Drowning in data

The following is the first in a two-part series analyzing a first-of-its-kind study of 1,700 chief marketing officers from 64 countries and 19 industries by the IBM institute for Business Value. I'd like to thank IBM for providing this blogger with access to the study's lead researcher, Carolyn Heller Baird.

ManDrowningInData A global study of 1,700 chief marketing officers in 64 countries shows the majority share one common trait: they're drowning in a sea of data.

Conducted by the IBM Institute of Business, the CMO survey confirms that while marketers know data holds the key to customer insights, some 80 percent still rely on such traditional sources of information as market research, while an astounding 68 depend on sales campaign analysis to make their strategic decisions. Ugh. Talk about yesterday's news!

The 'marketer as Luddite' findings come at a time when the lifespan of the average CMO varies from between three and four years (less than any other member of the C-suite). And, to add even more stress to an already tenuous existence, IBM says CMOs and their bosses, CEOs, both identified “getting closer to the customer” as one of three key prerequisites to success in the 21st century. So, if the CMO knows her boss wants to get closer to the customer, but she's still living in the past when it comes to embracing ways in which to do so, it might be time to update the old resume.

Carolyn Heller Baird, IBM's lead CRM researcher and director of the global study, says CMOs ‘get’ that they have to do a MUCH better job interpreting all the data, but still cling to “…tracking markets and not individuals, and transactions rather than relationships.”

Why? Because finding the best new analytical tools is easier said than done, says Baird. “For one thing, CMOs are incredibly time pressed. For another, they're limited by budget and, in some cases, culture. So, change can't happen overnight.”

Where change IS happening, though, it's producing dramatic results. IBM featured Kraft Foods' Oreo Cookie as a case in point. Kraft had been struggling to take a bite out of the vast consumer pocketbook in the world's largest market for nearly 20 years. Then, finally, after LISTENING and ENGAGING with living, breathing human beings and not relying on data, Oreo struck gold (or cream, if you prefer). They made the cookie smaller and less sweet-tasting. Sales have since skyrocketed by more than 80 percent and in-store sales in some regions have more than tripled. Man, that's a whole lot of cookies!

To duplicate Kraft's success, says Baird, CMOs need to foster greater collaboration across the enterprise, especially with the chief information officer. They also need to build a staff with new and different skill sets all aimed at understanding the critical emotional connection a product, brand or organization must build with a customer.

Last, but not least, the best CMOs need to leave their ivory towers and personally walk the walk. “Look at your organization through your customers' eyes, as they progress through the full relationship cycle. Be a customer. Drop in on stores and sites. Go to your call centers and sit with randomly selected customer representatives. (Ask yourself) how easily can customers interact with your organization – before, during and after the sale?” says Baird. The best CMOs know the only true key to success is listening to individual customer wants and needs.

As Repman readers know, that's what I've been preaching for at least the past year. My awakening came after I suddenly woke up one day and realized I'd never experienced my own brand. Then, after surveying CMOs and PR managers, I found that most had never put themselves in their customers' shoes either. Now, I'm born again and proselytizing to the best of my ability.

Embracing new and dynamic forms of data research and building tighter bonds across the organization are two critical steps a CMO must take. The third, and perhaps most important, is both the easiest and hardest: finding the time to slip into a pair of customer's shoes and as Kraft did with Oreo Cookies in China, living the customer experience first-hand.

For more information about the IBM study, entitled 'From Stretched to Strengthened,' e-mail iibv@us.ibm.com. Tell them Repman sent you.

And, stay tuned for part two of my report on the IBM CMO study. I'll be speaking with Ms. Laird about which industries are leaders and which are laggards, and why.

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