Intelligent Metrix

Data to Metrics to Insight to Intelligent Decisions

Ensuring quality data from service providers

For those of us that have lived, eaten, and slept with data quality and data management it is hard to fathom that there are still pockets of those that have yet to define a solid foundation of data quality and data management best practices.  It is even harder still to take a step (leap) back into the roots of how data quality and data management issues all began.  Well, let me tell you, those pockets of organizations are alive and well in the most unlikely places – those companies that are providing data.

To be fair, there are some amazing companies out there that provide information and data that we use to improve and enhance our own data or take to analyze independently.  They may not be perfect (no one is!).  Though, they have defined themselves as servicing organizations with “better quality data” and stand by it with best practices of their own.  But, as enterprise organizations and even mid-sized companies have jumped on the band wagon and adopted sophisticated processes, solutions, and people that are dedicated to better information, there are still a significant number of services providers that lack the skills, tools, and practices that would ensure reliable information to measure our performance, understand our market, and take advantage of new opportunities.

At the end of the day, the data and information we source needs to be reliable.  It is important to guard yourself when both contracting with service providers and when you receive data.  Simply relying on the fact that the data is of high quality when you receive it is not good enough.  You need to be vigilant during the sourcing of providers as well as clearly defining how you can ensure what you received is what you paid for.  Here are some things to consider and ask when working with data providers:

  • How do they collect their information?
  • How do they verify that the information is valid?  What process, sources, and analysis is used?
  • Are they providing data to other customers for the same purpose you need the information for?  How many/what portion?
  • What is their repeat business rate?  Who are their top customers?
  • What purposes are their customers using their data?
  • What do they do to verify and validate your data prior to providing it to you?
  • What do they do to verify that the data they are providing is complete?
  • What guarantees do they or will they provide that the data meets your specifications and quality standards?
  • What is required on your end to validate that the data is accurate and reliable?
  • If you are purchasing tracking data (real time/period feeds), what initial and regular testing processes used to verify proper data transfers?
  • What is required on your end to ensure the data transfer is working initially and ongoing?

What have you done to ensure data from service providers is what you want?

Filed under: Data Quality, , , , ,

Analyst Skills are Hot

analytics and business intelligence jobs

BusinessWeek recently reported (listen to pod cast) that there are over 3 million jobs available in the US.  Of that, one of the hottest areas is for analysts. Looking at job posting trends from Indeed, even as the economy has stalled and affected recruitment, analytic and business intelligence jobs are still showing consistent demand.  In fact, even as IBM announced cuts, it has opened up job reqs for analysts to help customers identify opportunities and understand their businesses.  Don’t have all the skills, no problem, if you are an overall good fit IBM will train you.

Which brings up an interesting perspective of the analyst community.  While there are certainly the math and stat majors along with masters and PhD candidates, many of today’s analysts in corporations are self taught and accidentally landed into a data crunching career.  There aren’t many that went to college and said, “Gee, I’d like to be a statistician.”  But, somehow, many analysts have found an affinity toward analyzing data and putting it into context for gaining insight and making business decisions.

Not surprisingly, if you look at barriers in organizations, particularly marketing, and their ability to leverage data to achieve business goals, many feel they don’t have the knowledge to do so.  In fact, they may not know what they need to know to get the right person.  So, these coveted positions continue to remain unfilled, waiting for the right candidates to show up .  How long should your business wait to find the right person and what is that costing you in missed opportunity?

Finding the Right Candidates

When hiring, I’ve typically focused an one’s aptitude and capability to analyze information rather than the tools used or complexity of analysis they have done.  The first reason is that there are very few out there that would fit the bill and if they do it takes a lot of money to bring them in.  The second is that while I want analysts to understand standards and procedures to analyze data, I don’t want individuals with rigid and unimaginative thinking that can constrict their ability to look at information in a new way for better insight.    When it comes to complexity, investing in the proper training/education, and mentoring them through projects works the best.  This way their learning is specific to the business need rather than a broad based approach to statistics and analysis.  Essentially, provide the academic guidance within a relevant corporate environment and application.  Overall, candidates should be inquisitive, creative, and obsessed with data, and self starting.

I know others that have strong relationships with universities and pluck candidates out of programs that have provided applicable experiences in analysis.  This is a favorite of research organizations where they partner with professors on a regular basis.  In addition, there are associations and institutes that offer advanced research courses that up and coming analysts attend and are resources to help find those with a high aptitude for analysis.  Many times professors, leading statisticians, and research professionals teach these courses and can be conduits to finding the right candidates.

How do You Fill Your Analyst Positions?

If you regularly hire analysts, what are you looking for?  What have you found makes an analyst successful in your company?  And, what advice do you have to help those that are having trouble filling analyst positions?

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Filed under: Hiring, , , , , , ,

B2B Lead Nurturing is Not Linear

Lead Nurturing Lead PassIt is much easier and cheaper to work with people that know you than it is to build a new realm.  That is what many marketers and companies are realizing as they shift marketing investment.  Lead nurturing is now more important than ever.  Yet, if you analyze your database, what does lead nurturing look like?  When is a lead qualified to truly enter into the sales cycle?

Demand and lead generation steps have typically progressed from response to lead pass without adequate filtering or analysis that a lead is ready to engage in the sales process.  This has hurt marketing’s credibility in generating real value to the pipeline.  It has put the work on sales to ‘clean’ the database and have them focus energy on leads that aren’t interested or ready for personal connection and may be of lower value than cold calling.  Additionally, some companies try to alleviate this by adding a telemarketing stage prior to a lead pass to personally assess and qualify a lead for the pass.  This can be a costly investment for marketing if again, it is putting leads into this step of the process before leads are fully baked.  Yet, that doesn’t have to be the case.  Properly analyzing and defining leads or groups of leads by their activity within an account can offer sales insight that puts them closer to the opportunity.  This is where lead nurturing can be a strategic effort rather than a tactical process.

Traditional lead tracking reports show a linear funnel from response to disposition within a campaign or program which mimics the linear aspect of the lead process.  In reality, leads have most likely been associated across campaigns, social media marketing interactions, organic web visitations, and even events or interactions with sales and other organizations.  How leads interact, where they go, the frequency, and topic concentration tells you a lot about how ready they are to enter a sales engagement process.  Additionally, compared and correlated to other leads within the same organization, you get a good picture of account readiness and opportunity.

This analysis in many cases is conducted to create target segments as launch pads for new campaigns.  Leveraged within a lead nurturing process, it can be the used as the decision point for when it is best to pass a lead to sales.  It becomes what qualifies the lead to move on vs. relying solely on a single response point on its own or in a linear context.  In fact, analyzed properly, reports and dashboards can be provided to sales that provide a picture of high opportunity areas within their accounts that they may not have seen.  For instance, an up-tic in white paper readership and participating or scanning of social media marketing content on products within an account might provide account managers early warnings that companies are assessing new solutions.  By having a report that provides context on the customer relationship provides sales a greater ability to pick up on the lead nurturing process without having to wait for marketing to pass the lead themselves.

Today, leads are classified as meeting minimum requirements of responding to a campaign and having check boxes of information filled out.  Lead nurturing is really about understanding interactions with your customers and how those interactions are indicators for next steps in the relationship.  Analyzing and recognizing patterns within your contact and account databases is more than identifying segments for targeting new messages and offers.  Used strategically it can be a transition point in your lead pass process improving your ability to generate business and reduce resources and budget through better focus.

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Filed under: business intelligence, CRM, Lead Management, , , , , , , , , , , ,

B2B CRM: The Right Contact Mix for Your Customer Relationship

You’ve spent years gathering contacts into your databases.  You’ve implemented a data quality practice that is now starting to give you a solid picture of your universe.  It is now time to classify your contacts.

Invariably, your database is more than just purchasing/decision maker contacts.  All departments have gathered people’s information depending on the purpose.  It offers a window into your business dealings.  It also offers a window on your ability to market and sell.  Just as you consider vehicles, content, and message to deliver to your database, you also think about who you are reaching and who can be converted.

SOA and MDM initiatives are great because they bring together a full picture of interactions with the customer as well as who is part of those interactions.  But, not all contacts are created equal.  Just as not all customers or companies are created equal.  It is the first thing that is considered when determining targeting strategies.  The size of a database is typically determined based on the silo it is intended to help.  Marketing wants decision makers, finance wants accounts payable, customer support wants end users, investor relations wants analysts and media.  By themselves, these data silos serve a purpose.  Together, they can show a picture of where your awareness, message and brand really are.

A good  test once consolidation of data bases is done, or even within your CRM system alone if it receives lists and feeds from other internal sources, is to classify contacts based on their primary interaction with your company.  Everyone in your database has had a reason to connect.  Bringing these reasons into a standardized category will help determine the value they bring to a marketing program, customer relationship, or evangelist role.  Monitoring the ratios of these groups within a cusotmer relationship and firmographic data can give insight into the ability to grow a relationship, if it is at risk, or there is no relationship and the company serves another purpose.

While as marketers we typically look at the entire size of our database to determine if we have enough contacts to convert to leads, if those leads are weighted towards a low number of companies, or they are not the right contacts, then our efforts can be wasted.  With the cost to acquire customers and contacts expensive, having a mechanism to determine when to purchase lists and how much to purchase will refine the amount of resources and budget needed.  In addition, messaging and engagement strategies can be modified to align to the type of relationship outcome you intend.

So, rather than thinking about personas when you need to target, think about them strategically and as an indicator of the strength of relationship with your customer.

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Filed under: business intelligence, CRM, Data Quality, marketing operations, , , , , , , , , , ,

Driving Marketing Effectiveness and Efficiency from Within using Social Media

I wonder if the real value of social media for B2B marketing is not the external use to drive sales and customer relationships, but to improve marketing capabilities and become more efficient.

In 2007, the company I worked for set up a social network and everyone was commanded to create a profile and connect with our fellow marketers.  The reason behind it was that we were expanding the team to China and it was a way that our new collogues could feel integrated with the marketing groups in the US and Europe.  It was all very ‘friendly’.  To be honest, I groaned and only created my profile because I was required.  For me, personal life is not what I wanted my marketing leadership to see or the people that worked for me.  My profile was tame to the point of boring.

It goes to show that they didn’t really get the value.  Outside of the fact that it was a requirement to share you personal self, there was a real missed opportunity to drive marketing effectiveness and efficiencies.  

Improve Effectiveness through Sharing

Each quarter regional and program teams were required to review campaigns and programs.  For several weeks marketers prepared their slides to show what was working, what didn’t, and next steps.  These were long conference call sessions where people presented and we all listened in.  Mostly, unless you were involved in the program or campaign, your phone would broadcast the meeting while you worked on what ever it was you had to do.  Not a lot of value there.

Social media would have provided the perfect platform to post presentations and create forums for questions and discussions on how to apply what was learned to other sectors of marketing.  Discussions on the calls were limited to those that were involved which was required for time sake.  But, using Twitter or micro-blogging on a social network would have provided key points to marketers to read as well as offer the ability to shoot over questions.  Reviews didn’t have to merely operate within the allotted time slot and webcast, they could be extended, shared, and saved for all to learn from later.

Create Efficiencies in Project Management

Any major project conducted was stored within an internal project management and knowledge management solution called ProjectLink.  All documents and images were posted there along with managing the change/revision process.  These project environments were huge, messy, and primarily acted as a glorified shared folder.  You had to dive into files to truly understand the project and there was no conversational stream to provide insight or background on why something was decided upon.

Setting up a project group using social media could alleviate workflow, sharing, and archiving problems by containing project management.  Instead of using email and IM, forums and micro-blogging could provide the communication streams.  Content could still be stored, but it would also have notes and comments attached for review and reference of other team members or other marketers.  A big benefit is that it could also provide a platform to share assets and content across marketing projects and groups to re-use and re-purpose allowing for reduction of duplicative work.

Efficient Workflow with Other Organizations

Marketing was a pretty silo’d organization.  While there was a significant amount of conversation with sales and product management, the reality is that in the end, marketing would go off and do their work.  Even in the hand-off process at the lead management stage, the CRM system controlled the process and created a wall of sorts between marketing and sales.

Opening up the door between marketing and key stake holders in other organizations is what social media is made for.  As marketing might share amongst themselves in a social network, they could invite others to their groups or set up new groups to facilitate relationships.  In the sales process, key accounts could be manages through a joint relationship between marketing and sales through asset and content sharing and communication support.  Hooked in with conversations that marketing is having with customers would add significant value to closing business with social media.

Efficient and Effective Marketing Operations

Marketing needs to consider how social media from an internal perspective can help them be effective and efficient internally.  Today, too many forms of communication, and silos within the organization drag down ROI. Implementing social media capabilities will spread knowledge, drive operational efficiency, and break down walls between marketing and other organizations.

Filed under: CRM, marketing operations, Performance Management, , , , , , ,

B2B Social Media – Has Marketing Effectiveness and Efficiency Improved?

How much effort do you need to put into social media before it pays off in B2B? The answer probably has to do with what you expect from social media in the first place. The problem I see for B2B social media marketing is that instead of 1) increasing marketing effectiveness by facilitating sales and deepening customer relationships 2) making marketing more efficient by streamlining process and resources, it may be doing just the opposite.

Marketing Effectiveness

In it’s ability to facilitate sales and deepen the customer relationship, time and again, marketers and sales are unable to translate awareness and conversation trends in social media to sales. In addition, I wonder if connection trends, comment ratios, and sharing ratios are really anything but another way to track existing customer relationships. I’ve narrowed down marketing effectiveness metrics to four (4) key themes. In each case, I’m looking for improvements due to social media.

  • Improve win/loss ratio – Sales may ultimately be responsible for this metric, but marketing is responsible for lead nurturing which contributes to it. The reality is that the awareness marketing that is happening in social media may not be doing anything but providing another outlet for the same content. Tactics such as white paper promotion and communication of offers may appear to increase leads, but views and registrations may ultimately be with the same people already existing within the customer database. In the end, is the social media marketing tactic really changing customer perception during the sales process to make them choose you’re solution more often? I’m not sure it does.
  • Shorten sales cycle – I pose that the sales cycle may actually be lengthening in social media marketing rather than shrinking. Social media appears to be focused more on awareness building than lead generation. This effort is at the beginning stages of the marketing funnel. In fact, because of the conversational nature of social media, it takes longer to convert a ‘getting to know you’ dialogue to a ‘let’s do business’ dialogue. So, instead of coordinating marketing efforts with sales engagement and the decision process, social media is acting more as a fishing net.
  • Increase sales – Due to an increased sales cycle, you may be losing time to help close a deal. Solely focusing on lead nurturing vs. lead conversion can have the affect of creating a state of purgatory for potential customers. Social media, in theory, should help expand your footprint within your customer base by improving customer relationships. However, all social media marketing is doing today is proving a facelift to existing customer forums, white-paper libraries, and transitioning web content to blog content.
  • Reduce churn – There is much buzz around Twitter’s ability to manage customer expectations and improve customer support. Thus, this translates to reducing customer defection. The issue here is that this isn’t happening in the marketing organization. This is a function of customer service. Where marketing fails is that customers are focused on their business, not yours. Conversations in social media marketing today are still more focused on ‘look at me Mr. Customer’. All the customer wants is for you to look at them. It is an effort for customers to utilize and participate in social networks and gather information in social media. There are still too many places the customer has to go to interact. We make it difficult to solidify relationships by managing multiple properties and outlets to connect.

Marketing Efficiency

There is a real hidden cost to utilizing social media for B2B marketing. It is the cost to do business. Due to the number of ways you can connect to customers, it requires a significant amount of effort to cover and manage all the properties. While you can write a single blog and push it out across multiple communities, the lack of diversity in conversations may hurt more than help. Each community probably has a different DNA. One message is not going to be relevant for all. Thus, you have to produce more content across more topics to be effective.

Another aspect of inefficiency is the art of the conversation. For social media to work, it requires a de-centralized communication web to interact with customers. Sales already has this in place as it is what they do every day. Marketing is smaller and has less resources. This puts pressure on the organization to have personalized attention to carry on a conversation. Marketing needs the ability to respond to comments, participate in groups in a conversational manner, and organize discussions and groups around a multitude of topics that customers are interested in. If you go to forums today, there are few that have real conversations happening. Mostly you see blogging and promotional content being posted. This is because it takes a huge amount of bandwidth to truly be interactive with your customers.

Lastly, there is inefficiency to how marketing manages relationships across multiple social media platforms. Again, the number of venues creates chaos in the ability to recognize a single customer. Efforts are duplicative and can create problems in a cohesive conversation and message. Marketing technology needs to be streamlined to better manage relationships.

What’s Next?

As social media marketing has been the buzz and huge shifts are being made to transition and leverage its potential, B2B marketing organizations need to be mindful of what their business charter is and how they meet their goals through effectiveness and efficiency. Social media is just part of the mix, and as with any marketing effort, you don’t want to put all your efforts into one tactic. If not properly monitored against key business benchmarks it can quickly de-focus your marketing efforts and lead to poor performance.

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Filed under: business intelligence, Performance Management, , , , , , , , , ,

Getting On the Same Page – Marketing and the Business

This week, VisionEdge Marketing released the findings of it’s 8th Annual Marketing Performance Measurement and Management (MPM) survey.  The finding that resonated with me the most was the disconnect between Marketing Leadership and CEOs.  

Only 17% of CEOs would give marketing an ‘A’ where as 48% of Marketing Leadership thinks this is the grade they would receive.

At the heart of this, Marketing has been unable to clearly articulate the value it brings to the business. While Marketing is building programs and activities to drive toward business goals, communicating impact is hampered by an inability to measure performance effectively.  So, as metrics that are tracked to see if functional and operational goals (response rate, lead volume, etc) at campaign and program levels are showing desired results, they aren’t being linked to executive metrics.  When CEOs want to know about Marketing’s impact on the business, Marketing is talking about the details.

Marketing does recognize that there are issues as they express dissatisfaction with the ability to measure and track marketing performance.  The marketing operations function has reached a maturity level within marketing organizations and dashboards if not implemented are part of the plan for 2009.  However, analytic skills, process, tools, and data all need further focus to implement a best practices approach.  Training would help to get Marketing to connect activities to the business faster and with less missteps, however, little training budget is available as part of MPM initiatives.

In a down economy, Marketing cannot afford to be perceived as marginally effective and CEOs may be shooting themselves in the foot by reducing marketing budgets and resources.  Marketing needs to build tighter alignment between what it measures to business outcomes and show the value it brings, as well as how it is moving business forward.

*I partnered with Laura Patterson, the President of VisionsEdge Marketing, to help with data analysis and writing this report.  While the full report is for sale, I am not receiving any portion of the profits.  My role was only in the creation of the report.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Training IS a Best Practice – Not Just a Component

Staying abreast of best practices isn’t enough.  You also need to know how to implement the fundamentals.  

A report by AIIM/IBM on business process management (BPM) took a look at issues experienced by organizations implementing BPM.  Top of the list: underestimating the process and organizational issues (45%); lack of staff knowledge and training (41%), excessive scope creep (29%).  And, this in not confined to BPM.  The take-away, what you don’t know will hurt you.

Many organizations may consider training a high priority.  However, management and employees rarely have the time or understand how to get the proper training.  Simply reading trade books and articles or attending event seminars and college courses is not enough.  Management and employees need hands-on and micro-seminars that focus on building the analytic skills and innovation techniques that bridge the gap between high level ideas and take it to practice.  High-level content needs to be tailored to the company’s issues and environment.

In the three issues listed above, training is core to the pain felt in underestimating process and organization issues, and scope creep.  Pain is felt because most learning is being done on the job after business requirements and requests come in.  Instead, project leaders and subject matter experts need to educate themselves on process, tools and the implementation scenarios within their environment to focus on the right inquiries during the business analysis phase prior to project launch.  

Training is also necessary for successful implementation.   In many cases, training is an afterthought of the project and inadequate.   Change in processes or the implementation of new tools can be difficult for end-users and can take 6 month of more for people to be proficient and effective.  Comprehensive training along with appropriate documentation and reference tools will make the transition faster and smoother helping you realize improvement and ROI sooner.

How to Leverage Training

Analysis Proficiency:  People should understand scenario based analysis and how to use tools, data, and inquiry techniques to align best practices to internal business environments.  Examine processes and pain-points with possible next steps accounting for various methods that fit your business, goals, and capabilities.

Right-sourcing:  Training resources need to be tailored to closing gaps between generic concepts and internal practice.  Micro-seminars and peer-reviews focusing on specifics within like organizations with similar problems will help develop and refine road-maps.

Future-casting:  Once abreast of new practices and solutions that align to your business, start training.  You’ll most likely have an idea of business requirements and hurdles that lead you to finding value in a concept.  Get smart before you begin the project.

Hire an Expert:  If you are truly re-engineering, have an expert(s) on the project to represent the business and technical aspects to be the go-to for in project training.  They can help with scenarios, alignment, analysis, and solution decisions that streamline a project and position for success.

Filed under: Performance Management, , , , , , , , ,

Social Media: Back to Spreadsheets

It’s a dirty word right now – spreadsheets.  IT departments want to remove our dependence on spreadsheets and convert us over to a secure, controlled, shared, and robust analytic environment.  I would love that!  But, I have a problem, social media.

I’m managing more properties and content that is outside the realm of my corporate environment but I still have to report back and show how it is doing.  The only way I can do this is by using several analytic tools across multiple properties.  I grab the stats I need and punch that into a spreadsheet.  Then, I go to my web analytics reports, grab those stats, and consolidate them with my social media data on my spreadsheet. After that, I consolidate my lead metrics with my internet metrics for a 360° view of my marketing efforts.

It is all very time consuming and open to data entry error.

Business Intelligence is great to track internal process, but it is doing nothing to help track activities outside the corporate environment.  So, I’m stuck with spreadsheets.  Can you help?

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Filed under: business intelligence, Performance Management, , , , , , , , , ,

Archiving Strategy: Data Relevance

We often think of the relavence of data when we want to include or exclude it from analysis or process.  However, are you thinking about relavence as part of your data quality effort?

Just as you focus data quality efforts to clean existing information, there are invariably records that can’t be cleansed or enhanced.  They have no value in either business analytics or business process.  They are noise, similar to the noise you have when there is bad data.  To save and maintain them in your database can affect your ability to accurately analyze information, continue to deflate confidence in data, and if a significant percentage of your database, will cause problems in performance and added maintenance.  Developing an archival strategy as part of your data quality practice is a significant component that should not be overlooked.

Benefits of Data Relevance

  • Trust in data
  • Enables process
  • Accuracy of analysis
  • Supports decisions
  • Database optimization

It can be tempting to simply delete records from your databases.  Though, this can have a detrimental affect due to data dependencies within your databases as well as causing non-compliance in regulated environments.  Instead, it is best to formulate a strategy that flags non-relevant data removing or suppressing it from user interfaces and analytics.

Components of Archiving Strategy

  • Data decay rates – Attributes of records that loose relevance over time.  This component is a good guide on the frequency at which you will focus cleansing efforts.  It also provides an indicator on when data is approaching a horizon when a record will lose its relevance.  Age of the data and activity related to a record, even if a record is complete, can signify whether the data is relavant and open to archiving.
  • Minimum requirements of record viability – Records should continually be assessed to determine if they meet the minimum standards of use.  Failure to meet minimum requirements is a leading indicator that the record is a candidate for archiving.
  • Relevance of record to analysis, process, decisions – If a record is not going to be used in analysis, process, or decision making, there is not need to keep it in use.  This may be the case if processes have been optimized and certain information is no longer needed.  Or, it could be that it was a candidate for archiving due to decay rates and minimum data requirements.  Additionally, relavance may be determined when integrating systems where old records with old transaction history is not relevant to the existing or new business.
  • Regulatory compliance – In highly regulated environments like health care, there are standards on what you can and cannot remove.  Records may not be useful in existing process, analysis, and decision making, but might be required in certification or other compliance related activities.  Archiving ensures that information is not deleted from primary systems.  Although, you may have to provide a mechanism that provides adequate access to data for compliance.

An archiving strategy is a critical component of data quality best practices.  It will continually help you focus on improving and refining your data quality projects as well as thinking strategically about how you use and manage your data on a daily basis.  Establish an archiving strategy at the forefront of your data quality initiatives and you start your efforts off on the right foot.

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