Will Big Data Kill The Art Of Marketing?

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Doug_Camplejohnv2In this special guest feature, Doug Camplejohn of Fliptop gives his views, as a long-time marketer, about how technology has affected his industry – is the “art of marketing” dead in favor of science? Doug Camplejohn is the CEO and Founder of Fliptop, a leader in predictive analytics applications for B2B companies.

There is an art and a science to every profession, whether you are a musician, a teacher or a marketer. Traditionally, marketing was considered more of an art than a science. The best marketers possessed an intuitive sense for their customers and how to engage them. They focused more on branding than on the bottom line. Then Big Data came along and pushed marketing towards the science side of the spectrum. This is raising the question of whether the “Art of Marketing” is dead.

I believe that the art of marketing will always be important, but only if used alongside the science. Today, smart marketers are leveraging data, analytics, and predictive technologies to conceptualize and execute campaigns — putting numbers and metrics ahead of gut and intuition. However, too many marketers are still struggling with the science side of the equation and holding their organization back as a result.

Marketing automation has seen the fastest growth of any CRM-related segment in the last 5 years. 63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation software and 78% of high-performing marketers say that marketing automation software is responsible for improving revenue contribution. These statistics clearly indicate that marketing automation represents the future and that a data-centric approach drives dramatic results.

They also indicate that organizations and individuals who don’t prioritize the “scientific” approach will be left in the dust by their competitors. Big Data gives marketers a deeper view into customer behavior than was possible before, and translates that data into action. It enables marketers to allocate their time and resources as efficiently as possible, while also optimizing results. Neglecting to take advantage of this technology means you are wasting time and money on guesswork, chasing leads that won’t convert and focusing energy in areas that don’t necessarily improve the bottom line.

Marketers that don’t take advantage of data also miss out on potentially valuable sales opportunities. 80% of B2B marketers rate “generating quality leads” as the technique with the highest profit potential, but more than 60% of B2B marketers say this is the biggest challenge they face. Despite acknowledging this challenge, and despite the fact that Big Data can help, a study conducted by Fliptop found that fewer than one-in-three marketers relies on data and analytics more than intuition. They handpick leads and/or don’t use any lead scoring system at all.

That strategy may have been fine five years ago, but the present wealth of accessible data and sophisticated analytics technology makes gut-feeling decision-making irresponsible, reckless, and often, wasteful. Too many many marketers still choose to rely on intuition and ignore the science. In doing so, they are gambling with the future of their company.

Another common mistake is for marketers to focus on the wrong metrics. They want to seem as if they are leveraging the “science,” but are really just putting on a front that looks good. Quality should always trump quantity in marketing. Still, most marketers overvalue vanity metrics, such as number of traffic, fans, followers, impressions, etc. when measuring success. A 200% traffic increase is wonderful, but if none of those visitors ultimately turn into leads, those “success” metrics are meaningless. Marketers need to focus on how campaigns ultimately contribute to pipeline and revenue, using hard facts to make sales forecasts, back up their decisions, and plan future campaigns.

Why do so many marketers make these mistakes? To put it simply, measurement is hard. While many marketers are aware of the opportunity that lies in their data, that data is spread across any number of disparate platforms, including Web Analytics, Marketing Automation, Social Engagement, and CRM. Merging it to derive insights is no small feat, which is why some of the most savvy marketers still rely on very manual processes like spreadsheets and countless analysis hours that leave room for error.

Furthermore, many marketers are scared. They are afraid that more sophisticated measurement will reveal that they are not succeeding in their job, and thus choose to report on tried-and-true vanity metrics that make them look good. However, the days when this is acceptable are numbered. 77% of CMOs at top performing companies indicate that their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to increase revenue and 61 percent of CMOs say that data acquisition is one of their three key priorities for 2014. There is no escaping the fact that the future of marketing lies in science, not art.

Change is frequently met with resistance, but the Big Data shift is a positive thing for marketers and their employers, and something they should (and need to) embrace. For one thing, backing up decisions with data and clearly demonstrating the positive effect of marketing on revenue gives serious credibility to the CMO and their team. Marketers will no longer have to defend themselves and the value they create. Secondly, finding better leads and sending them to sales boosts morale and brings sales and marketing teams into closer alignment, instead of locked in constant battle. Third, technology like predictive analytics can help marketers increase conversion rates and understand where to focus their efforts, so they waste less time and energy.

In my mind, the science of marketing actually helps marketers get back to the art of it. Technology automatically identifies inefficiencies and helps make smarter decisions faster, which frees up bandwidth for marketers to do what they are uniquely suited to do. They can apply their creativity to campaigns and messaging, strategize about positioning, set high-level goals, develop content, and more — the things Big Data can’t do.


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