The right small data will empower the CMO to find their place in the boardroom

When we consider what it takes to execute a successful marketing campaign, strong creative alone is not enough to increase your business’s ROI.

Stewart Easterbrook

CMOs have access to a wealth of data to help inform business decisions but knowing which data is relevant and useful is the challenge. The industry has been awash with the over-used term ’big data’ for years but I want to focus the attention onto the capabilities of small data and recognising how to successfully apply it.

Knowing who your customer is, the impact on behaviour from their environment and how they interact with your brand is much more insightful than trying to cut up thousands of data sets, such as third party data, which are difficult to interpret and costly to do so. However, if it is only taken to the point of insight it will never be a force for change.

With just a small amount of information, the CMO will be able to make a big difference to business performance, providing them with a higher level of insight to position themselves as a more influential and powerful member in the boardroom.

During our Advertising Week panel, it was apparent that at the moment, finding the right way to use small data is a long way off as the industry has not yet fully recognised the benefits of exploiting their own data collected from its customers yet. However, CMOs are making moves in the right direction as they are realising that it’s not just about ‘data for data’s sake’ but talking about data and using it for change.

Chris Duncan, CMO of News UK, said that CMOs don’t have the bandwidth to manipulate big data so have to pick their fights wisely. They should be looking for trusted partners to apply their specialism, bringing them closer to the small data by helping to identify and manage it.

For example, how could you possibly be an alcohol brand without incorporating real-time weather data when you know your customers will buy more cider over a hot weekend? Or if you are a DIY retailer and you ignore the weather forecast and produce an advert for BBQs over Easter for it only to rain? Access to the right small information will have an enormous directional impact on your business.

Justin Skinner, VP of marketing at Cineworld, explained how once CMOs have obtained the data to unlock insights and prove how this will drive business growth, they can start talking the language of the boardroom and prove how marketing enhances business value. Cineworld has recently transformed its targeting approach as data proves that customers are more receptive to fresh content and film listings two days after having a good experience at the cinema.

Moves like this will not only encourage repeat purchase from regular customers, but show how the marketing budget is being used more efficiently and increasing the bottom line. We all have to fundamentally change the way we harness data and at the moment, as Marco Bertozzi, VP of global clients at VivaKi highlighted, agencies and data specialists don’t challenge CMOs enough to improve this process and capitalise on their customers’ small data.

We have more opportunities to be accurate with marketing now than ever before according to Tony Quinn, strategic advisor to Tesco. CMOs are all charged with trying to understand the value of where the marketing money is being put and what the long term effect on the business is, but it has to be quantified.

When you’re competing with the rest of the boardroom for a rationale as to why marketing should be recognised as an investment rather than a cost, then hard facts about how you’re using small data about your customer base to back this up is vital.

CMOs have not yet exploited the opportunities to use data to draw insight from it enough to make their marketing approaches more effective. In order for the CMO to still have prominence in the boardroom in five years’ time, they will have to embrace the capabilities of small and relevant data in order to make a big improvement to the performance of their marketing.

Stewart Easterbrook is chairman of Media iQ

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