Marketing Data Is a Tapestry (or Should be)

Jul 27, 2020 | Author Ed Marsh

Tl;dr - Data holds enormous potential. But too often potential isn't fully converted to actual. Recent research from IDC confirms that only a small portion of potential data is used. Experience with sales and marketing intelligence from intent data confirms it.

The Story Matters

We hear all the time about the importance of story telling in marketing and sales. And data can tell an amazing story. 

Of course it can be an incorrect story, ill informed by an inadequate sample that's not representative. It can be skewed through biased selection. It can be told as seen through various lenses of personal and professional life experience.

bits and bytes of marketing data

Too often the story that people tell from their data is more like a Mad Lib. A narrative they've created with arbitrary bits of data simply dropped in as convenient. Many people weave an entire narrative from a few pixels - stitches to maintain the metaphor.

Ignoring the Majority of Data

As Scott Brinker highlights in his recent post with h/t to CDP Institute's David Raab, only 32% of available data is used by companies. That reflects the fact that they only collect just over half of what they should, and only use about half of what they collect.

The report doesn't focus exclusively on marketing data - it covers data ops, management and security in general. But it prompted some reflections as I read it.


Data is like any other tool. It can be ignored and left to rust.

It can be enthusiastically but clumsily used by a hobbyist or amateur.

Or, it can be used with expert artistry and nuance. Data is intrinsically worthless. Smart, creative people and hard work imbue it with value.

Seth Godin writes of finding a key:

If you find a key and you don’t know what lock it will fit, you haven’t found much.

It’s easy to get excited about half the system, but real change and real benefit only happen when both pieces are working together.

This is certainly true of data in the context of marketing and sales.

Complex sales are...well...complex. That means complex buying teams with conflicting priorities, compounding corporate politics, incompatible personalities, budget pressure and more.

That's why the status quo wins so many deals - it's easier not to change process, budgets, etc.

In addition to work ethic, and creative and constantly developing sales skills, the best tool sales reps have is information. But not raw data. Rather, information that is aggregated, presented in actionable snippets and even with inferred contextual observations and sales enablement recommendations facilitated by marketing and sales ops teams.

Five years ago strong reps prepared for cold lead outreach with a review of a prospect's LinkedIn profile, company website, and depending on the seniority, perhaps some news or annual report review. Preparation for inbound lead follow up also included a review of observed site activity and conversions.

That's what mediocre reps do now. It's not enough. It's like trying to appreciate the tapestry with just a couple pixels.

Today's strong reps search, accumulate, curate and track a huge variety of sources and signals from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party purchase intent data sources as well as Google alerts and other news and industry sources. They source them on their own if the company has gaps in what they offer, and absorb everything marketing provides as well.

The Martech Stack Matters

Marketing automation and CRM aren't enough. There are advantages to a CDP (like unification, attribution and marketing control) but the bottom line is that you need data management, manipulation, calculation, analysis, views, segmentation, and orchestration for a large volume of various types of data that are very different from what most companies can handle in a tech stack that was pretty cutting edge a couple years ago.

Some marketing data master distillers write their own code when that's what it takes!

Overlooked First Party Data

There is a lot of first party data that never makes it into the marketing data grist mill (or to carry our favorite analogy along - the marketing data still!) Freemium and in app usage data, tickets and support requests, trends in license number and use, content consumption by certain roles in customer companies, etc., etc., etc.

There's lots of info that should be woven into the tapestry as part of the story, but because it sits in different databases, belongs to different departments, or simply because nobody's thought of it....isn't.

Gaps In Analysis

Kerry Cunningham's "Second Lead Disease" is a great example. Too often the analysis of data is, frankly, poor. It's based on outdated models (e.g. someone submitting an online form is a hot lead) 

Great analysis includes what's happening, AND what's NOT. It considers the different buying roles engaged at different points in the buying journey and with different competitors. It considers which buying roles aren't as actively engaged, in addition to the detail of problem to be solved and outcome to achieve which often provide more context than the solution being explored.

Available for Use but Ignored

Not all sales reps are strong. Pareto tells us that. So does a quick glance at the consistent quota leaders.

While strong reps naturally and intuitively mine data and massage it for insights, average reps won't. So frequently data is there, but it is ignored. That's a function for marketing and sales ops which only a few have really started to embrace. Creating the framework that does the analysis and surfaces the key insights at the right time to the right reps is increasingly important. (That's the great work that won Chris Taylor a recent Marketing Data Master Distiller Award.)

That needs to be paired with automatic triggers in orchestration (e.g. launch the optimal, SalesLoft, or or sales acceleration cadence automatically and add contacts to the right lists for dynamic site content, custom audience paid ads match lists, chat software segments, etc.)

It also needs to include coaching tips and recommendations for enablement content and account strategies.

Never Reaches the Channel

Even companies that are sophisticated in using sales and marketing intelligence in their own internal sales channels rarely share it with their partner and other indirect channels.

Why? What a missed opportunity.

It teases revenue impact for both companies in the core product area. Additionally it's a value add/monetizable service that vendors could offer to channel to expand into other areas. And it's a great way to position a company as the vendor of choice in crowded, competitive spaces. (Learn more on using marketing data in the sales channel here and more here.)

The Impact isn't Tracked

People love marketing data because they're able to measure the effectiveness of different approaches. But how many people actually measure the impact of the data itself? In other words, rather than use data as a metric, how about metrics on data benefits?

Used Collaboratively Between Departments

Too often data is bought for a primary use case in marketing or sales and then never fully activated in the other - much less throughout the departments and the enterprise. Intent data for PR and event marketing are examples of under used applications within marketing. 

Prospecting™ Intent Data, Buyers Journey™ Data and Customer Lifecycle™ Data are further examples, with more covered here.

Bigger Vision

What's next? How to monetize it? How to create new products or services around it? Proprietary research?

Data is often initially justified for specific tactical applications. Ongoing value is unlocked as the application extends across use cases.

But the key is to constantly look for new ways to use data. Take marketing agencies for instance. They often struggle to create content, but then see data as just a demand gen tool. Imagine the power of proprietary industry insights which could be aggregated and published based on market intelligence harvested through intent data?

Which is Your Marketing Data Tapestry?

Many companies are closer than they realize, but also wrestle with barriers that they may not even recognize since they're so systemic.

Is yours closer to this?

most marketing data

Or to this?

marketing data tells a story-1

Maybe it's time to step up the game?


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