Marketers looking at the wrong models

As most data analysts know, you often do not know what you are looking for until you start sifting through the information you have. So it was for Forrester Research in the wake of appointing a new leader to its direct marketing group at the start of the year. After analysing thousand of client comments and researching the opinions of 50, it came to the conclusion that it should rename the division customer insight.

That proved to have resonance when Dave Frankland, principal analyst with the company, surveyed hundres of customer intelligence professionals. As he reports in the recently published white paper, “The Intelligent Approach to Customer Intelligence” analysts still do not have the status of the marketers they report to, even though marketers know they should be making better use of this resource.

“One comment came from the former CI head at the parent company of Victoria’s Secret. She said, ‘the chief marketing officer gets to go and be on the beach with models, I get to have models on my computer’,” says Frankland.

It is this lack of glamour around data and its usage that accounts for the most striking finding in the report – only 25 per cent measure the value of CI to their organisation. Those who do this report significant benefits, those who do not are missing out on potential performance boosts across acquisition, retention, revenue, profitability, value and satisfaction.

This failure to leverage insight is continuing despite radical changes in how marketing operates. “It is a perfect storm. Marketing has struggled to work in the way it has always known. Interactivity and social networks have turned it on its head. And now there is pressure from the financial director, too,” he says.

Getting buy-in from consumers now requires applying much more intelligence to how they are engaged. The problem is that, despite the prevalance of marketing analytics in 80 per cent of organisations, only 30 per cent have an enterprise-wide CI group. That means a lot of interactions with prospects and customers that do not reflect what the company already knows about them, especially online.

Silos are one of the main obstacles to integation of CI across the business. Frankland notes that very few organisations have put the customer at the heart of the company. New channels have exacerbated the problem, with web analytics in particular operating as a standalone function. “Historically, web analytics have not even produced analyses, just standardised reports,” he says.

Some of this is down to technological constraints which make building a single customer view across multiple lines of business a real challenge. Resolving that has to be the first goal of any company looking to catch up with the leaders in the field of applying CI to their marketing.

But Frankland says this is not always easy to achieve. “Marketing is not used to investing in technology and still struggles with it. They have got their heads around campaign management, but to push on, they will need to spend more on data consolidation. Then they can see the benefits of analytics,” he says. Social constraints are also a factor, with the new generation of social media even more isolated within companies than web analytics.

One of Forrester’s findings that attracted headlines was that the next generation of chief marketing officer will come from within the CI function. Yet Frankland hedges this by saying, “that won’t happen in packaged goods or pharmaceutical companies. It will also be hard in companies where the emotional consistency of the brand, focused through market research and communicated in TV ads, is still hugely important.”

Even so, this can not disguise the need for advocacy for the customer to become entrenched, which means marketers need to get more comfortable with data and insight. “If they can’t, marketers will struggle to get the senior job title,” warns Frankland.

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