Zack Pike is Callahan’s new VP of data strategy and marketing analytics. He has provided innovative marketing strategy and analytics leadership and solutions to seasoned B2C and B2B executives on a global scale and is heading up our new data strategy team.
Analytics and data are hot right now. Red hot. I’ve been fortunate enough to witness things heat up during my career from the trenches. In the thick of it. It’s been a very interesting ride so far, and I don’t see it cooling down anytime soon. I’m observing three very interesting trends emerge that are real opportunities for those of us who choose to capitalize on them, and real risks for those of who don’t.
More data, more often
As marketers, we like shiny new objects. It’s in our nature, it’s fun and we can’t help ourselves. There are literally thousands of tools, platforms and services targeted at helping marketing organizations in some way. Whether it be a cool new social listening tool, a media trafficking platform or a service focused on evaluating visitor intent, there’s something for everyone and the list grows substantially every year. This creates a real problem on the data side.
Each of these platforms produces its own little data stream… And data from “platform A” almost never communicates with data from “platform B,” let alone “platform C,” which might have been in your arsenal for years. So, it’s left up to the marketer to try and collect what each tool tells them, make sense of it and make a decision from it. (This almost never goes well.)
As a result, we’re starting to see more and more platforms built to help marketing teams handle this data problem. These data-problem-solving platforms do one thing: they aggregate the data from any number of digital (or nondigital) marketing tools/platforms/services, clean it up and make it available to marketers to use more efficiently.
But here’s the rub… There aren’t many of these data-problem solvers that do it particularly well. Since the ecosystem is so disjointed (and venture capital is flooding the space) it’s impossible for these companies to keep up with the different data sources constantly being created. There are some platforms like Amazon Kinesis and ChannelMix that do some really interesting things in this area, but largely the competition is behind the curve.
And here’s the really interesting part. In five to eight years, I don’t think this will be an issue any longer. Right now, it costs a lot of money… Money that could be better spent on advertising. I believe that a big player (um… Google, Amazon?) will come in and fix this issue at some point sooner rather than later. Let’s hope I’m right, because otherwise we’re all going to have to continue to pull from ad budgets just to handle inefficient data.
Number crunching is getting easier
I’m sure you’ve heard about the surge of machine-learning technology now entering the marketing space. No one is doing cooler stuff than Google right now. I was able to attend its partner summit this year, and learned about the pretty amazing things that I’m sure will be part of all of our everyday processes very soon.
Technology growth is what is going to continue to reduce our reliance on humans to do the manual, repetitive “number crunching” that many analysts do today. I’m a big proponent of offloading these tasks onto technology because it’s cheaper and faster… Today it takes a human to set everything up to run on a machine, but in the very near future, the machine will be able to handle all the setup for us. Imagine being able to wire all of your data sources up, tell a machine what you want to know out of that data and have it come back to you with a report that answers your questions. This is already a reality in some very specific cases, like with Datorama Genius.
This is about the most exciting data and analytics advancement I think that’s coming in the next five years. We are finally going to be able to use all of the brain power currently bottled up in our analysts’ heads for more insightful, thought-based analytics work, which brings us to my next point.
We continue to struggle for real insight
Not just in marketing, but in business, we spend way too much time on collecting data and not nearly enough time on generating actual insight from it. It’s the old saying… “We’re drowning in information, yet starving for wisdom.” This is probably truest in the marketing space.
It’s two sided though; yes, we like the shiny objects, but we also do ourselves no favors by focusing on insignificant metrics. For example, I’m guilty of this, just as I’m sure you are; we find ourselves in meetings trying to justify that a .08% media CTR is somehow good. That it means something to the business. But…does it really matter if 99.2% of impressions didn’t result in a click versus 99.8%? I learned a long time ago, the answer is no.
It’s much more valuable to evaluate performance in terms of the business, in terms of the consumer. However, this way of thinking makes the analytics side of that equation exponentially more difficult, which is why we continue to struggle to develop insights from all of this data. The trend I’m seeing is that there are a few really smart analytics people running around, preaching this message and winning because of it. They’re thinking like a CFO, rather than a CMO (and interestingly, we’re starting to see more and more CMOs come from financial backgrounds).
I believe we’ll see this trend continue. We aren’t going to abandon the marketing metrics that make us all comfortable, but we will begin to focus more on things like the lifetime value of a customer, cost to acquire a customer and customer lifecycle velocity, to name a few. This is where the best in the businesses already are, it’s where the best business decisions are being made and it’s where all of the wisdom is hiding.
Applying those three trends to your business
So, from someone who’s in the trenches of the marketing analytics game, these are the three biggest trends I see right now, all of which are very exciting opportunities.
At Callahan, we’re now in a position to help clients evaluate how to best gather, analyze and strategically use it to make true business impact. As the new VP of data strategy and marketing analytics, I’m meeting with clients to assess the data analytics landscape and ensure the pieces are in place to accomplish more effective marketing programs. What data-related challenges are you facing? Get in touch and let’s talk. I love geeking out and talking nerd.