By Susie Lee-Kilgariff
12th February 2015

Contemporary marketers require a new blend of skills to be able to do their job. Gone are the days when all that fluffy creativity was enough for the marketing department. Even the direct marketers of the 70s and 80s with their evidence and metrics are finding they’ve got skills gaps. I heard the MD of Qubit recently define the best modern marketing team as comprising a strategic and creative analyst, project manager, UX specialist and javascript engineer. What this means is that marketers have to understand technology and data to a far greater degree than ever.

So in a world of greater integration between marketing and tech (you’ve been rebranded from plain old IT), how can the people in charge of the data help the people responsible for the customer experience, for the greater good of the business?

  1. Get better at attributing sales

At a recent conference, Ian Carrington, Director of Performance at Google, explained the importance of mobile for research prior to making a desktop or store based sale and how that is now so intertwined with social media. We are fast approaching the tipping point where more than 50% of online sales will come from mobile. He even commented that last click attribution models are so old hat now, he can’t believe anyone relies on them.

Your marketing team will be obsessing over how much to spend on each of the channels they use to drive leads or sales, monitoring the cost of clicks, conversion rates and customer journeys. And yet most of the Business Analysts I’ve worked with don’t understand how these marketing channels work, let alone help to build models or use software that can accurately show how each touchpoint influences a sale.

Let me take a recent example of my own with Not on the High Street. I received a paper catalogue that I browsed through, a deluge of emails sent in work time which I ignored, and then saw a Facebook update from them on my phone. I eventually directly typed the url into my laptop to place my order.

A last click attribution model will probably attribute my order to brand or email advertising because I searched for them by name as an existing customer. But the reality is that the catalogue kept them front of mind and got me thinking about actually buying my long-suffering husband something for Valentine’s Day, the emails annoyed me so much I almost gave up on the idea but it was a particularly relevant product update on Facebook that finally prompted me to act.

So as a hard pressed marketing manager, I want Data Analysts to tell me where I should spend my money. I need data to show me the thousands of customer journeys being made to my website everyday, to unpick the customer motivations and role of the communication at each point and tell me what it’s worth spending on each area.

  1. Show me what our most and least valuable customers look like

I am constantly surprised by the number of companies who don’t have a good grip on the characteristics of their most profitable customers and the ones who they are spending a lot of money on acquiring, only to make a loss over their lifetime.

My holy grail here is to have rigorously defined customer groups where I can send personalised communications to affect their engagement with the brand. A perfect example would be a segment of good customers who are showing signs of lapsing.

I have dealt with many insight teams who are able to segment customer data to the nth degree but who don’t interact sufficiently with marketing communications teams to ensure that the segments they identify are differentiated enough and valid as marketing populations. Some howlers I’ve seen include:

  • Creating so many different subsets of a segment that the cost of personalised marketing communications was prohibitive and the whole plan was quietly given up on
  • Forgetting to overlay segments with marketing permissions, meaning that the numbers of customers who were happy to receive communications was actually a fraction of the numbers shown in the segmentation
  • Finding numerical differences in things like average order value that created different segments of customers but who didn’t actually behave that differently and therefore didn’t require tailored communications programmes
  • Misreading of the value of net promoter scores that meant some customers were treated as advocates when they weren’t

Too many customer segmentations are devised without clear sight of how they’ll be used and this is why they end up gathering dust on the shelf of the IT department.

  1. Help me get data taken seriously by the whole organisation

Here’s a typical example. An old, no longer fit-for-purpose CRM. A revolving door of sales people with varying levels of training on how to treat prospect data. Editable fields in databases that have been tinkered with over years to the extent that drop down menus have over 50 options for people to choose from. A management board who don’t see the value of investment in proper data solutions. Poor quality support from the CRM provider. A poorly defined sales process so that leads are often mixed with sales.

You know that this is producing poor MI, KPI reports that no-one trusts and poor decision making. So do I. So how can we join forces to get this up the agenda? The answer, as with most things in life, is about improved communication. I can give you two examples.

  • I was taken out of the office for lunch by my IT Director. We were different characters with different agendas but we focused on what we had in common and how we could help each other to the benefit of the business. Relations were just that bit easier and communication opened up afterwards. I’m ashamed that I didn’t think of it first.
  • Another Finance Director needed sign off for a data warehouse. He took me to one side, explained clearly how it would benefit my department and asked me directly to support his business case. I couldn’t find a reason to say no.

I hope that this has helped show life from the marketing side of the fence. Please do let me know if you think I got it wrong!

Susie Lee-Kilgariff is Managing Director of Northern Light Marketing, a boutique marketing agency specialising in B2B brand, digital and communications strategies.

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