Overcoming data obstacles to improve customer experience and ROI

By Chuck Leddy

Data is the fuel that drives B2B marketing, and that fuel won’t power you to your destination (better ROI) unless your engine is fine-tuned and running efficiently. The “engine” in this metaphor is your data management, and having it run smoothly requires that your technology, your processes, and your skilled people align around the business outcomes you seek.

In a recent Sojourn Solutions webinar, “Overcoming data obstacles to improve customer experience and performance” (now on-demand), Sojourn’s Client Director, Lee Morgan, and Director of Customer Success, Kristin Connell, offered actionable insights for fine-tuning your data management, enabling it to serve as a demand engine that drives quality leads, ROI, and overall customer success. 

Maintain a long-term focus

If 2020 has taught B2B marketers anything, it’s that they must be prepared for change. That said, COVID-19 has simply accelerated trends toward digital transformation and digital-first customer engagement. Yes, you must be prepared to pivot on tactics and content, but you also need to have a long-term vision of the future. Upgrading your data management practices will help you maintain operational and tactical agility so you can navigate through rapid change.

Blindly following every shiny, new trend and “cool” martech tool is not the answer, and never will be. Yes, be aware of trends and tools that could help you at the tactical, operational level, and make wise investments, but have a framework in place for how you see (and invest in) the future. Maintaining a consistent vision, such as putting the customer experience at the center of your B2B marketing efforts, will help inform every decision you make at the tactical and campaign level. Don’t take a scattershot approach of following trends. As Sojourn’s Kristin Connell says, “continue to do something until it’s finished. There’s just so much change today that it’s easy to lose your focus. Stay the course and finish whatever you start.”

Connell recommends having specific, documented goals in place that you can measure incrementally. She also urges that B2B marketing teams “work with perspective and purpose. There are no quick fixes: keep in mind the benefits you seek, track progress, and manage expectations through regular communications.” No matter what changes arrive, no matter what your vision is, effective data management will be essential to your success, as will the ability to see plans/projects through to the end.

How top-performing organizations drive better customer experiences

What differentiates high-performing marketing teams from the also-rans? According to Sojourn’s 2019 Marketing Operations Maturity Benchmarking Report, they are better organized and enabled internally, which allows them to better engage customers externally, driving better CXs. Connell and Morgan presented some of the survey’s key findings:

  • 88% of these top-performing organizations say that marketing is clearly aligned around key business outcomes;
  • 78% say marketing is aligned internally with other relevant functions and collaborates effectively with key internal stakeholders;
  • 74% say their data management processes increase the value of their data and thereby help them achieve measurable business results;
  • 70% say they have sufficient staffing and talent around their data management efforts.

Clearly then, top-performing marketing teams organize themselves around collecting, sharing and leveraging data internally to support their customer engagement strategies externally. That requires strong data management. The also-rans may be making big investments in martech, but might still be struggling to integrate their stack, optimize its use, align and share data across the organization, and drive a better, data-enabled customer experience.

Some common obstacles to effective data management

Morgan and Connell dove into five of the most common obstacles that stand in the way of effective data management, offering suggestions for overcoming each one:

Obstacle 1: Lack of clarity around ownership of data

It’s important to know exactly who “owns” data and who can make decisions about it. When ownership is unclear, paralysis sets in and data management confusion reigns. In order to overcome this obstacle, Morgan suggests “identifying and mapping out data owners, either through a formal governance process or otherwise.”

Obstacle 2: Problems around systems integration

There’s no point bringing in the latest martech tools if they’re not enabled to “play nice” with the rest of your tech stack. Whenever you purchase and implement new martech, you also need to include plans for integrating it. As Connell suggests, “you should develop a martech governance brief that requires proper staffing and planning around purchasing new martech,” including mapping out how you’ll integrate new tools into your existing tech stack. To paraphrase 17th Century English poet John Donne: “no martech tool is an island, entirely of itself, but is part of the continent” (i.e., your tech stack).

Obstacle 3: Lack of organizational alignment around data

This one’s a biggie, because you can collect the best marketing data, but it means nothing if it isn’t shared across the organization in order to drive improved customer experience. As Morgan suggests, building cross-functional alignment around data “takes building strong relationships with the right people on the right teams.” Connell recommends starting small: “begin with one or two people, so you can learn as you go and prove the value of the collaborative approach.”

Obstacle 4: Knowledge gaps

Your people need the requisite skills to effectively manage (share and leverage) the data you have. These knowledge gaps will create bottlenecks that directly impact your customer engagement strategies. The way to overcome this obstacle, explains Morgan, is “to invest in marketing enablement. Begin with a knowledge and skills assessment so you know how to prioritize and focus your enablement efforts.” Know your needs, your gaps, and then work to close them. Don’t leave it up to individual marketers to DIY their skills base.

Obstacle 5: Inconsistent customer focus

B2B marketers need the capacity to identify their customers and be able to track their progress through the buyer’s journey. You can’t engage blindly, but must have the data necessary to know where your customer is in the journey and what their needs are at every phase. Overcoming this obstacle takes effective data management that allows you to collect customer data, analyze it, and leverage it to inform the ways you engage each customer (i.e., being customer-centric).

Connell and Morgan concluded their Sojourn webinar with some quick tips to improve your data management, including: conducting data audits, automating data cleansing, developing and monitoring funnel reports, and several more. Check out the on-demand version now!

Interested in learning more about how you can improve the maturity of your data management to support marketing ROI? Reach out to us today.

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