It’s trite to say that data is becoming more and more pervasive — across industries, functions, and roles. But certain functions — especially customer facing ones such as sales and marketing — are truly inundated with silos of data, multiple apps for access, and expectations to use data while optimizing every minute of their day based on analytics.
It’s arguable that marketers have always been “data driven” in industries like consumer packaged goods — industries where market research and consumer behavior analysis drive almost every decision. However, the need to become data driven in industries and roles that previously were protected from the data deluge is relatively new. This creates an opportunity and a conundrum for technology product professionals like me. We now have to figure out how to satisfy the varying needs of data-hungry users while making their jobs more productive and insightful.
It would be easy enough for marketing solution providers to dump a bunch of raw data in a big database and say, “Go at it, marketers!” Some companies have done exactly that, which could work if the user (a) is a highly technical engineer; (b) has switched off his/her creative right brain; and (c) has inordinate amounts of disposable time to “slice and dice” the data. But those collective attributes may apply to 1 percent of marketers. And that’s putting it generously.
Let’s assume that your user is eager to drive data-centric, analytical decisions. However, they have neither a Master’s in Data Science nor infinite time. With those constraints, the other approach I advocate, and is happening in more B2B marketing environments, is to build solutions that find a rational middle ground.
1. Eliminate the need for the IT middleperson
Historically, if a marketer had a particular query, they had to make a request to their IT department and wait for months for their various data sources to be nicely aggregated in an easily accessible system. This level of complexity is inherently prohibitive to an integrated, ongoing data-driven strategy. Instead, data can be actionable immediately with easy-to-understand products that can connect relevant data sets from across different silos — and with varied definitions and taxonomies. For example, a product that connects your entire marketing stack –including web analytics, marketing automation, CRM, and more — can develop instant insights for the user. Adjustments can be made in a matter of minutes, versus months — and help drive successful marketing initiatives.
2. Give them a walking (not a running) start
While everyone wants to run as fast as possible, there likely isn’t a common set of technical marketing capabilities that meets every user’s needs. But generally, if they can “walk” first, and then grow their usage from there, the chances of deeper and broader adoption can grow exponentially. In every marketing department there should be standard functional metrics and/or insights that are framed within well-understood terminology. For instance, a basic Salesforce user can gain significant insight on program ROI by attributing marketing qualified opportunities to a specific campaign. The same walking start should apply to multiple user groups. Sales and marketing teams should be able to look at a report or a dashboard and immediately understand what it means to them. You should not mistake complexity for value. Instead, educate your team by using simple, understandable terminology, definitions, and visuals as a foundation for more advanced queries and projects.
3. Prioritize User Experience
We’re in the post-mobile era for enterprise applications. All apps should be intuitive, easy to learn, and simple to configure. If a user can’t figure it out as easily as any app on their smartphone, they’ll be unlikely to use your app. Product developers have to spend much more time on usability design and understand how their range of users will likely adopt and evolve their usage of the applications. For example, look at well-regarded application interfaces (for example, Salesforce Pardot or Expensify) to understand how to design for intuitiveness and simplicity — and how to hide the complexity in the background.
The above criteria have put a much greater onus on product designers and developers who want to leverage data — big or small — as core to their solutions. They need to hide the inherent complexity that’s enmeshed in the data while making it simple to consume and deliver value. It may seem like an impossible task, but those who re-think their application portfolio with this mindset will win the data-driven apps war.
During Demandbase’s Marketing Innovation Summit for B2B next week, we’ll be discussing the new data-driven marketing era and how companies can harness it to attract, engage, and convert their target accounts.