Why brands need to embrace automation for better data health
As HSBC and Salesforce Datorama demonstrated at the Festival of Marketing, marketers need to move away from manual processes to realise their data’s value and identify opportunities proactively.
Marketers are still struggling quite significantly with tying up all their data into a coherent, usable resource, according to the latest research from Salesforce Datorama – but all is not lost. The good news is that everyone is pretty much in the same boat, as HSBC’s head of marketing performance and enablement, Alison Hanrahan, told the Festival of Marketing.
In conversation with Salesforce Datorama’s EMEA product marketing director, Jonathan Beeston, Hanrahan admitted that even a company with the experience and resources of HSBC often struggles to manage data quality and make it usable.
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Happily, Hanrahan was on hand with some helpful suggestions as to what organisations should be doing to get their data under control – and none of them require being a multibillion-dollar global banking institution.
Like everything in life, Hanrahan suggested that it helps to admit you have a problem: “If we can't rely on the data… then that can be a terrible foundation for collaboration. I would encourage people to lean into those conversations, asking questions like: ‘Where is the source of this data?’ Once you recognise where the data can fall down and everybody has the same understanding it builds a much stronger relationship.”
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From Datorama’s research, Beeston revealed that marketers’ top challenges are data veracity, the ability to connect data from multiple sources, employee skills, and data variety and volume – the latter not helped by the fact that the channels they need to use it across seem to multiply every day.
He also said that nearly a third of respondents (30%) were spending one week out of every month processing their data manually, with only a quarter of marketers able to fully automate their data management. Add this to the fact that most of the initiatives businesses think will be crucial to their growth over the next 24 months are heavily dependent on data, and it’s hardly surprising marketers are frustrated.
HSBC's Alison Hanrahan on data maturity
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Then, she says, the trick is to create internal demand for the data – which may sound the wrong way round, but if colleagues don’t know how data would help them, opportunities will be missed. “It's one thing to make the data available but you have to have people who want to access it as well. We focus an awful lot around adoption programmes, making sure [they] understand that value.”
Even then, timeliness can be an issue. While nearly a third of marketers spend a week per month sorting out their data, more than one in 10 take even longer and 2% admit they are doing it all the time. Without tools such as automation, these marketers are only able to be reactive because they can only act on insights once the data processing is complete.
“With higher data maturity you can start using tools like artificial intelligence that can help you be proactive and really find trends in that data, make the best use of that data in order to inform your decisions in the future,” she added.
Getting the tools in place – and teaching people how to use them – has got to be at the heart of developing a better data strategy. There’s a sense that marketers are somehow scared of automation, and even warier still of artificial intelligence. But these are precisely the tools that are going to free organisations from the vicious cycle of too much time spent manually managing data, which leads to missing data-led opportunities, failing to generate business returns from data and then deprioritising investment in improved data management.
To illustrate the argument, Hanrahan pointed to the symbiotic relationship between marketer and machine. She sees the potential for saving both time and cost, freeing the marketers up to develop the creative, strategic initiatives that are the foundation for future growth. ■