Marketing Data, Intent Signals and Customer Data Platforms

Mar 05, 2020 | Author Ed Marsh

Tl;dr - Data was supposed to solve everything for marketing - from justifying ROI through delivering faster growth. And it's changed the discipline for sure. But most companies struggle with data, technology, and market changes. Recent research highlights areas of frustration. They are all solvable, but doing so takes a mindset change in marketing.

The Status Quo is Easy (or Easier)

Airplane time is the perfect time to pull out industry reports for review and digest. That's what I did recently with four newly published research documents. Each had some interesting insights. Consuming them during the same session left me feeling a bit dizzy.

What marketers say they want; what marketers need; what marketers are willing to actually do....oh gosh. There are some alarming disconnects!

The Four reports include:

    • Neilsen's Annual Marketing Report - The Age of Dissonance (download)
  • DemandGen Report / zoominfo - 2020 Database Strategies & Contact Acquisition Report (download)
  • Forrester's (via Bluecore) Align Technology, Data and Your Organization to Deliver Customer Value (download)
  • MarTech Today's Customer Data Platforms: A Marketer's Guide (download)

Digest of Key Points on Data and CDPs

Before we dig into analysis, let's just look at key findings from each.


  • Marketers invest in digital channels based on perceived impact and not measurable ROI
  • Data quality is essentially ignored (even though the highest priority is audience targeting - tell me how you do one without the other!!??)
  • Acquiring new customers beats retaining existing ones by >3:1 among marketer priorities

DemandGen Report:

  • Marketers want better data to power personalization (76%), ABM (55%), new prospect identification (52%), and specific contact level insights (46%)
  • Priority is deeper, richer data as opposed to focusing on acquiring new company names
  • Data is a mess! No time and resources to manage (61%), no data SOP (49%), and old/outdated data (78%) - they're losing the battle to clean and maintain data in house
  • Intent signals are getting more attention including timeframe for buying decision (58%), specific insight into challenges and pain points (48%) and granular sales and marketing intelligence

Forrester / Bluecore:

  • 45% of marketers say winning new customers is the top objective while only 32% name retention/churn reduction - yet only 20% say they're "very effective" at winning new customers
  • only 12% say they are very effective at driving personalized experiences, and only 30% cite similar capability in omni-channel experience creation
  • only 13% are very confident in data hygiene and only 16% believe they excel at data aggregation
  • 78% of marketers wait days to receive requested campaign and audience info from IT
  • 85% of marketers believe that reducing time spent on data management would improve customer experience and 76% believe it would help win new customers
  • marketing measurement is a sore point for 55% and attribution improvement is a focus of 38%
  • they believe that unlocking capability and unifying technology is key to improved personalization and orchestration

MarTech Today:

  • A CDP often only goes as far as the single customer view / golden record and leaves it to current MarTech systems to orchestrate independently (functionally resulting in single channel campaigns)
  • Unification gets harder and harder as the average US adult now owns and uses more than six smart devices - therefore 58% say that the lack of an accurate single customer view is the leading obstacle to marketing success
  • k\Key CDP capabilities include identify resolution, management of online AND offline data, ability to handle structured AND unstructured data, and ingestion flexibility
  • Very few CDP vendors provide an orchestration engine which enables true dynamic omni-channel management and measurement

A purist might note that much of this material was built on surveys of B2C marketers. That's true. In fact, of the 25 CDPs profiled in the MarTech Today report only 9 suggest any B2B focus. However, the expectations of B2B buying team members are shaped by their B2C consumer experiences. Convergence is clear, and forward thinking B2B marketers are quickly incorporating B2C lessons.

Pain and Frustration in Marketing Data Land

Mashing it up, here's the ugly synopsis.
  1. Data quality and management is an impediment and the key to delivering experiences - yet it's generally not a priority for marketers. What's up with that!!?? The answer isn't to be found in the reports, but I'm guessing it's a sign of resignation. It seems likely a function of data silos and IT control. 
  2. Marketers want to provide better personalized experiences, and understand the need to orchestrate omni-channel campaigns. They recognize that the current data situation and MarTech stack do not support that. But as a group, they're not focused on fixing it. More resignation?
  3. Marketers believe that new customer acquisition trumps retention - but think they are best at the task they believe is less important.
  4. Attribution remains a pipe dream, but they continue to invest in digital.
  5. Intent signals are often siloed and reflect account level activity.

This isn't the way it's supposed to be. Today's marketers love data. They collect it. They want to work with it. They sync it between tools and are more empirical than marketers of 10 years ago. Yet they're running into barriers that were supposed to have fallen some time ago as technology matured. So they're investing in what they hope works.

There's a better way.

Observe, Decide, Take Action

The outcome everyone visualizes is clear. Data that flows, is accurate, and empowers personalized experiences and journeys, and is constantly measured for continuous improvement. The frustrating part is that we all thought we'd be there by now. Why aren't we?

Three reasons.

First, there is a constant flow of new stuff! Intent Data is a perfect example.

Second, our cutting edge marketing automation and CRM weren't designed for use with data and systems that hadn't been imagined some years ago.

Third, buyers expectations have changed and we need to deliver in ways that weren't easily envisioned a couple years ago.

In other words the target is moving. You didn't make any mistake with the marketing automation you bought - it was the right that time. Nevertheless, it can't do everything you need it to today.

So what's required? It's a straightforward list - easier to type out than to build for sure.

  • Full data stack - all first-party (known, anonymous, marketing, sales, transaction, etc.), possibly second-party, and third-party intent data
  • A CDP controlled by marketing, to ingest and unify the data, enrich and validate, create an accurate single customer view, and segment easily and intuitively
  • A decision engine to observe data and react dynamically
  • Full omni-channel orchestration with solid attribution measurement (not just pushing audiences from a CDP back to a platform like email service provider - rather executing centrally through platforms so that, for instance, an opened marketing email sent from one platform would automatically add a contact to a paid ad custom audience and launch a sales cadence through an acceleration platform.)

Each of these is important to the outcome. And a breakdown in any of them leads to the frustrations and challenges uncovered by the reports.

The good news is that it's possible to build a scope, roadmap and budget to do this. The technology is changing quickly, but readily available. 

The bad news is that most companies thought they already had most of this. The required expenses will be unwelcome and likely unbudgeted.

In the end it's not really a data problem. It's not really a technology problem. It's not an issue of buyers being unreasonable in their expectations.

In most cases it's a problem because marketing leadership hasn't told the story of the strategic importance of marketing as technology evolves and buyers expectations change. Therefore marketing's resource allocation is set based on an adjustment of last year's rather than a zero-based approach for what's required to satisfy growth expectations in a radically different environment.

Until that changes, expect to read plenty more reports that talk about data management challenges and mediocre buyer experiences.

image - DemandGen Report


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