Data Analytics Will Help Marketers Rebrand Themselves

January 13, 2015
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ImageAny CEO will tell you that marketing is an essential part of running a successful business. After all, without demand and lead generation there will be no sales; if the product isn’t selling, all the brilliant innovative technology in the world won’t make even the slightest difference and the company will eventually go under.

ImageAny CEO will tell you that marketing is an essential part of running a successful business. After all, without demand and lead generation there will be no sales; if the product isn’t selling, all the brilliant innovative technology in the world won’t make even the slightest difference and the company will eventually go under.

However, it won’t be too much of a stretch to say that marketers are generally an underappreciated, often misunderstood species within technological organizations. I will claim that current analytics tools might allow marketers to “rebrand” themselves, and prove their true value to the organization in a clear and undisputable way.

Remind me what you do around here…?

Unfortunately, the marketing department is still frequently seen as a mysterious, somewhat foreign element, particularly in technology companies. It seems that employees from other departments, especially those who are not in management positions, are unsure what it is that Marketing does, and how it fits in with the organization’s goals and overall strategy.

As someone who has been working in senior marketing positions in tech startups for more than a decade, I am more than a bit familiar with this issue and was not at all surprised to read the results of this study which found that 80% of CEOs don’t trust their CMOs. I believe the problem lies in some basic differences between the way typical marketers work, and mostly how they communicate, compared to their developer counterparts. However I believe this bridge can be gapped, and that recent developments in data analytics technology hold the key to this.

Words People vs. Numbers People

Most people who work in technological companies are decidedly ‘numbers people’ – both by nature and by training. They’re used to thinking in figures: how long does this code take to compile? What is the measurable improvement in performance? Amorphous concepts such as “brand awareness”, which are difficult to measure and difficult to translate to actual numeric value.

Marketers, on the other hand, typically don’t come from a background in engineering or exact sciences, but from a variety of other fields. They are usually what you might call ‘words people’ – who feel a stronger connection to creative verbal communication than to Excel spreadsheets. There are many who don’t shy away from crunching some figures, but more often than not it has yet to become a second nature for them.

This is why, right off the bat, there’s a communication problem: marketers and developers simply don’t speak the same language. This is not to say marketing professionals are less results-driven; it simply means they might have different ways of envisioning and expressing the results they want to reach.

Are Digital Marketers Any Different?

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking this kind of presentation is outdated: after all, in the world of digital marketing, “data” is a revered concept. Everyone’s talking conversion rates, bounce rates, ROIs — and almost every marketing effort is measured and quantified. So is this new age of marketers actually more akin to tech developers?

I’m not so sure that’s the case. Ask any marketing manager or CMO if they’re data-driven, and odds are they will answer with a resounding yes. Then ask them: well, how many decisions have you made today, based on data analysis? My guess is you’ll get some much vaguer responses.

More Data, Less Data-Driven

While today’s digital marketing professional is absolutely entrenched in data – from Google services (Analytics and Adwords), Salesforce, automation software and many other possible sources. But a lot of the times, this data is examined only in retrospect, or used as a “decision support-tool” to support decisions that have already been made on a completely different basis; very few times it is actually used for decisionmaking on a daily basis in the tactical and operational levels.

The reasons for this can be quite diverse. However, one of the crucial factors impeding marketing professionals’ adoption of a truly data-driven approach is the fact that they do not see themselves as technical, and often shy away from complex calculations, coding or scripting.

So while they can generate basic reports using their existing platforms’ reporting interface, they have no real ability to combine data from different sources, to get a centralized view of data coming from different marketing channels or examine the data in real-time, as different marketing efforts take place. The amount of insights they can glean from all their disparate data is accordingly low.

Using Technology to Adopt the Analytical Mindset

So how can this conundrum be solved? How can we get marketers to start talking in numbers, to use data to justify and communicate their decisions?

One option would be to hire a more technical marketing department, i.e. staff it with people who have the technical know-how needed to crunch all this data themselves. However I believe the non-technical crowd has much to offer in terms of creativity and a fresh perspective which would be a shame for any company to miss out on.

Luckily, advancements in business analytics software can provide similar results, without having to replace your marketers with dedicated data analysts. These software tools allow business users to skip the messy spreadsheets and formulas and view their data in one central, graphical and non-threatening dashboard using visualizations and graphical widgets.

While I myself come from a technical background, I’ve found that today’s analytics tools have made my life much easier — I no longer rely on endless Excel files and hand-generated Salesforce reports. Instead, I simply need to log in to by business intelligence platform and can examine and explore data from all my different marketing channels, in one place and with minimal effort.

Hence it is my opinion that modern business intelligence software presents an opportunity for marketers: it makes being data-driven that much simpler and even, dare I say, fun. This is a chance for marketers to start making sense of all the data they’re surrounded in, and to actually start using it to show their true worth to their organization. This is the only way marketers can conquer the hearts of the tech companies they work for — in essence, to rebrand themselves as essential.