Creating a data-driven and transparent marketing process was recently flagged as either critical or important by 89% of respondents in a recent Econsultancy report.  Whilst this might not come as a massive surprise, it’s interesting to note that of those companies participating in the report, less than half (44%) felt their organisations capacity was optimised in this area.

So, why is this?  Can it really be so hard?  What are the benefits anyway?

The benefits of a transparent process for data-driven marketing

Transparency in any business process aids integration.  The best of businesses are greater than the sum of their parts, but inherently dependent on deep integration between these constituent parts.  In a competitive market, it’s vitally important that all customer touch-points are in sync – reacting to the latest intelligence to present the most appropriate response and never missing an opportunity for business growth.

In any business, marketing should guide the flow of communications – identifying the audience, refining messaging and determining what to say, how and when.  Sales teams cannot afford to waste valuable time on poorly qualified leads, risk inappropriate communications or engage without the insight they need for an informed conversation.  It’s old news that sales and marketing must be deeply integrated, but how exactly transparency around data-driven processes can improve this is appears to elude some organisations still.

It’s not just sales who stand to gain from greater visibility of data-driven marketing performance.  Resource allocation to meet sales demand can be calculated many, many months in advance if the flow of leads through marketing and into sales can be modelled and viewed by those who need.  Data-driven marketing processes afford businesses the insight they need to hire, manufacture or acquire resources, well ahead of expected delivery.  And to do this with confidence derived from analytical understanding of conversion rates at every stage in data-driven marketing and the sales funnel.

What is data-driven marketing?

Data-driven marketing is the name applied to marketing which uses a range of contact data to improve (typically personalising) marketing communications.  This can range from something as simple as collecting email addresses and names to send emails to users with their name in the greeting line, to highly tailored communications and website content designed to match the user’s specific interests and stage in the buying cycle.

As basic marketing communications evolved into CRM-driven marketing, then marketing automation and beyond, the range of data associated with these processes has grown.  In some data-driven marketing processes, data flows in (or even both ways) from advertising platforms, content syndication sites, website analytics, social media scheduling and monitoring platforms, emailing platforms, user applications, CRM systems and perhaps most-typically marketing automation platforms (e.g. Marketo) which often tie many of these data sources together.

Data-driven marketing is typically awash with data and therefore some degree of automation is employed.  As data-volume and complexity increases, we see more AI solutions brought to bear to further refine what is automated and how

Transparency in marketing processes

As complexity rises and automation, even AI, performs magic behind the scenes, this makes meaningful transparency of marketing processes harder to achieve.  After all – what value does seeing directly into a complex engine really provide?  What businesses typically seek here is transparency at an informational level of the marketing process.  Rarely is data-level transparency sought, unless by machine-to-machine communication which informs other aspects of the business.

The key to valuable transparency here is the appropriate abstraction of insight from data to information.  An example might be where contacts from several organisations, in a specific market sector, all start to engage with content around a specific solution.  Having appropriate management information reporting, dashboards and alerts in place can transparently flag this insight to those outside the marketing department.  In the given example, this might inform Sales of a trend in the market worth leveraging in conversations, or inform HR of a potential future demand for specific service-delivery skills.

Delivering data-driven and transparent marketing processes effectively

The most pronounced aspect of marketing process evolution in recent years is the data-layer.  As businesses look to enhance marketing performance, attention tends to focus on quality (i.e. relevancy) and efficiency (i.e. automation) before volume is driven up to take advantage of these improvements. Data-driven processes, from insight to engagement, are at the heart of the tools used to achieve these improvements.

Evolving existing marketing processes to become more data-driven and more transparent is best considered to be two aspects of a unified approach.  For every layer of data-driven value, checks and balances should be in place to expose this insight at an informational level – abstracting insight from the data and making this available in real time via dashboards, alerts and reporting.

Thankfully, the vast majority of marketing automation platforms provide the tools to do this.  The key is in configuring these and providing access, or connection to broadly available information portals, in a way that provides adequate transparency.

Marketing needs to understand the value of process-generated information for Sales, HR, Service Delivery and all other areas of the business.  This requires marketing leaders to have a firm grasp of business objectives as well as operational considerations.  Providing transparency of marketing processes requires a collaborative and business-savvy approach from Marketing.

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