If Bill Clinton was gunning to be a chief marketing officer in 2013 instead of running for President of the United States in 1992, he might have quipped “It’s about the data, stupid.”
Marketing executives must collaborate with their organization’s chief information officer (CIO) to make sure they’re getting the quality data needed to meet their goals and understand how to use it effectively and appropriately, a group of senior business leaders heard at a roundtable discussion sponsored by IBM Canada and hosted by ITBusiness.ca today in Toronto. Future business growth will be achieved by targeting individuals as opposed to segments, the executives agreed, and do to that you not only need clean data, but a proper data governance structure.
“The world is changing, there’s plenty of devices, there’s social media, and there’s an explosion in the amount of data,” said Bob Humphreys, country leader for demand programs and digital strategy at IBM Canada. “What’s a CMO to do?”
There’s three things for a CMO to focus on, he says:
- 1. The opportunity to get both structured and unstructured data to help with individual targeting of consumers and customers.
- 2. The customer journey being provided and teaching customers about the value you’re providing to their life.
- 3. Unifying your organization’s brand with company culture and recruiting employees to act, talk, and fulfill that brand promise in their activities.
Importance of clean data
To get started with focusing on these initiatives properly, the CMO and CIO need to work together on making sure good quality, clean data is available to them. There’s no use in targeting a customer if you have an incorrect address for them, or a spelling mistake in an e-mail address, after all. Roundtable attendees discussed how there are two opportunities to ensure clean data – when you first collect it, and afterwards when you review it.
“Many CMOs focus on the shiny object,” Humphreys says. “They’re not thinking about the data trail being left behind.”
Canada Post is taking a unique approach to eliminating typos in its collection of addresses online, says Alexis Zamkow, general manager of data and targeting solutions at Canada Posts Digital Delivery Network. Recognizing that postal addresses are often used for data quality measures, the postal company wanted to eliminate the biggest problem in collecting clean data – human error. Between 15 and 25 per cent of forms completed online or over the phone contain errors, she says.
“Let’s try and get human error out of the picture and let technology offer them a suggestion,” Zamkow says. Using other information about the customer, Canada Post can ask them to verify a pre-formatted address. “We’ve eliminated humans from typing and making mistakes, and using technology to get clean data right up front.”
At customer loyalty programs logistics firm Aimia Inc., which runs Aeroplan, customers are allowed to edit their data at any time and do a good job at correcting any errors if they are motivated, says Susan Doniz, CIO at Aimia.
“They want so much what we’re giving them that they are self-correcting the data themselves,” she says.
Other executives around the table used outsourcing services to clean up their databases, weeding out duplicate or inaccurate information. Some had built-in processes for catching incorrect data, such as at property manager Tridel Corp., according to its CIO Ted Maulucci. All returned mail is bar coded and scanned, he says, and other information collected about residents is used to verify identity in the backend.
“You have to do both the scrubbing on the backend and making efforts to collect clean data,” he says.
Building internal support
While CEOs are asking their CIO and CMO roles to work better together, they are not always giving them their due, Humphreys says. Both roles can be minimized – the CMO as the mere sales support function and the CIO as the ‘keep the lights’ on utility operator. To get enough political clout within an organization to actually effect changes, its likely the CIO and CMO will not only have to form a partnership, but a team that includes other executives and other company leaders.
At human resources services firm Morneau Sheppell, the IT department has a good relationship with the marketing branch, says CIO Michael Lin. As a result they are able to explore data classification towards the goal of doing context-aware, independent targeting of messages. Since the company deals with internal private data, enterprise data, and client data, classifying it appropriately is important to treating it properly and ultimately how it gets used.
“Our organization is starting to make it a mandatory requirement,” he says. “Its something we live and breathe now, every line of business is actually tied to data at this point, the cultural shift is happening.”
There’s opportunities for IT to work with every line of business – not just marketing – to find efficiencies and drive growth, he adds.
At CIBC, the marketing focus has been on shifting brand image, says Mike Yeates, director of service and platform management governance at CIBC. So IT has been focused on facilitating the most effective channels for that communication to take place. For example, it’s in the process of setting up an internal social network that would be 100 per cent unmoderated.
“The intent is that as employees of the bank, we’re also customers of the bank,” he explains. “We’re making a lot of steps to bring in information not just from sources external to the bank, but from sources internal to the bank.”
It seems that if executive teams want to be successful in putting data towards better marketing, then they should take heed of another 1992 Clinton campaign slogan – “change versus more of the same.”