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Lifeboat for CMOs

A recent article in quotes Omnicom CEO Jonathan Nelson saying, “We have too much data, and not enough people”. But it isn’t just a lack of people that is holding back marketers, and CMOs in particular, when it comes to making data actionable.

In some cases there are gaps in strategic goals that lead to a lack of focus. It’s fairly straightforward for an organization to define its key business objectives, as these often hold true for the entire business rather than just a digital property. But too often there is little connection between those large goals and the measurable goals that can be set up on a web site or app.  

In addition to volumes of data now available, there is also an uneasy sense that the data might not be reliable. In numerous digital analytics implementations I’ve seen, the more senior the executive, the less they trust the data.

There’s a general lack of visibility into how an organization arrives at its metrics. Too often, there are more than one system measuring the same properties; and different systems mean different algorithms, different assumptions, and different parameter definitions. These differences lead quite naturally to non-matching data. Data discrepancies often sound the death-knell for an analytics project, even where the comparison itself may be ill-advised.

Perhaps most glaring is that CMOs and other senior marketers are inundated with pitches from vendors. The graph below from Scott Brinker shows the very crowded universe of marketing analytics vendors.


As of January 2015, this graph shows over 1,800 vendors. In web and mobile analytics alone there are, in addition to Adobe and Google, Clicktale, CrazyEgg, Mixpanel, Webtrends, Localytics and many more. In various flavors of display and remarketing there are several dozen, including offerings like Bronto, MailChimp, Klout, Influitive, AdRoll, RocketFuel, and Urban Airship. We don’t have space to touch on SEO, Data Science, CRM or Social. It’s almost impossible for CMOs to tune out the noise and find tools that really work. Often the result is an overinvestment in technology—sometimes even the right technology!—without any way to make good use of it.

Many CMOs and their senior team-members find themselves adrift in a sea of data (and vendors).

But there is a “lifeboat” of sorts in these choppy waters. And if the team can execute on the plans outlined below, the lifeboat can become a speedboat.

Let’s look at some of the best practices that comprise the lifeboat.

I credit Digital Analytics Association Director Emeritus Rand Schulman for coming up with the “4 Ps” of digital analytics and marketing, and they are enumerated in the following order of importance: People, Purpose, Process and lastly, Platform.


As illustrated above, there are not enough people involved. It can be argued that there simply aren’t enough experts to go around, and that may be true enough. But the industry in general shows a tendency to look for automated solutions that are designed to take people out of the process. And to hear some vendors tell it, all you need to do is add this one snippet of code and you won’t need anything else to reap the benefit of their offering. This is almost never the case.

People who understand the landscape and most importantly, know how to implement the tools and analyze their output are primary in any success story. Sometimes it’s difficult to field a successful team in-house and it may make sense to hire out to an organization that makes its living by delivering value with these tools. Either way, people have to come first—otherwise very little else can happen.


Of course the purpose is to engage more, to convert more, to sell more. But how do you translate those objectives into measurable goals? And do you know exactly what you are trying to achieve on your digital properties? Most likely you will need to spend some time getting into the details of what success really looks like.

Often, success is measured by determining your ability to deliver on Key Performance Indicators. KPIs are at the heart of any digital marketing effort and drive all of the development and technology towards getting what you want out of your efforts. KPIs, once defined, must be mapped to detailed measurements—page views, events, engagement funnels and more. All of these details must be crisp and well-documented before you can expect a successful analytics deployment.


Once your people know where you want to go, this is how to get them to the destination. Even the best-laid plans come to naught without execution. Experienced people need to be working on setting up data collection protocols, instrumenting sites with code, defining filters and reports, working with developers, checking in frequently with each other (and with the plans), performing Quality Assurance and making sure the internal audiences for data and reporting are able to understand what they’re looking at once the project is done.

When the execution is well-handled, data-uncertainty is reduced. In other words, the numbers “make sense”. We should add that, in general, it’s inadvisable to try to compare the measurements of two systems too carefully. As mentioned above, under even the best of circumstances, they may not match. In any case the CMO and senior marketers will want to make sure there is a solid, well-tested process in place before putting anyone to work on the data collection project.


It’s a good idea to have the above three well-understood or well in preparation before choosing technology platforms. Vendor pitches can be tempting, and there’s often a sense that it’s really the tech itself that’s solving the problem. Make no mistake that technology is bedrock, but you’ll be wise to keep your penny in your pocket before making sure you’ve invested in the first three items shown above. Too often, the technology is purchased and then it is either badly configured, misunderstood, underutilized or even left in a zombie state where it’s costing money and resources but in terms of delivering value, is dead to the organization. Make sure you are ready to use whatever platform you invest in.

As you might have guessed by now, the process of making data actionable is multi-layered and fairly difficult even for the most prepared organizations. There are teams and strategies and plans and tools to coordinate. But with the right approach, you certainly stand a good chance of engaging and converting more customers—because you have optimized your digital channels for success by deploying the four “Ps” of digital marketing. 



State of Digital Marketing Analytics

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