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BI’s Next Frontier: Marketing

By   /  June 24, 2013  /  8 Comments

by Morten Middelfart

One of the coolest things about Business Intelligence and Analytics software is that it has applications throughout an organization. Finance can use it, sales can use it, support can use it, engineering can use it…everybody can use it. But there’s one department that’s been a holdout and hasn’t yet found the value in taking data and turning it into information: marketing.

This is a department of people devoted to discovering what it is that makes customers and prospects tick, and they haven’t yet realized that there’s tons of information at their disposal that answers that very question. The challenge has been that the information about customer preferences generally resides in data outside the organization. It’s in surveys, focus groups, social media, Google trends, and all of it is data you don’t control.

From a technological perspective, external data sources present a challenge to traditional data warehousing solutions. Those products take data from the internal databases, run a transformation process, and then load it into the analytics app. That process requires IT’s involvement, making it an unwieldy answer to the question of “how can marketing get involved with this BI thing”.

If you can eliminate IT from the process, suddenly marketing can play with all of those external data sources to try and get inside the minds of the people they’re targeting. In a field that’s increasingly metric-driven, the ability to find those behavior patterns among potential customers can save the marketing department a lot of time and energy. No more guessing where the customers are, no more trying out a whole bunch of messages to find the right one.

NoETL solutions can be marketing’s way to learn how BI can work for them. It’s a win-win. Marketing gets to experiment using data that’s never been available to them, and there’s information that backs up the decisions that they make from reviewing the information.

For years, business intelligence has been rooted in the ERP solutions that feed BI platforms their data. Once that’s configured, you’ve got an in-depth look at your customers. The next logical question is, “how do I use this for prospects?” Google Trends is a useful data source for finding potential customers before they buy. And then, “what are my customers saying about our product after the sale?” Here, we pull in social media to learn what customers tell their friends and colleagues about us.

It’s all out there. Marketing just has to have the right tool kit and the right mindset to go out and find it.

About the author

As CTO for TARGIT, Morten focuses on the ways company managers and leaders make decisions – in particular the extent to which computers can assist in the decision making process. His research into the ways people make intelligent and intuitive decisions has catapulted TARGIT’s position within Business Intelligence and Analytics. Today, TARGIT is recognized as one of the top 15 international vendors by industry analysts and has over 4,500 customers with more than 308,000 named users. In addition to guiding TARGIT’s technological direction, Morten is also involved in educational activities that advocate his research and experience within Business Intelligence. Through his research Morten has found new methods for companies to react faster and more efficiently to the real world challenges that organizations face – allowing them to stay competitive in the future. Currently, Dr. Middelfart is very active in suggesting human-computer synergy as a paradigm shift for decision makers as a consequence of the “Big Data tidal wave”. In addition, he is highly active in Social Analytics, and most recently, the TARGIT Xbone Self-Service (NoETL, NoSQL, column-store, in-memory) initiative.

  • Jeff Gentry

    I’ll put this as politely as I possibly can…

    Are … you … kidding … me ?!?

    Is thus satire from The Onion?

    Good marketers are DECADES ahead of other functional areas when it comes to BI and analytics. My assertion is based on more than two decades of working with them, and working with other functional areas as well. Marketing and customer relationships are key BI leverage points, and have been since it was called database marketing, back when BI meant something else.

    Frankly, I’m dumbfounded. I can only assume that the authors experience is only with brand-centric organizations. Even then, there is often more going on in the background than some people see, like econometric analytics.

    Now leaving Orwellian space and returning

    • David

      Jeff, you make a good point about “Good Marketers” being decades ahead of other functional areas when talking about BI. Although, having said that, you need to define what you mean by “Good Marketers”?

      I am sure that Marketing houses such as Gartner Group and Hall & Partners, etc. as well as large multi-nationals (Fourtune 500 companies) have the resources available, to be on the leading edge of Marketing BI and have been for a long time now.

      However, in the context of small to medium companies (And there must be quite a lot of them) that don’t have the resources but would also like to have the insight that others enjoy, then the statement still rings true. There has to be a cost effective way that these marketers can get on the first step to social analytics and unstructured data from external sources.

      I am sure that you can find standard tools on the market today, that make this process pain free and cost effective as possible. And now that social analytics and unstructured data is becoming widely available to everyone, it would only be natural that small to medium companies will begin working with this type of data for the first time.

      And in no time they will be a step closer to the companies that have been pioneers for years.

    • Morten Middelfart

      Hi Jeff, thanks so much; I guarantee that I’m not kidding at all with this entry… 😉

      My point is pretty much in line with what David is saying; there may be a number of good marketers out having embraced metrics for decades. However, my experience with implementations of 4700+ business intelligence solutions worldwide is that there is a huge disconnect between what goes on in marketing and in the more centralized systems. Moreover, many marketers are struggling with multiple data sources of different structures.

      Note that my main point here is not whether marketing alone is based on metrics(!) My point is that the entire value chain of information should be extended to include marketing also. Currently there is very good coverage of BI in operations: sales, inventory, production etc. BUT, connecting this information with exact trending in markets and opinion is not done ON A DATA LEVEL generally.

      As I said, there are of course always front-runners with good metrically based marketing, in our experience these account for about 10% of business intelligence customers. These are likely the first to seek the integration of the information value chain…

      Thank you both so much for commenting!
      Morton 😉

  • Thanks for a good post Morten,

    I agree that the value chain of information should be extended to include marketing also. But that’s just one side of the coin. A lot of times there’s a good coverage of BI in operations; but lack of enough data, or the right data, to be able to make the most business efficient decisions on a day to day basis.

    Also, many times data is only valuable in context with other data, to really make a difference. And that data may be outside of the organization. But by giving access to external data sources there’s a huge opportunity to empowering the whole organization.

    Best regards

  • Great post. Does anyone agree that self service business intelligence tools will help push this next frontier and place data and information in the hands of marketing teams?

  • Thanks, Anthony! Yes, I completely believe that self service BI and analytics tools will be the solution. However, it is important to note that the need to embrace new data sources, primarily external, is critical in addition to the traditional BI disciplines. In other words, self service needs to cover both the data integration and the presentation layer; this is why I stress the point of NoETL tools as an important part of the solution… 😉

  • Great post. We’ve continued the discussion here on our blog – http://www.matillion.com/insight/the-new-business-intelligence-strategy-self-service-bi/

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