It's Sales That Should Be Concerned By Data-Driven Mad Men, Not The CIO

The more you look into digital marketing debates, the more you find yourself half agreeing with their main points but wondering whether the real issue isn't what has been largely discussed, but actually something altogether different. That is what prompted me to blog yesterday that ad blocking is a huge issue now but in the long term we don't need to worry so much because we have reached a tipping point, in mobile's favour, and display is not ideally suited to the medium anyway. 

I've been having a dig around the CMO and CIO debates that have been raging over the past couple of years and there is some obvious truth in data-driven digital marketing meaning that the function is moving into the realms of the CIO. However, this move toward platforms and databases has largely not taken anyone by surprise and we have marketing operations teams as a buffer between the two positions. These teams will often be staffed by marketers and IT professionals and from what one picks up in conferences, appear to be doing a pretty good job at ensuring both functions are involved in projects from the start, giving greater agility as charging market conditions require refinements to original plans.

It's also worth mentioning that prediction from Gartner that is often trotted out -- that the year after next, the CIO's greatest customer will be marketing. I think the word "customer" is about right. There's no move to take over or rival the function, but rather a need for IT to realise that a data-driven department needs support and understanding -- the kind of support and understanding the salespeople, seen as those who bring in the money, have been getting for years.

So if you ask me, the unwritten story here is that while there can sometimes be issues between the CMO and CIO, there is a marketing operations function that can act as a buffer. Where the real friction might come a little further down the line is with sales. They have typically been the guys to plan, forecast and turn CRM insight in to action. But now marketing is getting those kind of tools. It's marketing where an organisation will reach out to prospects and start them off on a journey of awareness, consideration, purchase and advocacy.

Typically this process will be passed on to sales somewhere between consideration and purchase. My question today is -- as we build customer data hubs, does there need to be any kind of a passing on the baton? Today's sophisticated systems are circular, feeding back information on how people who went on to convert behaved in the early stages so marketing can best pick out what the best prospects look like.

Of course, with a lot of organisations -- particularly in b2b or wherever a major purchase it being considered -- sales will need to be involved but there is an interesting Gartner prediction that gets far less airing than the CMO becoming the CIO's biggest customer quote. By 2020, Gartner predicts that 85% of interaction between a customer and a company will not involve a human to human conversation, meeting or even an email. You only need to think now how goods can be ordered online and delivery details amended at the press of a button to realise how true the prediction is already turning out to be. 

So it raises the question again. If there is a department that has typically been treated as the kings of the mountain that might have a fall from grace, it has to be sales, doesn't it? There's already so much work going on between the two departments to align planning, forecasting, implementation, lead generation -- and crucially, metrics that the data each function is creating and handling are starting to look more and more similar. As this process continues and we carry on taking out the need for human interaction in our transactions, why wouldn't that give marketing one heck of a boost within an organisation, at the cost of sales?

It's bold proposition to hang out there. But if we assume the CMO and CIO debate pans out as a pretty healthy relationships, albeit it one that took a decade of strategising to smooth over, then the rise of a data-driven marketing department in a economy of self-serving customers can only be to the detriment of sales -- can't it?

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