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The Data-Driven CMO: A Q&A with Glenn Gow (CEO of Crimson Research)

Q&A with Crimson Research

I recently had the opportunity to have a very interesting discussion with Glenn Gow, the CEO of Crimson Marketing.  I was impressed at what an interesting and smart guy he was, and with the tremendous insight he has into the marketing discipline.  He consults with over 150 CMOs every year, and has a pretty solid understanding about the pains they are facing, the opportunities in front of them, and the approaches that the best-of-the-best are taking that are leading them towards new levels of success.

I asked Glenn if he would be willing to do a Q&A in order to share some of his insight.  I hope you find his perspective as interesting as I did!

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Q: What do you believe is the single biggest advantage that marketers have today?

A: Being able to use data in marketing is absolutely your single biggest competitive advantage as a marketer.  And therefore your biggest challenge is capturing, leveraging and rationalizing that data.  The marketers we speak with tend to fall into two buckets.

  1. Those who understand that the way they manage data is critical to their marketing success.  These marketers use data to inform their decisions, and then rely on it to measure their effectiveness.
  2. Those who haven’t yet discovered that data is the key to their success. Often these people start with systems in mind – marketing automation, CRM, etc.  But after implementing and beginning to use these systems, they almost always come to the realization that they have a data problem.

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Q:  How has this world of unprecedented data sources and volumes changed the marketing discipline?

A:  In short… dramatically.  The shift has really happened in the last two years. The big impetus for this change has really been the availability of data.  You’ve probably heard this figure, but Google’s Eric Schmidt likes to say that every two days now, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003.

We believe this is a massive opportunity for marketers.  The question is, how do we leverage this data.  How do we pull the golden nuggets out that will help us do our jobs better.  Marketers now have access to information they’ve never had access to or even contemplated before.  This gives them the ability to become a more effective marketer. And by the way… they have to!  Customers expect them to!

For example, ad re-targeting.  Customers expect to be shown ads that are relevant to them, and if marketers don’t successfully do this, they can actually damage their brand.

In addition, competitors are taking full advantage of data, and are getting better every day at winning the hearts and minds of their customers – so marketers need to act before their competitors do.

Marketers have a tremendous opportunity – rich data is available and the technology is available to harness it is now, so that they can win a war that they could never before.

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Q:  Where are the barriers they are up against in harnessing this data?

A:
  I’d say that barriers can really be broken down into 4 main buckets: existing architecture, skill sets, relationships, and governance.

  • Existing Architecture: The way that data has historically been collected and stored doesn’t have the CMO’s needs in mind.  The CMO has an abundance of data theoretically at their fingertips, but they cannot do what they want with it.  The CMO needs to insist on, and work together with the CIO to build an overarching data strategy that meets their needs – both today and tomorrow because the marketing profession and tool sets are rapidly changing.  That means the CMO and their team need to step into a conversation they’ve never had before with the CIO and his/her team.  And it’s not about systems integration but it’s about data integration.
  • Existing Skill Sets:  The average marketer today is a right-brained individual.  They entered the profession because they are naturally gifted at branding, communications, and outbound perspectives.  And that requirement doesn’t go away – it’s still important.  But today’s marketer now needs to grow their left-brained skills, so they can take advantage of inbound information, marketing technologies, data, etc.  It’s hard to ask a right-brained person to suddenly be effective at managing this data.  The CMO needs to fill this skillset gap primarily by bringing in people that understand it, but they cannot ignore it themselves.  The CMO needs to understand how to manage a team of data scientists and operations people to dig through and analyze this data.  Some CMOs have actually learned to love data analysis themselves (in fact your CMO at Informatica Marge Breya is one of them).
  • Existing Relationships:  In a data-driven marketing world, relationships with the CIO become paramount.  They have historically determined what data is collected, where it is stored, what it is connected to, and how it is managed.  Today’s CMO isn’t just going to the CIO with a simple task, as in asking them to build a new dashboard.  They have to collectively work together to build a data strategy that will work for the organization as a whole.  And marketing is the “new kid on the block” in this discussion – the CIO has been working with finance, manufacturing, etc. for years, so it takes some time (and great data points!) to build that kind of cohesive relationship.  But most CIOs understand that it’s important, if for no other reason that they see budgets increasingly shifting to marketing and the rest of the Lines of Business.
  • Governance:  Who is ultimately responsible for the data that lives within an organization?  It’s not an easy question to answer.  And since marketing is a relatively new entrant into the data discussion, there are often a lot of questions left to answer. If marketing wants access to the customer data, what are we going to let them do with it? Read it?  Append to it?  How quickly does this happen? Who needs to author or approve changes to a data flow?  Who manages opt ins/outs and regulatory black lists?  And how does that impact our responsibility as an organization?  This is a new set of conversations for the CMO – but they’re absolutely critical.

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Q:  Are the CMOs you speak with concerned with measuring marketing success?

A:  Absolutely.  CMOs are feeling tremendous pressure from the CEO to quantify their results.  There was a recent Duke University study of CMOs that asked if they were feeling pressure from the CEO or board to justify what they’re doing.  64% of the respondents said that they do feel this pressure, and 63% say this pressure is increasing.

CMOs cannot ignore this.  They need to have access to the right data that they can trust to track the effectiveness of their organizations.  They need to quantitatively demonstrate the impact that their activities have had on corporate revenue – not just ROI or Marketing Qualified Leads.  They need to track data points all the way through the sales cycle to close and revenue, and to show their actual impact on what the CEO really cares about.

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Q:  Do you think marketers who undertake marketing automation products without a solid handle on their data first are getting solid results?

A:
  That is a tricky one.  Ideally, yes, they’d have their data in great shape before undertaking a marketing automation process.  The vast majority of companies who have implemented the various marketing technology tools have encountered dramatic data quality issues, often coming to light during the process of implementing their systems. So data quality and data integration is the ideal first step.

But the truth is, solving a company’s data problem isn’t a simple, straight-forward challenge.  It takes time and it’s not always obvious how to solve the problem.  Marketers need to be part of this conversation.  They need to drive how they’re going to be managing data moving forward.  And they need to involve people who understand data well, whether they be internal (typically in IT), or external (consulting companies like Crimson, and technology providers like Informatica).

So the reality for a CMO, is that it has to be a parallel path.  CMOs need to get involved in ensuring that data is managed in a way they can use effectively as a marketer, but in the meantime, they cannot stop doing their day-to-day job.  So, sure, they may not be getting the most out of their investment in marketing automation, but it’s the beginning of a process that will see tremendous returns over the long term.

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Q:  Is anybody really getting it “right” yet?

A:  This is the best part… yes!  We are starting to see more and more forward-thinking organizations really harnessing their data for competitive advantage, and using technology in very smart ways to tie it all together and make sense of it.  In fact, we are in the process of writing a book entitled “Moneyball for Marketing” that features eleven different companies who have marketing strategies and execution plans that we feel are leading their industries.

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So readers, what do you think?  Who do you think is getting it “right” by leveraging their data with smart technology and truly getting meaningful an impactful results?

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