Warning: data-driven marketing can result in a tragic crash

If you’re reading this on your smartphone, while driving, please stop. Car crashes injure between 20-50 million people each year; it’s a serious problem.

I’m not trying to make light of car crashes, but the pursuit of “data-driven” marketing is also causing a lot of wrecks out there; many organizations are investing in marketing vehicles (MarTech), without the right people to drive them and without the right fuel (data) to power them.

How did we get here?

Imagine hearing this: “our CFO is very data-driven.” Your reply would probably sound like this: “thanks captain obvious! For someone in finance this is table stakes; numbers and data are the foundation of all financial operations!

Further, imagine if your sales team wasn’t measured by financial results, specifically revenue booked vs a target (data-driven). In that scenario, the VP of sales could dismiss sales numbers and highlight the new opportunities added into the CRM, or worse off, the thousands of (fake) cold-calls their sales reps made.

Data has always been the sole basis of all financial and sales operations. Why has it taken so long for that to the be standard with marketing? Remember the days when marketers could get excited about opens and clicks? Those days are gone.

The Marketing ROI Expectation

This “data-driven” expectation has finally extended to the marketing organization. Marketing has become closely connected to growth. CMO’s and marketing leaders are being asked to prove their value, in real numbers (revenue).  Their only true strategic objective is to maintain growth, and it relies on sophisticated technology and data-savvy teams to understand customer needs and growth drivers.

Shifting to a data-driven marketing approach is much more than buying the right marketing technology. As someone who makes a living by selling MarTech, I wish it was that easy, but it’s not… it’s a process that requires a complete commitment from stakeholders across the company.

To make it even more complex, being “data-driven” isn’t enough. If you’re not leveraging the right data, your marketing is going to crash.

From what I’ve seen, there are 4 stages of leveraging data; each have varying results.

Warning: some data-driven tactics may result in a crash

1 – Marketing Data in a silo

This is a narrow focus on response based decision making where marketing is driven by marketing data alone. If you are running a marketing automation platform outside of CRM, totally disconnected from every other business application, this is where you are…

Result: deadly crash! (unless your CEO / CFO doesn’t measure marketing by revenue correlations).

2 – Sales Data

In this stage, the CRM data is leveraged by marketing with a focus on conversion based decision making. Ideally, there is an integration between the CRM and the marketing tools, but often times the merge is a manual process through excel, which is so 1990. Anyway… this is essentially marketing driven by sales pipeline performance.

Result: CRASH! (but you’re still alive)

3 – Finance Data

Show me the money! This is where marketing is making decisions based on revenue, by adding data from finance, fulfillment and services. This type of data-driven marketing is guided by strategic business objectives.

Result:  Safe driving! (measurable success – you’ll get to your destination)

4 – CLV Data

This 4th stage concentrates on profitability based decision making, by adding data from support and account management, where marketing is driven by customer lifetime value (CLV) (This is where tactics like Account Based Marketing (ABM) come into play.)

Result:  Exhilarating driving experience. (market mastery)

Are we there yet?

With a mind shift into data-driven marketing, marketers can move away from wacky notions like the marketing funnel, counting clicks, opinion-driven decisions and one-way communications. Instead, they can turn infrastructure into an intelligent, self-improving system to guide them to real customer conversations. That’s all marketing is…conversations.

Let the (right) data be your guide on the road to data-driven marketing – and be safe out there.


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