Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Ari Sheinkin, Vice President, Client Insights, IBM

By Ari Sheinkin

Imagine an office full of static and noise. You hear YouTube blaring over bad speakers, competing with a dozen mobile calls and an in-person conference that’s interrupted by constant knocking on the door. And in this mayhem, you’re listening for one voice: the one whisper from one client talking about their experience or preference or plan.

CMOs face their own daily mayhem of data as they try to engage with customers as individuals. Marketing to industry segments and broad demographics is being replaced by the “era of you.”

Much of the data deluge comes from consumers via searches, clickstreams, mobile phones, and comments on Facebook and Twitter. Combine that with data about in-store traffic, conversations with call centers, and updates from suppliers, and today’s marketers confront a blitz of data waiting to be analyzed and acted upon to boost business.  Better insights enable companies, from retailers to banks, to literally design offers and services tailored to what consumers are telling them.

We all buy into the vision. But the question I keep hearing is, how do I prepare? How do take advantage? How do I start?

The answer I give marketing organizations is to embrace marketing science.  That point of view is the topic of a new study, Marketing science: from descriptive to prescriptive, just released by the IBM Center of Applied Insights.

Marketing science addresses the common misconception that with Big Data, clever computers will automatically capture all the required information and spit out answers. To the contrary, insight begins by asking the right questions and thoughtfully gathering information to support the analysis.

That means marketers need to become marketing scientists. They should start developing three core skills that may be new – architecting data, applying science and influencing action.

According to the IBM study, traditional marketers collect a great deal of data, but only 28 percent say they consistently structure information for analysis and availability across the enterprise.  This unplanned approach won’t glean the kind of insights marketers crave, from what consumers are saying on social media about a new fashion trend, to whether the supply chain can support a spike in demand for ice cream based on an unexpected heat wave.

On the other hand, marketing scientists “architect” data to make it easier to analyze. Drawing on a wider range of sources, they structure and organize data in a more granular form that is digestible, dissectible, and easily retrieved.

With the data in hand, it’s logical to assume that marketing science will begin.  However, less than 20 percent of traditional marketers and analysts regularly use scientific approaches in their jobs. They don’t develop hypotheses or benchmark against control groups. They are more likely to rely on gut feel and past experiences, rather than on analytics.

Those organizations will be left behind — or worse still, paralyzed by the volume of the noise. To grab the data-driven future, we all need to instill the processes and skills of science and experimentation into our marketing work.

Even with the best science, there’s no point predicting the future, unless you’re able to act on it. Here again, marketing scientists are ahead of their peers. They are investing in organizational change, learning how to use science to influence action – and moving beyond data mayhem.

For example, marketing scientists are nearly three times more likely to collaborate with the rest of the enterprise – from the CIO to the head of HR — both to share insights and to help everyone apply findings.  They are effective at selling their insight on how to optimize a client touch point or how the company can better engage with customers on social channels. And marketers need help applying the insights – 82 percent of traditional marketers still rely largely on hunches and experience.

Marketing science can transform the way marketing professionals make business decisions. It can inject more discipline into the marketing process, enabling marketers to ask – and answer – complex questions they could never otherwise address.

Guided by these insights, CMOs can anticipate the future and begin to listen to their customers as individuals – and move beyond the data mayhem.

Where do you see yourself or your marketing organization? Do you rely solely on experience or are you incorporating rigorous scientific approaches? How are you handling the vast amount of data you have access to? Do you have the influence, the sales skills, to transform your marketing organization? We’d like to hear from you!

Add your comments below or tweet us at @IBMCAI

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