4 Obstacles that Prevent Marketers from Executing Their Data-Driven Strategies

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A new study by the CMO Council and RedPoint Global analyzes the hurdles that prevent marketers from moving from strategy to execution.


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Companies today have no shortage of competition. That’s because their opponents are no longer restricted to players within their industry. Customers are exposed to a myriad of shopping experiences, and marketers better believe that customers are comparing these experiences to those they’re having with other B2B and B2C companies.

“They’re comparing them to you,” says Liz Miller, SVP of marketing for the CMO Council — a network for senior marketers.

At the end of the day, customers expect one thing: value — whether that means saving time, saving money, or just being treated like the loyal customers that they are, Miller explains. And when one company sets the bar higher in terms of delivering this value, it sets the bar higher for everybody else, too.

The importance of delivering a data-driven, high-value experience is no secret to the marketing community; however, there’s a big difference between creating a data-driven strategy and actually executing one.

A recent report from the CMO Council and RedPoint Global titled “Empowering the Data-Driven Customer Strategy: Addressing Customer Engagement from the Foundation Up” takes a closer look at what prevents marketers from progressing from strategy to execution. Here are four key factors based on the report.

Lack of real-time data

Customers expect companies to recognize and engage with them in real-time, Miller says. Unfortunately, few marketers are able to act this quickly. Just 7% of the more than 260 marketers surveyed say they’re always able to deliver real-time, data-driven experiences across physical and digital touchpoints. And while 52% of respondents say they can deliver some of these experiences, they can only do so via marketing-owned (28%) or mainly digital channels (24%).

Still, Miller says pulling real-time data reports is not enough. Instead, this flow of information needs to be in line with the customer’s engagement platforms, she says — enabling marketers to access current and past data and act on it in real-time across channels.

However, marketers seem to struggle here, too. According to the report, just 7% of respondents currently leverage in-line analytics — enabling them to access customers’ past transactions, behaviors, and current conditions in real time to produce better experiences. Fourteen percent say they can leverage this sometimes, and about half (49%) say their ability to “connect the dots is selective, at best, and not in real time.”

Lack of technology

If marketers want to collect and analyze data in real time across channels, then they need to have the right technology to do it. 

Marketers aren’t afraid to make these investments. According to the report, one third of respondents say they’ve invested in five to 10 individual solutions or platforms in the past five years. And while about half (49%) of the marketers surveyed say they’ve spent less than 25% of their marketing technology budget on new solutions and platforms, a quarter (24%) say they’ve spent 25% to 50% of their funds over the past five years.

The issue lies in the connectivity of these solutions, especially as new channels and systems evolve. In fact, just 3% of respondents say that all of their systems are completely in sync, connecting the data, metrics, and insights seamlessly across channels.

Thirty-eight percent of marketers describe their technology infrastructure as constantly developing — or evolving as customers and technology evolve. Another 32% say they experience “a battle between old and new” in which new cloud solutions fail to align with the company’s legacy infrastructure. Fifteen percent also admit that they have no strategy or direction for developing their stack.

Instead of “ripping and replacing” old solutions with new ones, Miller says that marketers should invest in an open system and then implement best-of-breed solutions — a piece of advice she received from RedPoint Global.

“We are just churning through these platforms,” she says, “and what we’re not doing is building a marketing technology stack that’s built on the best of the best.”

She also says that RedPoint Global taught her to focus on three key pillars when investing in technology

1) Data: Is the organization able to access first-, second-, and third-party data across departments?

2) In-line analytics: Is the company able to take the mass amount of data it’s collected and turn it into something actionable?

3) Orchestration: Are the data and analytics in line with each engagement platform?

“Let’s try to not make it more complex than that,” she says.

Lack of internal cohesion

There are a lot of internal factors that can hinder the implementation of a company’s strategy. Inadequate budgets (54%), failure to embrace a customer-centric culture (43%), and lack of senior-level support (32%) are the top three obstacles. However, a lack of cohesion across departments can also cause problems.

When each department has its own customer engagement agenda, then the result is a series of disjointed strategies. According to the CMO Council and RedPoint Global report, 28% of respondents say that individual teams across the organization develop their own experiences; however, they’re all driven by a company-wide strategy. In addition, 23% say their customer engagement strategies are developed completely ad hoc by several siloed teams.

“All that happens is that we create a muddled [customer] experience,” Miller says.

Nineteen percent of respondents say the customer engagement strategy should be marketing’s responsibility, and 78% of respondents say the CMO should be the one heading it.

Miller agrees that the CMO is best equipped to lead the charge — arguing that the executive has the most customer intelligence, the deepest understanding of brand, and already sits at an intersection between customers and the business. However, she also says that the CMO can’t do this alone — adding that departments like sales, commerce, and service and support all need to contribute.

 “It doesn’t get done in a bubble,” she says,” [and] it doesn’t get done in a functional silo.”

Lack of customer focus

It can be easy for marketers to get so wrapped up in their products and messages that they don’t focus on what the customer truly needs and wants. That’s why Miller reminds marketers that “there’s a real person attached to those zeroes and ones” and that organizations claiming to be customer centric need to practice what they preach.

“Rather than starting with brand and pushing that to the customer,” she says, “our job is starting with the customer and wrapping brand around that customer’s expectation.”

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