Four Companies Reveal Their Data Measurement Lessons

May 24, 2016
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Insider tips on building data quality, context, and how to align marketing measurement across the organization.

With data-driven marketing front and center in the minds of attendees at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference 2016, Ewan McIntyre and Christi Eubanks, research directors, Gartner for Marketing Leaders moderated a panel discussion of practitioner “tales from the trenches” to uncover real-world marketing measurement lessons.

These four digital marketing leaders shared relevant examples that benefit any marketer’s journey toward better measurement that fuses data to business outcomes:

  • David Barnes, GVP, digital and customer capabilities, SunTrust
  • Matt Casselton, VP, marketing and consumer engagement, Trinity Health
  • Ian Dallimore, director, digital innovation and sales strategy, Lamar Advertising Company
  • Hannah Thompson, senior manager, marketing automation and SEM, McGraw-Hill Education
Panelists from left: Ewan McIntyre, Gartner; Christi Eubanks, Gartner; David Barnes, SunTrust Bank; Matt Casselton, Trinity Health; Hannah Thompson, McGraw-Hill Education; Ian Dallimore, Lamar Advertising
Building the measurement machine

One challenge on the road to data-driven marketing is how to define data that is strategically important. For Mr. Barnes at SunTrust, who already possessed structured, well-organized data, the next step was to continue using that data for better marketing outcomes. He noted that it’s important to advocate across the organization that data should be used well.

For McGraw-Hill Education’s Hannah Thompson, whose disparate data was spread across multiple sites, geographies and business units; “The main challenge was connectivity.” The company’s task is to build a single source of truth for the data.

Read related articleCultivating a Data-Driven Culture.

The data quality story

Overall, the panel discussed data quality as an important theme and flagged it as a potentially enormous barrier to building a data-driven culture.Panelists noted that talking about data quality is “not really a sexy subject, but it’s important.” Ms. Eubanks remarked that “everybody has a story about data quality.”

“First-party data, even with its imperfections, is still the highest-quality data source.”

To underscore the point, Trinity Health’s Matt Casselton recalled the experience of using social listening tools to better understand public health issues that impacted his business. It’s not enough to search for the specific word describing a disease or addiction, he said. Rather, it’s important to search for other similar words from pop culture that people use to describe an issue. These may provide a more complete context of the issue.

The take-away was that marketing leaders need to hire talented analysts who can gather context to think critically about problems and laterally about solutions. Ian Dallimore from Lamar Advertising reminded the audience that first-party data, even with its imperfections, is still the highest-quality data source compared to third-party data.

Know your audience

Panelists discussed the need to clearly know who consumes the measurement output and tailor the report to that audience. One panelist, describing a CEO who was also a doctor, shared that when the CEO made patient rounds earlier in his career, he found it useful to see reports with more than the absolute metrics of heartbeat and blood pressure. He also viewed the trend line of where the numbers came from and where they were expected to go. In other words, it’s the pattern that matters in measurement, not just the data point.

A word on measurement

Mr. McIntyre closed the session by asking panelists to offer one word they would use to describe good data. The single-word answers and brief explanations showed at the same time the challenge and the opportunity available to marketers who embrace the data-driven measurement mandate.

What does good data mean to you?

  1. Universal — “Make it meaningful and real.”
  2. Unstructured — “You have to love unstructured data.”
  3. Current — “Data is best when it is relevant and applicable.”
  4. First-party — “You know yourself better than anyone.”
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