Looking for a good summer read? Try ‘The Analytical Marketer’

“Analytics are leading the change in marketing, but the rest of the marketing organization must follow”

Summertime has finally arrived. Time to relax, enjoy a cool glass in the summer sun, lay back and... to read a good book perhaps. Each year, I face the same dilemma: shall I go for entertaining and thrilling fiction or for a well-written and enriching piece of non-fiction? I usually try to combine both but just to be on the safe side, on the top of this year’s list is ‘The Analytical Marketer’, an inspiring account of all the learnings gathered during the transformation of SAS’ global marketing division.

As a Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Shared Services for SAS, Adele Sweetwood was in charge of the transformation process for the marketing organization to meet the challenges and opportunities of analytics in a globalized market. To paraphrase a popular expression: it was only logical that we started to drink our own analytics champagne.

Adele was recently touring Europe to promote her book ‘The Analytical Marketer' and to discuss these learnings. Very valuable insights, so I thought I’d share the highlights with you, hoping you might like to add the book to your reading list as well.

1. Data and analytics have changed the marketing organization forever

The potential of analytics on the increasing amount of customer data, both historical and real-time, have changed the rules of the marketing game drastically. Much of what we used to do based on gut feelings, can now be based on clear and objective data. It doesn’t take away the need for creativity, but it allows us to align this creativity with the audience’s needs and aspirations.

2. Marketing organizations need to change their mindset - and structure

Before the analytics era, marketing was mostly organized around different channels: the web team acted as a silo, next to the e-mail marketing team and the advertising team. Each approached the customer with their own initiatives, but often with the same message. This resulted in the customer getting flooded with often repeated messages from the same vendor. In this new era, the customers are in charge of their dialogues with the vendor. 57% of customers’ purchase decision journey is complete before they even contact the vendor. If you don’t take that reality into account, you are hopelessly behind with any marketing or sales effort.

This means that vendors need to adopt a customer-centric mindset instead of a channel-driven one. But in order to achieve this, your marketing organization needs to be restructured drastically, with teams formed around the customers and not based on their activities. An effort which is easier said than done but it is very important to move your organization to the next level – together with your customer.

3. Data and analytics allow for a proactive and agile approach

The huge amount of data available are a blessing but also a huge responsibility. You can no longer afford to launch a campaign, and then sit back and wait for the results. The interaction is instantaneous now, and you need to take the best possible decision based on both historic and real-time data. That way you can create a personalized and satisfying journey with the customer and foster customer retention better than ever.

4. Marketing team: add data to creativity

At SAS, we used to see the marketing team as a bunch of ‘Mad Men’ lookalikes, perhaps without the tobacco and alcohol, but definitely a group of creative talents who outwit each other with one genius idea after another, based on nothing more than gut feeling and an unbridled fantasy and empathy. Nowadays, these skills are definitely still very welcome. But they will be even more effective when supported by data and by the immediate customer feedback. To capture this new wealth of data with the most recent marketing tools, however, you need new talent. Finding this new talent may prove a true challenge, because most of the required profiles hardly existed a few years ago. So it will be a matter of repurposing the existing talent when possible and looking for talent elsewhere when required. 

5. Marketing leaders: talk contribution, not cost!

The new analytics-driven marketing organization will also need new types of leaders. They need to hire retain, and orchestrate the talent required to succeed in this new era of customer contact. This will also entail a new way of measuring success: different job descriptions, different KPI’s, etc.
But they also need to manage the relationships with the other departments of the organization: with sales, to continuously inform each other of the latest customer status and results, but also with finance, to establish once and for all the value of the marketing as a contributor to the bottom line, instead of as a cost center. In both examples, lots of meetings, joint projects and continuous communication will be required.

6. Agility and flexibility are key to tomorrow’s success

When your marketing department has finalized its transformation journey, you should enjoy and celebrate! And the next day, you can prepare for the next transformation. 
Because that’s the inevitable reality of today: the market of tomorrow will be entirely different from today’s, with different technology and according different expectations. Think only of the new potential of the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, chatbots etc.
This means that, next to all other transformations, you should not forget to integrate this one important value: agility. Make sure you keep questioning yourself: are we still communicating through the channels our customers are using? Are we up to speed with the required technology? And, if not, what should be changed urgently and how can we achieve the next transformation successfully?

Marketing transformation is a never-ending story indeed. And there’s more to it than I could describe in this brief summary.

But if you’re convinced by now that you should read Adele Sweetwood’s entire book, or if you’d like to get inspired by one of her talks in the near future, feel free to contact me: I will be happy to help you along.