One of the things I love most about the marketing tech industry is its rapid evolution — new solutions create new opportunities, which result in innovation that circles back to new solutions. What’s more, I’m lucky enough to have a job that’s almost entirely focused on observing this evolution in order to benefit customers.
During the last year, there’s been significant technological progress that has created many new opportunities (read “needs”) among marketers, but one has stood out more than any other simply due to the number of times it has been brought up during discussions with marketers: the desire to combine all offline data with newly standardized online systems.
That last part very likely confused you. And that’s probably because of two words: “offline” and “online.” Allow me to define my terms (which I assure you I didn’t make up):
This is any data that’s already integrated and synced with your marketing and sales systems. For example, prospects and leads generated through your website or landing pages. This kind of data requires no manual manipulation or importation to be nurtured, scored and sent on to sales — it’s hooked-up and ready to go.
This is everything else. Online and offline data vary by organization (some orgs have ecommerce sites that are fully integrated with their marketing systems, others must manually import this data), but there are a few categories that are very often offline: events, purchased lists, webinars, and of course, third-party media programs.
This data is seldom directly injected into marketing automation systems or CRMs. More often, marketing pros must consolidate, standardize and scrub spreadsheets before importing leads into their systems. Or, in some cases, there’s data that doesn’t go through marketing automation at all, but rather straight on to sales.
If you’ve been reading the Integrate blog for a while, you know the processes I just listed (“consolidate, standardize and scrub spreadsheets”) aren’t new. In fact, we have seen and discussed them many times before. What’s new is that we’re not just talking about media and leads anymore. When we dive in with marketing ops professionals, the same conversation is happening:
Getting the prospect data from media partners quickly and accurately is essential. Can we also do this with our events, lists, membership programs and trial download site?
Initially, we thought these were one-off cases and not a core concern. But after hearing this question the twentieth time in a single month, we brainiacs thought there may be a trend afoot. And we were right. Offline, fragmented sources are being discovered every day.
Marketing automation software has cemented its role in marketing organizations, but it’s generally focused on inbound leads. Marketers are now aiming to create the same efficiencies among their offline data programs that are responsible for a substantial percentage of their pipeline. But they largely remain disconnected.
Embrace the stepchild (offline data) as if it were your own (online data).
The problems with leaving offline data disconnected are manifold. Here are just a few:
- It hinders, if not completely precludes, data fluidity. When data from disparate programs isn’t aggregated, standardized and displayed on a single interface, you can’t measure or optimize programs effectively. If it’s not governed, then you’re likely sending poor quality over to your sales team. And if it isn’t automatically imported into your marketing automation and CRM systems, then your velocity and accessibility will suffer. (To learn more about data fluidity, read this white paper).
- It prevents a complete view of the customer. With data spread across internal and external systems, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to gain comprehensive insights into customers’ activity and engagement. This results in ill-targeted marketing messages and content selections that are destined to perform poorly.
- It wastes resources and marketing skills. Marketers are hired to plan, execute, analyze and iterate campaigns for performance. When data remains offline and disconnected, these experts instead spend the bulk of their time finding, manually combining and reviewing spreadsheets. The longer data remains detached from the automating systems your organization has already invested in, the less return you’ll receive on both human and technology investments.
The advances in marketing automation have enabled marketers to drive once unimaginable efficiencies. As these efficiencies have become commonplace among core data-generating sources (e.g., brand website), marketers are realizing the need to leverage new technologies to drive similar results with regard to their external data sources. Integrating offline data with internal marketing systems provides the next level of business value, which is why it has become the new focus — the new black.