Data-Rich, But Insight-Poor

You don’t need me to tell you that data is important to marketing. Any expert or business strategist will say you need to develop your data strategy -- from how you’ll nurture the collection of first-party data and what your martech solutions should be, to how to activate that data to drive marketing and reporting.

But just because you collect data doesn’t make you or your organization “data-driven.” Unfortunately, from what I see, so many companies are data-rich, but insight-poor: Data is in massive supply, but is worthless since it’s not leading to actionable insights.

So here are a few thoughts on how to pivot your data approach toward insight development over data collection.

Collecting data is not the end goal. Data itself is worthless without data science and analysis expertise -- plus a hunger for digging into it to leverage it.

Thus, operationalizing data collection is simply a route to data overload.



For example, I worked at a luxury automaker some years ago that installed a top-of-the-line CRM system. They'd collected an enormous amount of data on customers across the entirety of the customer journey. Yet no one was focused on crunching the mountains of data to find useful insights for marketing. So when we asked them which behaviors or characteristics correlated with their most valuable customers, they didn’t know. Without that bias for insights, you will end up with mountains of unused data, and millions of dollars in under-leveraged martech.

Unless your data is unified and normalized, you aren’t truly leveraging it. Having data strewn across your organization is a clear sign that you are simply collecting it versus truly leveraging it. I’ve worked with companies with dozens of separate databases that aren’t unified and don’t speak to each other. This approach  impedes the ability to create a single view of your customers, and also prevents stakeholder alignment around a holistic business truth. Clean, unified, and normalized -- that’s how you need to start thinking about your data.

Evaluative data is not helpful in and of itself. Most companies start their data journey by beginning to measure their efforts and setting KPIs and benchmarks for their marketing. But knowing your efforts delivered some number of clicks, leads, or even ROI is only somewhat helpful. These evaluative data points provide little further insight to optimize or guide future efforts.

It’s only through deeper diagnostic analysis that you can  derive the types of insights that drive broader improvements. For example, can you leverage data to identify what aspects of an effort contributed to its performance? Were there geographies, segments, user types, or behaviors that correlated better with success or failure? What aspects should be continued, discontinued, or further adapted? This is the type of data that will drive you forward.

More data has been produced in the past two years than the prior history of humanity. And with the impending deprecation of the third-party cookie, the race to collect data will only accelerate. So, now’s the time to pivot to become a truly data-driven organization -- by demanding that the data you collect begins driving the insights and actions your business needs.

3 comments about "Data-Rich, But Insight-Poor".
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  1. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, March 3, 2023 at 2:20 p.m.

    Mr. Baer makes some very good observations. My experience has been that many marketers are poor analysts when it comes to having data priorities and knowing how to define and interpret data in ways that can be actionable. 

  2. David Magrini from MAKE Technology Solutions, March 6, 2023 at 4:41 p.m.

    We are drinking the same Kool-Aid Michael, and you are 100% correct in your point of view here. Not only is it paramount for Marketers to leverage more of the data they collect to deriove insights that produce business results, but they also need to find better ways to manage the data so it can be activated in market faster -- data ingestion and normalization is the key to increasing the usability of data for Marketing. I might just know a company that does this for a living!

  3. Michael Baer from TechCXO replied, March 6, 2023 at 4:49 p.m.

    Haha - I bet you do! And thanks for the kinds words!

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