Buyer Centricity / Digital Transformation / Project Management / Strategic Planning

Connecting the Dots

connectingdotsOne of the hardest parts of digital transformation is the mental shift required to get real value from  new marketing execution technologies and  automated marketing. Yes, setting up exciting new software across an enterprise takes time and effort but that is just the start. The real challenge for people running marketing transformations is making customer touchpoint data available and actionable.

What to Connect

Most people know that, to make marketing automation work, developers need to code connections between the various marketing technologies. These connections, after all, set up the triggers that are the key to behavior-based marketing (i.e., if they attend this event, send them this white paper and then have a seller follow up). If all the technologies are connected, the marketing automation flow executes as smoothly as perfectly aligned dominos falling into pre-ordained places.

The trouble is that these clever developers from the operations team (presumably) are developers not marketers. From a marketing perspective, everything – digital or otherwise – that a buyer touches has to be taken into account to ensure that there is no break in the buying cycle. You see it all the time when stores ask for your email address so they can follow up with you. It works in the opposite direction too, such as when Petco began a program to offer in-store coupons for online shoppers, based on the location they entered for their shipping addresses.

That means that not only do all your fancy new marketing executing technologies have to be connect to each other, non-digital – even non-marketing – touchpoints have to be connected as well. Events has to be tied in, online purchases, loyalty programs, data from mobile devices, data from the sales department, call center info, online chat, social media –  every part of the organization the buyer might be touching has to be accounted for and connected to this information web.

Without this comprehensive look at what the buyer is doing, the perfect flow of dominos doesn’t flow so perfectly (i.e., sending promotional info about a product the buyer has already purchased). It doesn’t matter that these various touchpoints are in different departments within an organization. That is invisible to the client, who only sees a single, monolithic organization who responds to him either logically (so you get that perfect flow of dominos) or like a person with split personality disorder who has no idea what the other personalities are up to.

The mash up mixed messages and lack of knowledge of data from other departments won’t make your buyer love you. Internally, however, this reduced effectiveness of the marketing automation in turn reduces the enthusiasm marketers have for your complex marketing transformation. This reduced enthusiasm will then make it more difficult when you to ask marketers to do additional steps in the transformation, such as optimize their marketing campaigns based on the incomplete data.

Tracking Issues

Most of the customer touchpoints mentioned above fall into different organizational departments, so the operations folks are going to be really busy. However, just like the issue of how to identify a customer in various reports, you have to ensure that all the places where a customer touches the brand are capturing information using a common system. Having worked at a marketing analytics firm, I find standardizing naming structures to be a normal part of life but I know from talking to others that this is too often a forgotten part of their digital transformation.

For the “pipes” of data to align properly, you have to have to ensure that each is tracking some similar pieces and that those are identified in the same way, so that they can be “sorted” properly by the database. That means, for example, that all digital content has the date of execution listed after the vendor, followed by the campaign name, or some similar naming system. At the same time, make sure unique pieces of data from each technology (such as which of three hyperlinks was clicked in an email versus the keywords from paid search) are also track in a way that extends upon – not runs over – the baseline nomenclature.

Execution teams from each customer touchpoint area need to work together with the operations team and come to some agreement on what this naming structure and all its extensions is. As marketing will be a key consumer of the output (though the data will be useful to all parts of the organization, as we’ll discuss in other blog posts) and so many of the data points will be coming from marketing tactics, marketing has to be actively involved in this process.

In the same way, the marketing transformation has to build out process and change management plans that ensure the naming structure is actually implemented in all the areas where the data is being collected. Everyone needs to know how to add the hidden coding to their customer touchpoints, the terrible data repercussions if they do not follow the process, and the wonderful new understanding the organization will get about how to better interact with buyers if employees do follow the process. They have to be given the tools to carry out this work and rewarded for learning and executing, just the same way we discussed how marketing employees need to be incentivized.

Keep in mind that all the things we’ve discussed help set you up for understanding data going forward. You still have to organization historical data that was not set up according to this lovely naming structure. It takes a huge amount of time from the people who really know the action that generated the data but, having done this myself, know that, if you spend enough time with the spreadsheets and final naming structure, it can be done. And then you will feel like you are capable of climbing Mount Everest in record time.

Comments are welcome, especially examples of how your organization set up the back end data flow for your transformation.

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