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New generation of analytics is changing everything

by Hanna Ahola, Senior Consultant at Nortal, September 24, 2018

No company in its right mind tries to sell to everyone. But many marketers feel they haven’t been able to prove they can make informed, progressive decisions about how to spend their budgets and deliver return of investment (ROI).

According to Deloitte, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) belong to less than 5% of Fortune 500 companies’ boards and the number of CMOs promoted to CEOs is decreasing. Yet there’s never been a more exciting time to work with marketing — if you’re into data.

Today, you can capture the voice of the customer by using data and technology. And that can boost your status when the rest of the company realizes you know what makes buyers tick and they should tap into it.

It’s all about the data, the mindset and the technology. Naturally, it’s intimidating trying to keep up with all the changes, the overflow of data and new tools to master. But business opportunities are here, ready for you to turn them into growth. It’s up to you to take responsibility for your data.

Working in marketing has never been more exciting. A new generation of analytics — and the right Big Data mindset — is changing the game.

Many e-commerce brands tend to be naturally data-driven. The ability to see cash flowing through the system in real time ramped up the urgency of data usage and processes. But many in the B2B world are still hiding behind the difficulty of aligning marketing and sales operations.

Long sales cycles, complex agreements and diverse buying teams provided an excuse for a laissez faire mentality about performance metrics. But B2B marketing can be just as smooth, on point and transparent as the tightest e-commerce shop.

Data fragmentation

The elephant in the room for every company’s decision-making today, especially in B2B, is data disorder: bits and pieces in different places with no connections. We have way too many marketing applications (an average of 30 for most marketing teams — CMS, CRM, marketing automation, email, personalization tools, social media streams, mobile apps, campaign management platforms, et alia). Data fragmentation is the nemesis of every sales and marketing professional who cares about budget optimization and growth creation.

Is total alignment possible?

Definitely, by using a Big Data approach built around a unified data lake (the next generation of a data warehouse, with more flexibility and potential). Without a unified data lake, each marketing app lives in its own compartment. Combining readily available technologies and the right data mindset, you could create a strong and accountable contributor to achieving your company’s goals. There is a way to connect the dots of all your marketing efforts and see which ones actually contribute to revenue. If you’re really successful, the approach is not centered on marketing and sales but encompasses your whole thinking across the value chain to your product development and core offering.

This view across systems and silos changes everything. It creates a metric-rich environment for anyone trying to get ahead in customer satisfaction, lifetime value, loyalty and profitability. It provides organizational transparency in:

  • The customer journey as a whole — touchpoints with marketing, sales, aftermarket, etc.
  • Product usage — for connected products insight about actual use patterns
  • Customer life cycle — insights on how a customer was acquired and the dynamics of that customer’s engagement

In short, this is the tool for all decision-makers striving to make informed conclusions about their customers’ world.

First things first

Get your data, your CRM and your marketing automation in order. What your own data lake would look like depends on factors such as your budget, team, data and current infrastructure. A simplified, common way to proceed would be to:

  • Take your data from your web analytics, marketing automation and CRM systems and put it all into a data lake (no need to decide in advance how to structure it)
  • Enrich your data from external sources and use predictive analytics to spot opportunities
  • Use analysis and visualization tools that let you run new reports, queries and various use cases

There’s no shortcut to data-driven customer engagement. The machine you create will be as strong as the building blocks and, most important, based on the quality of the data you feed it. If you’re attracted to diving into a Big Data initiative with visualization tools and fancy dashboards, saving the boring stuff for later, please reconsider. The foundations need to be laid right to make sure your data, CRM and marketing automation are in place with substantial quality. This — together with a great website and analytics, content marketing, predictive analytics, solid integrations and data governance (consistent rules and tags) — is the way to connect your efforts to your company’s success.

Crawl, walk and then run

A data lake is just a tool, but a powerful one. As a decision-maker, it’s on you to enable data lake’s potential and build the processes around it to squeeze out real commercial value, together with finding data-oriented people to work it and executive sponsors to lead the way. Does this sound like a frightening road? Yes, it’s new and unpaved, but be assured: It’s highly rewarding.

More important, the alternative — blind customer engagement efforts fragmented into various silos — will lead you nowhere. To all executives out there who want to make their decisions customer-driven: Step up and put yourself in the driver seat of your data.

One way to start creating a data lake, is to get a full understanding what kind of data you have and where. You can use Nortal’s DataRadar tool to get an up-to-date overview of your data.

Hanna Ahola

Hanna Ahola, a management consultant at Nortal, is a passionate and driven business development professional specializing in growth strategies, omnichannel development and project management. Her considerable experience in delivering successful international projects makes her indispensable in corporate strategy and sales. To find out how she can help your organization jump to the next level, get in touch with her via email.