edo recently gathered top Dallas marketers to discuss best practices in marketing, and how big data is changing the way we think about measurement and messaging. CMO leaders across nationally recognized brands shared key takeaways on incorporating data-driven, performance based marketing to better connect with customers.

Overcoming Big Data TMI

Looking at the sheer volume and different types of data can be overwhelming without a clear focus. As consumers share more of their lives across social channels and drive millions of daily credit card swipes, we’re able to look into our customer’s lives like never before.

Retail veteran and edo advisor Bob Thacker thinks big data is a bad case of information overload. “It’s just another way of saying too much information, too much knowledge.  It’s like swallowing Google.” But Thacker doesn’t think the onslaught of information is a new problem for marketers. “I think it’s a description of something that’s been around for a long time.”

The challenge becomes navigating through best practices in marketing and cutting through the clutter to find key insights to drive stronger marketing messages. Corner Bakery CMO Diana Hovey has felt this firsthand: “As a marketer, you’re supposed to embrace it and understand it and do something with it and that it’s like a needle in a haystack and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger until you’re buried underneath like some little field mouse, trying to figure out what to do with it.”

Kathy Thomas, who runs marketing at Half Price Books, recalls similar issues balancing the amount of data coming from her company’s marketing campaigns. “You make these assumptions that you’re going to have a sale or you’re going to extend some sort of discount, and you’re not sure.

Okay, was it the ad or was it the mailer?  Was it the e-mail campaign?  What was it that really made the difference?” Thomas feels that the ability to pinpoint these key sales drivers are critical in measuring campaign performance and understanding her department’s ROI.

Finding the Right Data Experts

Today’s brands need an omni-channel approach to reach their customers. We’re well beyond the days of TV, newspaper and online ads being enough to keep customers engaged. Today’s CMO has to balance channels such as the website, YouTube page, Facebook and Twitter all while keeping an eye on the horizon for the next big thing.

Juggling time, resources, and budget between channel management and measurability has become a growing challenge for marketers. Successful marketers will leverage two tactics to combat the growing laundry list of channel needs to keep focused:

1. The data-driven CMO will know that finding the best practices in marketing includes hiring the right partners. These partners are critical to extract actionable insights from the noise, and identify the right driving forces behind great campaign performance. Hovey has success finding outside partners for Corner Bakery. “I look at agencies, I look for people that are pushing me, that are teaching me something different every time I sit down with them.”

2. For some, this may mean giving up some control with an outside partner or agency, but the key is to help find a translator for all of this information. “I think that the days of calling your agency and expecting that they have your answers are over,” said Thacker.  It really is about understanding alliances and letting go enough to say, ‘Hey, I don’t know it all.  I won’t know it all, and I need people around me who are smarter than me, whether they’re working for me or working with me in the outside.”

Marrying Marketing with IT

Becoming a data-driven CMO requires a willingness to push the boundaries of best practices in marketing, including rethinking of personnel to gain internal momentum to move the company forward.

Hovey shares how Corner Bakery is beginning to integrate marketing with information technology. “Marketing has to interview the IT candidates because you’re going to be married. I mean we were joined at the hip.  We’re in each other’s offices several, several times a day.  We traveled together.  We work on projects together, and I have a marketing advocate.”

Building Performance-Based Sand Castles

Externally, the CMO needs to find data experts to help them navigate through the amount of digital tools and data. To some, this may mean giving up internal control, but the tradeoff is finding agencies and vendors who will push clients as subject matter experts given most marketing departments don’t have the resources to dramatically staff up internal teams.

Hovey shared her sandbox approach, “I think you have to go for the subject matter experts in each of the areas that you’re going to.  And in our business, we use a sandbox approach.  We bring all of our partners and agencies together, and they push on each other, and you know the best sand castle is built.  And I think that’s key.  I want to be pushed, because I don’t pretend to know it.”

Beyond the Buzzword

Though big data might be a gimmicky marketing term, the transition to performance-based marketing is making waves across many organizations. Bob Thacker sees opportunity to leverage data-driven best practices to adapt.

“The bad news is that traditional media has lost its influence. That made our lives as a marketer easier because we had choices that were a list of maybe six or eight things: network television, local radio, newspaper, etc. The good news is that we have the ability now with more knowledge and more information to be much more narrowly focused in our efforts to reach our customers in ways that actually has a higher return.”

Jeff Fagel, Former VP Marketing

Jeff Fagel was formerly edo Vice President, Marketing and Brand Development.

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