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EXCLUSIVE – Data-driven Marketing: Insights, Trends and Challenges

EXCLUSIVE – Data-driven Marketing: Insights

Could you tell us more about your role as CMO of Cloudera? 

 I have been with Cloudera for about 3 months, having joined from another big data and machine learning company called, which uses big data and predictive analytics to inform sales processes, to determine who to call, when to call and what to say. So I came from somewhat of an adjacent marketplace, which was very focused on big data and machine learning.

I joined Cloudera largely because data-driven marketing is the future. The challenge lies in collecting, understanding and interpreting large sets of data accurately to drive good predictive outcomes. No matter who I spoke to, big data initiatives centred around conversations on how organizations can use analytics to explore new opportunities, and guard against unauthorized data access.

Cloudera was a company that kept coming up in these discussions so it was a very obvious thing to me when Tom Reilly, the CEO of Cloudera reached out. Joining Cloudera seemed like a very natural fit based on customer needs, my skillset and market trends.

In your short 3 months at the company so far, what are the areas that you think you can contribute to the company? 

 Number one is in generating demand for our products and services. As a company, Cloudera has experienced rapid growth and have a huge opportunity for additional demand in every market, especially in Asia and in Europe despite being a relatively new player in this industry. You can expect to see us make significantly more investments here in the Asia Pacific region, and in Singapore in particular. The interest level in this region is extremely high, be it from governments or private institutions or from the private sector. This is not surprising as companies today are seeing data as a way to leapfrog other nations or competitors for business advantage.

The second area is defining Cloudera’s value proposition to customers. Like a lot of Silicon Valley based technology companies, we get very excited about talking about our technology and how we can collaborate with customers to make data useful across any organization. Our technology is quite complicated for the average user a so a big part of my job here is to simplify our message, making it something that even your grandmother can understand.

For me, that really boils down to having a forward looking mind-set and for transformative organisations, regardless of governments or private institutions, to think of data as currency and as capital, be it financial capital or/and human capital. The data that runs your business or your government is the foundation upon which you make all of your decisions so from my perspective, making sure our message conveys that and spending a little less time on the technical specifications, is really important.

In simple terms, what is data-driven marketing? 

 In the consumer world, we have been leveraging data to inform selling and marketing situations for many years and all of us have become very comfortable with it. Across the retail industry, for instance, we see loyalty cards, which customers enjoy rewards in return for repeat business. This in turns allows the company to collect information from you and provide you with relevant offers to increase sales; say if someone is buying baby food, it is likely that they want to purchase diapers as well.

On the other hand, the world of B2B and governments have been slower in terms of adopting and applying this idea. However, the starting point is similar – you start with collecting, or as the technical people would put it, ingesting data that you can use to make informed decisions to prescribe things to your constituents. It could be as simple as monitoring your traffic data if you’re a government institution to monitoring exactly what’s happening on your website if you’re a private institution.

From a marketing perspective, it is about teaching organisations how to leverage data to their maximum benefit. Apart from B2B marketing, governments also do market themselves very much, and the Singapore government is an example of one that does an exceptional job of that.

How can governments and organisations leverage on data-driven marketing? 

 I think there are a variety of ways both governments and companies can profit from getting smart about data. With data, you can target a prospective customer or investor with a very personalised and tailored message that is built upon data that you collected, which gives you an understanding of their profile, demographics, and who they work for.  

One key point to note is the frequency of which you follow up on opportunities. In this digital age, it is important to follow up very rapidly and persistently. Most organisations globally take an average of about 48 hours to respond to a web lead; this could be somebody who visits your website and fills up a registration form because they want some content.

However, the best practice for following up with them is in fact, less than 5 minutes. If you fail to follow up quickly, you are very likely to miss the opportunity to engage with that individual. In addition, an average web lead only gets followed up 1.5 times, even though the best practice is 6 – 9 times.

Most organisations neither follow up quickly enough or persistently enough. Your follow up has to be data-driven, rapid and persistent. 

Do you see any major trends currently in the world of data-driven marketing? 

 Said simply, marketing is becoming sales. For a long time, the goal of marketing was to introduce a company or brand to the marketplace, allowing the sales team to take it from there and close the business. However, in late 2012, the Harvard Business Review revealed that for most organisations, about 60% of the selling cycle is complete before a salesperson ever gets involved. I would argue that this number has since gone up to 70 or even 75%.

What that means is that we have a group of very educated consumers today, and they do not want to talk to a salesperson until they have already done all their research. Therefore, it is incumbent upon marketing to take that journey further and further through the sales cycle and for sales to be super well-informed of what that the marketing journey looked like with that particular customer by the time the baton is handed over. Marketing runs the first three legs of the relay before passing the final baton to the sales team to finish the race.

This is very different process than it was before – it used to be sales that introduces the ideas to people – now, marketing and the media speak for you long before a sales person gets involved.

To me, having a very well thought out end-to-end marketing and selling process and journey is a megatrend. It is the marketer’s job to collect as much as data as possible during the time they’re shepherding the customers’ journey so that last baton hand-off goes successfully and the salesperson is very well armed with information to get it across the finish line.

Market intuition VS Market Data. How do you see these two concepts working? Is it a matter of balance or will there always exist a tension in making business decisions? 

 The brain can be seen as one big database, which catalogues every life experience you ever had and helps you make decision based on them. Intuition is simply your brain being data-driven based on all of your previous life experiences. Therefore, while intuition may feel like gut, it is actually quite data-driven.

That said, data and the way we are thinking of it, collected from multiple sources, both from your own companies and environmental variables that might impact it is a huge trend for marketers. Every one of them is going to be tested and more and more decisions will be data-driven. Without doing so, the likelihood of getting more budget, the likelihood of more investment in what you are trying to do is severely diminished because the CEO, CFO and the board are all looking for data to justify why you do the things that you do. 

In your experience, what are the challenges of data-driven marketing? 

 There are several. One of the biggest is data integration. From marketing systems, sales systems to financial systems, the data from each of them are stored and organised in different places. That makes it very difficult at times to rationalise all that data and bring it all together so that we can make informed decisions.

Challenge number two is data collection. It is a very similar concept, data gets collected from various marketing channels and gets stored at different place. For example, the data collected from clicking on a digital advertisement that you paid for with Google goes into a different store than if they visited your website and filled out a registration form, and go on. This again creates an integration challenge, which leads to the question of how the data is ingested in the first place? How do we capture it and right away get it to where it needs to go? Again, if you are not acting quickly and persistently with great data, you are not acting intelligently as a marketer.

Lastly, I would say, another huge one I would say is what I call data ‘freshness’. The data you have on a customer is only as good as the frequency with which you are collecting it. The best kind of data is collected without the citizen or consumer really even knowing that it is being collected. Traffic data is a great example of data being passively collected. Data this is voluntarily and regularly collected is the most useful kind and guess who has more of it than anybody else on the planet? Governments.

Governments need to figure out the best way to utilise it for the public good. So the challenges for us as marketers today are actually opportunities – to implement strategies that optimize processes to manage, share and analyse data assets effectively for the greater good. With this, companies will be better equipped to prepare their businesses for the year ahead. 


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