Friday, October 28, 2016

Singing the Customer Data Platform Blues: Who's to Blame for Disjointed Customer Data?

I’m in the midst of collating data from 150 published surveys about marketing technology, a project that is fascinating and stupefying at the same time. A theme related to marketing data seems to be emerging that I didn’t expect and many marketers won’t necessarily be happy to hear.

Most surveys present a familiar tune: many marketers want unified customer data but few have it. This excerpt from an especially fine study by Econsultancy makes the case clearly although plenty of other studies show something similar.

So far so good. The gap is music to my ears, since helping marketers fill it keeps consultants like me in the business. But it inevitably raises the question of why the gap exists.

The conventional answer is it’s a technology problem. Indeed, this Experian survey makes exactly that point: the top barriers are all technology related.

And, comfortingly, marketers can sing their same old song of blaming IT for failing to deliver what they need.  For example, even though 61% of companies in this Forbes Insights survey had a central database of some sort, only 14% had fully unified, accessible data.

But something sounds a little funny. After all, doesn’t marketing now control its own fate? In this Ascend2 report, 61% of the marketing departments said they were primarily responsible for marketing data and nearly all the other marketers said they shared responsibility.

Now we hear that quavering note of uncertainty: maybe it’s marketing’s own fault? That’s something I didn’t expect. And the data seems to support it. For example, a study from Black Ink ROI found that the top barrier to success was better analytics (which implicitly requires better data) and explicitly listed data access as the third-ranked barrier.

But – and here’s the grand finale – the same study found that data integration software ranked sixth on the marketers’ shopping lists. In other words, even though marketers knew they needed better data, they weren’t planning to spend money to make it happen. That’s a sour chord indeed.

But the song isn't over.  If we listen closely, we can barely make out one final chorus: marketers won’t invest in data management technology because they don’t have the skills to use it. Or that’s what this survey from seems to suggest.

In its own way, that’s an upbeat ending. Expertise can be acquired through training or hiring outside experts (or possibly even mending some fences with IT). Better tools, like Customer Data Platforms, help by reducing the expertise needed. So while marketers aren't strutting towards a complete customer view with a triumphal Sousa march, there’s no need for a funeral dirge quite yet.

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