to ensure that high-quality data comes in from different sources. Forrester’s advice — above being human, helpful and handy — is to adopt a post-digital mindset and embrace specific points of interaction/need, understand the context and take the appropriate action (which of course maybe nothing). In shorthand, adopt a more conversational, narrative-based approach to how you engage with your post-digital consumer.

The best marketing starts with the best data

So what?, you might ask. Well, in a post-digital scenario where micro-interaction moments across paid, owned and earned media are throwing off unprecedented volumes of data (or signals), our contention is that the best marketing will increasingly start with the best data. With the continued swing of budget and customer choices of interaction — especially video and mobile — moving to digital (substantiated by the fact that digital advertising went up 66% from 2015), putting execution dollars to work most effectively becomes a critical source of competitive differentiation and entirely dependent on data.

It’s clear many marketers continue to face challenges in how they acquire the breadth of data from all the many interaction silos and how they process that data to ensure its accuracy and reliability before taking action on the derived insights. We conducted a survey recently on this very topic which you can download and study the findings on measurement barriers, optimization approaches, and the essential steps marketers must take to improve campaign performance.

All data is not the same 

Part of the reason that marketers are struggling to get the insights they need is that marketing data can be difficult to use. Those who believe that ‘data is simply data’ have had a significant wake up call. Marketing departments are littered with half-finished generic business intelligence (BI) initiatives that fell short of meeting the needs of a very dynamic set of marketing requirements. Simply bolting on a data visualization tool on top of your various data sources is not fit for purpose for the modern marketer. We published a blog post on this topic if you need more convincing.

If you talk to any data scientist that is supporting marketing or any other function, they will tell you that the bulk of their time is spent ensuring data is accurate, harmonized, reliable, complete and generally “clean” before even thinking about deriving insights and structuring a visualization layer. This survey puts the number at “80% of their [data scientists] time on preparing and managing data for analysis.”

Marketing Measurement Framework

To help marketers make sense of all this data, we assembled a framework to help drive consistency and understanding so decisions can be made using common language and set of measures. We call this the Marketing Signals Measurement framework. Simply put, marketing signals are responses to your marketing activity, such as ad clicks, social interactions, or website visits, along with derived performance indicators from marketing platforms such as click-through rate or cost per conversion.

With the Marketing Signals Measurement framework, you now have a standardized framework which provides the best picture of audience interest and intent, as well as marketing performance, across paid, earned and owned media. If you want to dig deeper on this topic, then I’d encourage you to view a webinar presentation on this topic.

Continuous execution and iteration

So what happens when you adopt a post-digital mindset and begin to put data at the center of your decision making? One of the things that happens is you embrace a culture of continuous execution and iteration. When data is reliable, immediately available and unified across traditional silos, campaign insights and decisions can be made mid-flight rather than as a post-mortem discussion . The other thing that happens is that for maybe the first time, there is total transparency from the local in-market campaign execution all the way up to the global brand view. At this point, answering the question, “what happened today?” becomes something that marketers embrace rather than making excuses on not being able to deliver and defaulting to “what happened last quarter.”


Much has been written about how CMOs and CIOs are now co-pilots in charting a path forward. Expectations of marketing are eye watering at times. Marketing’s contribution to the business is the most significant it has ever been and if we get the data right, our ability to fulfill that promise has never been greater. I think most of us would agree that there has never been a better time to be in marketing and to be in digital; sorry, post-digital 🙂