Why do marketers struggle to do analytics well?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher August 7, 2016
Marketing analytics are supposed to lead to better results and personalized experiences. So what's standing in the way? Barb Mosher Zinck reviews new studies that flag problems with data silos, data quality, and collaboration shortfalls.

There is no question data and analytics are important to business today, including to marketing, but just because the understanding is there, doesn’t mean the data quality and the skills to analyze it properly are.

The right data is critical, underlying everything

In KPMG’s 2016 Global CEO Outlook, 84% of CEO’s indicated their concern about the quality of the data they use to make decisions. As organizations deal with ever increasing volumes of data and data types, it’s a struggle to figure out how to manage it in a way that ensures it’s accurate and readily available to those who need it.

It’s certainly not as simple as a single data repository. Silos of information run across most organizations, affecting the ability to not only find the right information but figure out how to connect it to produce useful insights. Forrester Research noted that 58% of the work in a business intelligence initiative is spent on trying to find the right data and integrate it for analysis.

It’s not any easier in marketing. Web analytics is only one repository that a marketer can use. Others include CRM, marketing automation, social media, testing, predictive and so much more. Also, consider that marketing is playing a bigger role in the entire customer lifecycle, and you see how many different data sources marketing needs to connect to get the 360 view of the customer necessary.

Openprise released a study on marketing data management, noting barriers to data management success included:

  • Poor data use/accessibility (54%)
  • Poor data quality (44%)
  • Poor database integration (37%)

Another study by Ascend found similar challenges to data-driven marketing, listing integrating data across platforms and enriching data quality and completeness as the top two challenges.

But so is the knowledge and skills to use it well

Data-driven marketing supports a number of areas such as understanding who your customers are, finding new market segments, personalization, segmentation, attribution, programmatic buying and so on. The ability to find the right data and analyze it properly are the foundation of all these activities.

Having the right team of people work together to gather the data and analyze it for insights is imperative. How many times have we heard that marketers don’t have the skills to analyze the data properly? But at the same time, these are people who understand the marketing strategy best and how it matches the company’s vision and business objectives.

eMarketer points to an IAB study that found that 34.8% noted a lack of internal experience at the functional and operational level as a major obstacle to deploying and deriving value from data-driven marketing. The challenge is, it’s only been the last few years that marketers have needed this data focus, and many still struggle to wrap their heads around what they need to do to be more data-focused:


Image from e-marketer.com, What Stops Marketers from Deriving Value from Data-Driven Efforts

Moving forward requires focus

In the webinar, The 5 Priorities of the Data-Driven CMO, Amar Doshi, VP of Product at 6sense said marketing can’t operate in a silo if the enterprise wants to be successful at data-driven marketing. It takes a team that includes resources across the organization to work together.

This team focus can take the pressure off marketers because it means involving BI analysts and IT, as well as marketing and other areas of the company, to find the right answers. Yes, marketers do need the tools to do data analysis on their own as well, but having those relationships can take the pressure off the marketer who feels like they have to figure it all out themselves.

Doshi suggested that marketers are also trying to do too much and, as a result, not doing anything well. He proposed to ask yourself, “if you could only do one thing, what would you focus on?”

By starting small and focusing on one or two use cases, you can help the marketing team grow its skills, and build a cross-organization team that can react quickly and efficiently. Use cases enable you to bring together a specific group data sets, not every data set, and they support a smaller combined dataset to analyze. Marketing, analysts, and IT can work together to figure out the right datasets and how to connect them.

The key is to agree on performance goals and metrics and have a common vocabulary across the entire organization that everyone uses. This agreement and shared understanding help everyone know what data is needed and how to analyze it.

Another tip from the CMO Solution Guide: Making data-driven marketing work, is to always be testing and measuring. “The most data-driven CMOs are invariably the ones who identify the metrics that matter and track them religiously.”

And it requires creativity

We’re very focused on data-driven marketing, but we can’t forget that marketing is also a creative process. From the CMO Solution Guide, “It’s easy to focus on the ‘data’ part of data-driven marketing. But content and creative are still fundamental to marketing success. So the challenge for leaders is around integrating the work being done to make marketing more data-driven, with the work being done to engage customers with great experiences.”

As marketing pushes its team to be more data-focused, it’s starting to ignore the creative process that has driven some of the best marketing campaigns we’ve seen.

Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, said in an article on Convince and Convert, that marketing needs to do both, but too often it’s choosing the data over creative.  “Focusing on creative doesn’t mean ignoring data. In fact, data plays an important role in directing creative. Incorporating both data and creativity means maintaining a balance between insight-driven ideas and compelling execution. Smart marketers bring their creative team and data geeks together.”

Final thoughts

I’ve been on an analytics train the last few columns, and I am caught. This is such a wide ranging topic that many enterprises are struggling with, and I know there’s so much more to talk about. So plan to hear more on this subject throughout August, including some real world case studies from organizations. If you have a story you want to share, drop me a note on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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