I recently read a survey on StrongView.com that provided insights into the biggest challenges to marketers in 2014. Based on the survey’s 2013 results, leveraging consumer data remains a huge challenge. While businesses are capturing more customers and industry data than ever before, marketers report problems accessing and leveraging it in the most meaningful ways. In addition, marketers cite data quality and latency as “the new data challenge”.
Shawn Myers, Vice President of Marketing at StrongView explains, “Effectively engaging customers with what we call ‘Present Tense Marketing’ requires an in-depth understanding of the customer’s context of a particular moment in time, and that can only be achieved with the strategic use of all available data.”
Many businesses struggle with customer engagement and segmentation and have disparate data and fragmented marketing systems because:
- They are using many different tools and collecting data from several purchased applications that do not “play well” with each other.
- Building and/or customizing tools for collective data analysis are either impossible (due to product licensing agreements) or cost prohibitive.
- Organizational dysfunction and lack of internal communication exists due to poor process and transparency which results in data not being shared/utilized across departments.
Understanding Why Marketing Data Fragmentation Exists
One reason marketing data fragmentation exist is because technology companies that build marketing software and apps, generally focus more on the corporate goal of making money than truly solving customer (marketers) problems. The result is a product roadmap that doesn’t align with the goals of the marketer.
This reminds of me of my seven-year-old daughter’s soccer games. If you’ve ever watched little league soccer, there’s one thing that you can always count on - EVERY player on the field (with exception to the goalies) stays huddled around the ball (corporate goal) trying to kick it. No matter how often and how loud the coaches encourage them to spread out and pass the ball, or go to the goal, the kids are hyper-focused on their own goal of kicking the ball.
Then there’s Gentry, the smallest player on the field, who understands the coach's goal (buyer’s goal). Instead of standing in the middle of the girls, trying to kick the ball, she stands outside the circle and waits for the ball to pop out of the group. As soon as it does, she has an open field with no competition and easily scores four or more goals per game.
Even if product road maps align, it can be time consuming and costly to deliver. Technology companies focus heavily on one aspect of their product and deliver that well. Think about it. Can you name one product that handles content management, customer relationships, social media, user engagement, analytics and data analysis, email marketing, and customer surveys well? Probably not.
Instead, a business might use Drupal as its content management system (CMS), Google Analytics as its reporting engine, Marketo as its automated marketing system, and Sales Force as its customer relationship management (CRM) platform. I can’t say that I blame them. It’s hard to be all things to all people, with the plethora of content management systems, social media outlets, and data analysis tools growing at an alarming rate. Marketing data tends to become more fragmented instead of less, and for many small-to-medium sized businesses, the cost of integration can be out of reach.
Can community solve this problem?
So how is LevelTen tackling this industry challenge? After a tremendous amount of research and a couple failures, we're back at the whiteboard and working on solving this issue through open source technology and heavy web services integration - which requires a large community of marketers and developers working together instead of in competition.
I completely understand that businesses must focus on revenue and profitability, I also know that private organizations with corporate red tape, budgetary constraints and limited resources simply cannot innovate as quickly as thousands of marketers and developers driven by one common goal.
Solving industry-wide challenges requires that more marketers become involved with open source technology, which has traditionally been dominated by programmers. I believe that developers in open source communities should encourage more participation from marketers. I also believe that development communities should strategically approach these marketing challenges by focusing on the end-user (marketers and data analysts) to better understanding why their goals are important for the web industry as a whole.
I learned through StrongView’s Marketing Trends Survey that a vast majority of businesses are willing to increase budgets and spend more money in attempts to solve these problems. Instead of investing money on proprietary products, I recommend investing time in the open source communities. That way you can potentially solve your problems with less money, in less time and with more freedom to innovate when the next big challenge arises.
What do you think? Is open source the way to go, or does big business and big money win again? I'd love your feedback.