Digital transformation has created a widening gap between what the CEO and business expect marketing to do and what the CMO and the marketing organization actually deliver. The key to unlocking the true value of marketing is data – from actual buyer behavior to targeting info on social media platforms to marketing’s own campaign metrics. Data is the next big battlefield for not just marketers, but also for the business because the judicious application of data analytics will create competitive advantage in the Age of Analytics.
Janet and Julia show marketers where to start by leveraging their decades of experience to lay out a step-by-step process to help businesses transform into data-first marketing organizations. The book includes a self-assessment which will help to place your organization on the Data-First Marketing Maturity Model and serve as a guide for which steps you might need to focus on to complete your own transformation.
Data-First Marketing: How to Compete & Win in the Age of Analytics should be used by CMOs and heads of marketing to institute a data-first approach throughout the marketing organization. Marketing staffers can pick up practical tips for incorporating data in their daily tasks using the Data-First Marketing Campaign Framework. And CEOs or anyone in the C-suite can use this book to see what is possible and then help their marketing teams to use data analytics to increase pipeline, revenue, customer loyalty – anything that drives business growth.
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Excerpt from Chapter 1
Marketing in the Age of Analytics
Proving Marketing’s Value to the Business
In 2006, I (co-author Julia) met the CMO of a VoIP startup at a local technology marketing event. Founded in 2004, it was well-funded to the tune of $80 million after a couple of rounds of investment. This was clearly a competitive space, with other VoIP startups investing heavily in marketing and advertising to establish themselves, in addition to the very large and well-known phone company competitors who already “owned” the customers that the upstarts were trying to steal. The main business strategy seemed to be to acquire as many new customers as quickly as possible, but customer acquisition costs were high while revenue per customer was not, as VoIP’s main competitive edge was being the low-cost alternative to traditional phone call plans, in particular for international calls.
In a discussion with the CMO, she talked about the search engine optimization (SEO) that her team was doing – optimizing for something like 15,000 keywords. To say I was speechless was probably an understatement. I had several thoughts (none of which I actually blurted out, thank goodness). Fifteen thousand keywords? How was that even possible? Were there really fifteen thousand keywords around VoIP? How many people did she have on her team, whether in-house or at an agency? This was years before Amazon came to be so dominant; with all the brands that they sell, if Amazon said they were optimizing their website for fifteen thousand keywords, I would believe them and maybe consider that number on the low side since they offer millions of products. But all this startup had was VoIP services....
In a discussion with the CMO, she talked about the search engine optimization (SEO) that her team was doing – optimizing for something like 15,000 keywords. To say I was speechless was probably an understatement. I had several thoughts (none of which I actually blurted out, thank goodness). Fifteen thousand keywords? How was that even possible? Were there really fifteen thousand keywords around VoIP? How many people did she have on her team, whether in-house or at an agency? This was years before Amazon came to be so dominant; with all the brands that they sell, if Amazon said they were optimizing their website for fifteen thousand keywords, I would believe them and maybe consider that number on the low side since they offer millions of products. But all this startup had was VoIP services.
Let’s look at this another way. Let’s say that her SEO team spent 10 hours optimizing the website for each keyword, at 10,400 work hours per person in a year, that would require dedicating nearly 15 people just to do this one task, and that doesn’t include the keywords research, content development, monitoring and reporting, analysis, technical SEO tasks, and more that are all required for SEO. How could her team effectively optimize for that many keywords? The answer really is that they could not, and within the year, I was not surprised to hear that that well-funded startup shut its doors.
Volume Metrics versus Value Metrics
Beyond the disbelief in optimizing for that number of keywords (or questioning if that was even a good idea) was the realization that there is something very fundamentally different regarding how marketers look at the metrics that make up what it is that we do.
One of the data challenges many marketers must overcome is a bias for volume metrics over value metrics. Volume metrics track performance or efficiency. Value metrics, in contrast, assess the quality of an interaction or its impact on the customer relationship and on profitability. (Starita, 2019)
Marketers are seduced by volume metrics. Why wouldn’t we be? They make us look good. Website traffic is up 100% year over year. We had 2 million visits to our website last month. With numbers like those, the outcome could only be good for the business, right?
But if you look more closely, you can see that volume metrics like these are only the beginning of the story. It’s value metrics that can tell you more about why these numbers are important for the business. Why is traffic up so much? Is it due to specific content on the site? Is traffic up on the products and services pages or is it up on job listings? And most importantly, can I connect these traffic increases to actual pipeline or revenue for the business?
Volume metrics like website traffic are easy to get; they are the first things you see in most out-of-the-box performance reports. By contrast, value metrics require some digging, and the knowledge behind what you are doing to make sure you are digging in the right directions. Even trickier is trying to tie any kind of metric to revenue. This usually requires some level of data integration since numbers like website traffic can sit in a completely different database or platform from sales numbers, not to mention requiring some level of coding or workflow automation to track a lead from a website visit, through all the other marketing interactions they might have along the buyer’s journey all the way to a possible sale. It should not be any surprise that the more “valuable” the value metric, the harder it seems to be able to achieve.
Back to the VoIP startup example. Perhaps the thinking went like this:
CMO to the CEO: We are optimizing the website for 15,000 keywords.
Translation: Look how much work we are doing! Look at all the work you can tell the VCs that they are getting for that big investment they made in the company. What we do is important and complex – just look at how many keywords we actively optimize to make sure we show up on page one of Google searches for every long-tail term.
Perhaps focusing on SEO and likely digital ads was the marketing strategy for rapid customer acquisition at volume. But if I were the CEO, that’s not the first number I would want; the first woud be how many new customers did SEO bring in?
It’s very shortsighted to think that you can trot out volume metrics to show how well you are doing — in a board meeting, in a monthly agency or client meeting, or the like — and not be asked why. More and more, marketers are being asked to prove it — by CEOs, CFOs, sales, clients – and that brings up a whole new set of challenges that many marketers are failing to overcome.
We live in the Age of Analytics surrounded by data, but that doesn’t mean that we have the right mindset, skills, and experience to use it in our daily marketing tasks to do more, faster, better. We know we should be pushing toward a data-driven marketing model, but what does that really mean for our marketing teams, and how can we get there? In this book, we try to answer these questions and define a data-first marketing strategy that is achievable by everyone, from large company to single-person business, and that, first and foremost, ensures you never have to settle for volume metrics to show marketing’s value to the business.
This is the book I wish I had back when I was trying to communicate with the sales VP. But more than that, this is the book that would have gotten me speaking the language of the CFO and the CEO and the board of directors."
—David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR
As a CEO I oftentimes wonder what my marketing team actually does, whether they are worth what we pay them or whether or not they should have a seat at the table when setting company strategy? Data-First Marketing helped me answer many of my questions and helped me create a framework and a mindset that I can use to hold my team accountable.”
—Rob Masri, Executive Chairman & CEO at Sport Life
I love Data-First Marketing. Throughout my 35-year career as an executive of several technology companies, I always struggle to educate my marketing staff on the need to collect and analyze the right data in support of the company’s investments and growth strategy. This book is THE ideal resource for it. I strongly recommend this book to any CEO trying to build a highly driven marketing approach to their strategy.”
—John Hassoun, VT Group CEO
Data-First Marketing is like Personal Training for you and your Marketing team. Your programs will emerge brawny, strong, buff… and fit to defend themselves from any doubters, haters, bullies who doubt Marketing’s true value.”
—Ann Handley, WSJ bestselling author of Everybody Writes and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs
If the marketing department is going to have a seat at the executive table to influence business strategy, there must be a focus on data-driven techniques and correct attribution. In Data-First Marketing, Janet and Julia validate and reaffirm the importance of value metrics above vanity metrics and provide marketers with clear and actionable steps to incorporate and measure business metrics from the beginning and throughout their campaigns.”
—Zenda Sims, Vice President of Marketing, GetWellNetwork
Janet and Julia merge their passions, talents, and experiences by taking you on a journey of how successful data-driven marketing strategies can radically transform organizations. Data-first Marketing is THE essential marketing analytics book if you need actionable recommendations and a time-tested framework to develop, execute, and measure campaigns.”
—Dr. Theresa B. Clarke, Academic Unit Head and Professor of Marketing, James Madison University
I am a data guy. Period. I have built three companies all based on using data as our primary guideline to success. Janet and Julia have provided one of the best guides to implementing the systems needed and using the resulting data to profitably grow any business. Data-First!”
—Arnie Kuenn, author of Content Marketing Works: 8 Steps to Transform Your Business and Accelerate!
A detailed guide to unlocking the full value of your company's marketing data! Written by industry veterans, this book is a must-read for online marketers at agencies and within companies."
—Tim Ash, Bestselling author of Unleash Your Primal Brain and Landing Page Optimization, CEO of TimAsh.com
Janet discusses her new book, Data-First Marketing; How to Compete & Win in the Age of Analytics, with John Ellis. Marketers need to embrace data and analytics to meet and exceed the expectations of the businesses they work in, and they also need to embrace failure as a way to grow and learn.
For most marketers so far, data-driven marketing doesn’t go far enough. Data and analytics are often afterthoughts, if they are even thought of at all. They are seen as skills that are outside of marketing, employed at times by marketing – instead of integral to the marketing discipline going forward. Data-first marketing seeks to change that.