A Big Data business case accessible to all? Let's look at Marketing Automation. How deep do we need to dig to find the hidden Data Treasure?

History of Automation

Since the early days of Automation and Enterprise Software, we have known parts of organizations to be early adopters, and others to be laggers. Departments such as Finance, Supply Chain, Logistics/Production have been fast & successfully targeted by automation, leading the dance. Sales and Marketing departments have not been dancing much. Over the last decade or so, the rise of CRM has brought some change to this perspective, but efforts to incorporate CRM into the overall picture have not been hugely successful. Though we all contribute to the value chain, perspectives are somewhat different.

Sales and Marketing departments are outward facing. Activities include events, meetings, discussions, negotiations, .... The data will get captured in outward facing data systems like CRM or SFA systems (*). Finance, Supply chain, Production or HR and their systems contain data with an internal focus. Matching outside interactions to what is going on inside of an organisation is not easy. How do events and customer interactions contribute to the overall result? Attempts to measure sales effectiveness and marketing efficiency have been numerous - but even today there is no clear way to approach this.

What to measure?

CRM data is quantitative by nature: how many leads, how many contacts, how many interactions. Different sales teams may have different ways of using the CRM system. It is hard enough to get quantitative data on sales and marketing, what about qualitative data:

Did the sales person do a good job? Was the interaction successful?

In order to get data about effectiveness, we need to organize side interactions: surveys to measure customer satisfaction or event feedback forms to measure appraisal. As none of this is automated, you would need to set up stringent process in order to be consistent.

Marketing Automation

Like Sales and Marketing, Marketing Automation involves outward facing activities. The activities are run over the internet: published to websites and social media, discussed in blogs. Email is also being used, but get's a complete new role (**). Marketing Automation aims at nurturing contacts into interest, and interest into opportunities. These will then be handed over Sales and Marketing in order to generate deals and income.

Marketing Automation comes with something the Sales and Marketing departments do not: inbuilt data. The data, also known as Big Data, is unstructured (e.g. unique visitor attributes), some of it is unpredictable (e.g. web path chosen).

BigData = BigBudget

BigData, by itself, is getting more than fair attention today. Most of that attention goes to BigBanks, BigBrands or BigRetailers and their data cases. Fraud detection for banking and insurance, Social Analytics for BigBrands or eCommerce behavioural tracking in BigRetail are not cases into which most of us can tap. You basically need to be a bank, a brand or a retailer as well as invest substantially in know-how and infrastructure.

Marketing Automation is very different in that respect and within reach of most businesses. Provided you have a website and rudimentary know-how about how to use social media, Marketing Automation can potentially bring value in a B2B (Business-to-Business) context. Being a 100% B2B company, we @TimeXtender decided to investigate the potential.

Marketing Automation also offers many new ways to engage with potential customers. The thinking is simple: instead of us trying to find and reach out to anyone who may find Data Warehouse Automation of interest, we need to come up with better ways for people to find and reach out to us.

Key to this concept is content. In order to be successful, Marketing Automation can only be successful if we can present valuable content to which you can relate and in which you might see value. Figuring out better ways to draw attention from the potentially interested equals working with outside parameters. What might people currently be looking for when they want to automate their BI setup? What other topics (Agile BI, agile development, marketing automation, ERP and reporting upgrades ...) might they be interested in?

The advantage of using modern marketing platforms and systems is that they not only allow us to tap into the ever growing on-line customer community, it also allows us to tune, tweak and measure both the quantity and the quality of efforts.

You can get more data from Marketing Automation

True, however, just like CRM, the data points are still outward facing.

In order to match outside with inside (***) we also need to match numbers. Matching Marketing Automation to other datasets still poses the same issues as before. Nevertheless this may be worthwhile, as we the may be able to answer efficiency/effectiveness questions:

  • Are we producing the right content?
  • What do potential customers care about, and how does that match what we produce?
  • Can we derive interest in related topics - Agile BI development, Big Data, Marketing Automation, Upgrade (reporting) issues, ...
  • How can we tune Marketing Automation interactions?
  • Which interactions yield good results?
  • Can we use internet feedback in our domain in order to make choices in software development?
    (Should we?)

As Marketing Automation allows for many measuring points, we can get much faster result and feedback

  • How many people responded to a call of action for a particular campaign?
  • How does this compare to other campaigns?
  • Are we improving or not?

We know that more questions will present themselves, as we proceed, so we need a learning approach. We will have to address Data Quality, both on internal data and Marketing Automation side. We will have to think about which attributes to choose from, how to make them work for us and so forth. The matching work needs to get validated, authored and documented.

As the Marketing Automation domain is new to us, it is likely that there will be a lot of change ahead. We will need to work incrementally, learn as we progress, Agile if you like.

Marketing & Data Warehouse Automation

These parameters make it an ideal Case for applying Data Warehouse Automation - something we happen to know a great deal about. By facilitating the learning process, adding or changing data and measure points, we should be able to cut the curve and proceed faster, more confident. This in turn will increase the ROI on the whole Marketing Automation effort. Doing so, we may be able to tie in Sales and Marketing into the rest of the organization.

Dancing the night away.

In conclusion:

  1. Marketing Automation is a Big Data case in reach for many more companies than the traditional BigBrand, BigBank and BigRetail cases
  2. Marketing Automation will yield new datasets. These datasets will be rich both in quality and quantity
  3. By applying Data Warehosue Automation concepts, we will learn and match external activities with internal performance,
    reaching further than just sales efficiency and marketing effectiveness

We might get some more people on the dance floor.

Check out the product part of our site for more information on Data Warehouse Information


(*) CRM: Customer Relationship Management, SFA: Sales Force Automation

(**) interesting to note is that in the new eMarketing mix, traditional push eMailings are being cut out of the equation, mainly because of proven poor performance. Email as a channel is still being used, but in a different way.

If you'd like to know more, see this Hubspot Blog entry.

(***) in the TimeXtender case: customer support, software development, channel management, consultancy, training and of course finance and HR