In pursuit of data-driven creativity and efficiency


Marketing has changed tremendously in the last few years, both organizationally, as a function, and the types of activity involved. Peter Hinssen, in The Network Always Wins, suggested that marketing is now a matter of influencing the network of information that has the customer at its heart. This means, in practice, moving from a marketing function to marketing capabilities. It means being able to move quickly, in response to environmental changes, to experiment and to innovate. It also means being able to move efficiently and with one voice.

As the external market is more dynamic than ever – and I guess we all know that trend is there to last – our organizational model needs to be adaptable and to provide us with agility that our customers have the right to expect. The network organization we put in place is helping us to cope with these challenges in an efficient and in an effective way.

The days of Mad Men-type ‘gut feeling’ marketing are long gone. Marketing is rapidly shedding its creative image, and embracing a much more data-driven approach. But this transformation is far from painless for organizations or individuals.


At an organizational level, Adele Sweetwood’s book The Analytical Marketer provides a blueprint for moving to this more analytical approach to marketing. For field marketers, however, and those who work closely with them, the challenges may be different. How does strategic transformation translate into day-to-day practice for field marketers and sales teams? And what new skills and attitudes may be necessary to equip marketers for our ‘new world’, to provide our customers with that holy grail of unmatched customer experience that will differentiate a company from its competitors?

Knowing your customers

In B2B marketing, field marketers, together with sales teams, are often the people who know customers best. But knowing people face-to-face does not always translate into business insights. Better use of analytics, and particularly micro segmentation - breaking your customers down into very small groups based on insights from behavioral and other data - can offer huge benefits in terms of personalization and targeted communications.

This also works well in B2C marketing, with large numbers of customers. The benefits in B2B marketing could be even greater, giving the ability to treat customers as a ‘market of one’, and provide highly personalized communications. The precise use is likely to be different in B2B, but it is not hard to see the potential.

Adele Sweetwood noted in her book, and in an interview with Natascha Schøtt, that it is important to remember that customer journeys are created by customers, not organizations or marketers. Customers choose their route, and they are in control in a way that was unthinkable just a few years ago. This therefore means that customers should not just be at the heart of marketing activity, but that their behaviors should be driving it.

It is, therefore, important not to overcommunicate. An omni-channel world means that we can communicate in many different ways, and it is easy to get swept up in the moment, and conclude that more is better. However, for customers - and for all of us as recipients of marketing communication - this is not the case. We do not distinguish mobile from email from browsing, and often see multiple communications as too much. At best, we look away, and at worst, we disconnect altogether.

Sweetwood describes the need for organizations and marketers to ‘look under the hood’ and see what is really going on. Digging deep into the data will provide insights into what works - and what doesn’t. For an organization, that is really important. For example, it allows campaigns to become more agile, adapting them to fit the response of the market and target audience. Being able to respond to customers immediately - and certainly during the campaign, rather than long afterwards - is likely to have a significant impact on return on investment.

It seems to me, though, that this must also be true for individual marketers as well as the organization, and on a customer-by-customer level. Knowing which customers are most profitable, and most likely to respond to marketing activity, means that targeting can be even more precise, and therefore more effective. Again, it will give a better return on investment.

Data driven creativity

Marketing has been rapidly shedding its creative image. However, I think there is a caveat to that. There is still a place for creativity in marketing. It is simply that creative decisions must be backed by data, and not just ‘gut feeling’. Analytical marketing is essential from top to bottom of the organization: from field to boardroom.


About Author

Patrick Xhonneux

Vice President, EMEA Marketing

Two decades after becoming part of the global software industry, Patrick is still fascinated and passionate about how software solutions improve business effectiveness, foster innovation and enhance everyday life. Today he has the privilege of leading one of the most energetic marketing teams across EMEA as SAS contributes world class analytics to drive success for our customers. As a vocal advocate of the digital economy and how it fundamentally transforms enterprise roles in the 21st century, Patrick is an enthusiastic contributor to the global transformation movement. In May 2014 he accepted a two-year mandate in the Board of AmCham EU, serving as Chair of the Operations Group.

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