Data’s value for marketers may have been widely recognised by seven out of ten practitioners. But its deeper effect has been to leave 72% feeling more anxious in their role than a year ago, while 71% feel overwhelmed. This may well be the new normal for the marketing profession, according to Steve McNicholas, managing direction, marketing solutions, at Callcredit Infomation Group, which discovered the issues in a survey carried out by among 151 senior UK marketers.
“Growing numbers of clients are telling us that their data is posing an increasing challenge and, as such, data dilemmas are now standard,” he told DataIQ. “Despite the clear strategic objective for data to better empower their business, our research revealed that many marketers are feeling ‘overpowered’ by their data. The fact that they feel they are not able to exploit their data fully is what is ultimately causing the anxiety.”
Marketers are undergoing an identity crisis as 80% increase the amount of time they spend working on data - on average, five hours and 36 minutes, which for 13% is seen as too much but but for 29% is not long enough. This new focus on data has left 72% feeling it is having a negative impact on the creative aspects of their role, while 69% say that data is distracting them from their core marketing duties.
The research identified three core factors which are creating this pressure on the marketing department: skills, resources and data quality. “Our survey highlighted the fact that respondents fully appreciate the business benefits data brings - 92% of marketers surveyed said data insights are not just key to their marketing, but also the overall business objectives,” said McNicholas.
“Despite this recognition, a third of respondents have no data insight or analytical resource to support their data objectives. What’s more, those organisations who did have such a resource felt this needed even greater investment in the coming years,” he added. “Part of the problem is a quality issue, where time spent simply getting the data to a position of use is detracting from the task at hand - to use the data strategically.”
There is no lack of recognition that data is here to stay and offers huge potential for marketing - 82% predicted that the new battlefield for marketing would be digital intelligence. At an individual level, only 29% felt they had the right skills to take advantage, leaving the majority facing a task for which they do not currently feel equipped. That is why 44% will be investing in training over the next two years.
As a data business, Callcredit Information Group has invested extensively into the skills and resources required, from data analysts to data scientists, to handle the data it gathers and processes for clients in order to derive value for their businesses. McNicholas believes that the recent emphasis by clients on big data may have led to a loss of focus on the underlying business issues which it is meant to resolve. This is clear in the fact that 31% of marketers are using unstructured data. close to the number (38%) who use transactional data.
“A common problem many businesses face is that they collect a large volume of data, but not all of it is relevant. We help many of our clients recognise which pieces of data will deliver the most meaningful insights,” he said. “Depending upon the task, we’ve found that often less is actually more. This approach becomes easier once you have defined the segments, characteristics or insights that deliver the most meaningful data.”
Data quality continues to present a challenge and may be responsible for some of the anxiety felt as marketers question whether they data they are using is fit for purpose - just 36% expressed satisfaction with their current level of data quality. McNicholas says that businesses need to invest now in order to close the gap between the strategic vision and the tactical delivery. “As the quantity of data continues to increase, there will be a growing demand for experts with the skills to manage the quality of the data. So businesses should act now to tackle the data skills gap and ensure that their ‘quality dilemma’ will not worsen,” he said.
Starting with a focus on data quality, through cleansing, enhancement, deduplication and suppression is the first step towards reducing the anxiety felt by marketers, he argues. That helps to clarify which data is truly of value to the organisation and makes a difference when dealing with customers. With that value in sight, businesses need to take the plunge and hire in new skills. Says McNicholas: “I would recommend working with data scientists and analysts who have the ability to interpret the statistical analysis of the data, the algorithms and methods needed to leverage all of this data.”