Why it’s important to control data in today’s marketing
CHARLOTTE, NC — Every time a person buys a hamburger, some data is probably created somewhere in a computer that reveals what kind of burger that person prefers, and records whether they add pickles and onions, and whether fries are purchased with it. And, from a marketing standpoint, that’s extraordinarily advantageous.
After all, marketers have always relied on data to help make decisions. But never in history have they had the kind of data they do today, providing enormous amounts of information about both existing customers and potential ones.
But a big question many marketers must ask these days is this: Who really controls that data and, in effect, influences any decisions that are made as a result of what the data is – or isn’t – telling them.
Too often, the answer isn’t the marketing director, the marketing department or anyone else inside the business. Many marketers instead rely on an outside agency – sometimes multiple agencies – to gather data, compile it and report on it. And while that’s not bad in and of itself, there are reasons to be careful when they are in such a relationship.
Numbers can be massaged to reflect a particular bias, whether on purpose or by accident. That third-party agency, for example, could provide the data in a narrative form that leads in a particular direction – a direction that’s opposite of where a marketer needs to go.
Even a slight bias could color what the net takeaway is for the business. A marketer would have all this extraordinary data, yet they could end up interpreting it in absolutely the wrong way, which could be worse than not having it at all.
So, while some of these outside agencies can be useful to a marketer, ultimately the marketer will want to be the one who directs the big-picture perspective, and will want to decide what the takeaway from the data is when all is said and done.
That’s why the best solution is usually to take the data in-house. That way it’s the company’s data, gathered by the company and put to use by the company in the way the marketer sees fit. Certainly, when using data the marketer wants to be able to define specifically what their goal is.
If, for some reason, a marketer can’t or doesn’t want to do that, they should at least reshape their relationship with whatever agency is handling that service for them so that the marketer has more direct control over their data.
In today’s world, relying on data can’t be regarded as an add-on to the marketing process any more than technology can be. Data is what empowers a marketer and/or their department, giving them the information they need to be flexible and fast.
Of course, not all data is created equal – or is equally effective, which is another reason that the more control a marketer has, the better the results will be. Yes, a marketer may have more data at their disposal than ever before, but that can confuse as much as it illuminates. Actually deriving meaningful insights from data and then converting that into action is easier said than done.
But when a marketer defines specifically what their goal is and what type of data they will need to help to accomplish that goal, then it becomes a whole lot easier for a marketer – or their IT teammates – to zero in on the data they need in that humongous haystack of data.
It’s also important to remember that data should never be an afterthought in whatever it is the marketer is working on. People often think of data as the end part, but data covers the beginning, middle and end. It’s not just what’s in a spreadsheet. It affects core aspects of the business, impacting how it is organized and lead.
Marketing directors need to steer their department through today’s heady opportunities and daunting challenges. They must own their data so they can lead and direct everything that the data influences.
About Scott East
Scott East, co-author of “Cuttlefish Marketer: The Five Essential Traits of the Modern Marketer” is CEO and Co-Founder of MSIGHTS, which provides cloud-based marketing data integration services to some of the world’s most sophisticated global advertisers.
MSIGHTS services make marketers more efficient and successful by providing a single view of overall marketing performance with actionable insights on what works and what doesn’t. The MSIGHTS cloud-based platform automatically collects and reconciles disparate data, making it immediately available to fuel a wide variety of analytical and visualization tools.
For more information, visit www.cuttlefishmarketer.com.