Posted March 19, 2012 10:29 am by with 1 comment

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Hunters like to hunt big game. Sports enthusiasts love the big game. Journalists look for the big story. Marketers? Well, more and more marketers are going after something big as well, big data, and, more often than not they are coming away disappointed.

Why? It’s because big data is elusive. It’s massive and it is swirling around us everywhere much like the pollen does everywhere this time of year (in some parts of the US that is). Much like that pollen it seems to land everywhere but it get washed away or pushed aside just as quickly as it falls. A recent study from the Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership and the New York American Marketing Association (as reported by eMarketer) shows these challenges.

No wonder marketers are disappointed. These are not exactly small issues they are talking about here. When half of the respondents can’t even get to the data they need because of sharing issues from their data sources you have something bigger than an issue. It’s a real problem.

Why do you think the sharing problem exists? One of my theories is laziness. Most people don’t want to go above and beyond their required workload and if there needs to be tweaks in how information is gathered and dispersed there could be push-back from those who are not interested in rocking their own boat.

If this kind of culture is allowed to exist then another likely reason is that the further up the food chain you go the less strategic this data can be. Of course, that makes no logical sense since executives should want to find ways to sell more of what they do but that’s not always the case. Some might suggest that the further you climb up the corporate ladder the less informed you are of what is really needed at street level. As a result, the urgency to push for some cultural change is not even felt until it is too late.

So what can marketers do to minimize this disappointment? I would say that they need to start fighting. Not in a mixed martial arts kind of way but they need to raise a fuss in their organizations to show the importance of this data and the need to corral it to make a difference to the bottom line. I am not sure that most marketers like to create too many waves for fear of looking like a “trouble maker”. Seems to me that it would be better to create trouble and risking your position in an attempt to do it better rather than just going with the flow which could lead to end of job based on non-performance.

This does put marketers in somewhat of a rock and a hard place. They are tasked with helping sell products and services to the customers and prospects of the world but the real selling may have to occur around meeting room tables in their own backyard.

I don’t remember being taught this in business school (although may have just forgotten) but it appears as if a valuable skill that any young marketer could learn is the need to be sell ideas internally to get the resources they need. Just settling on budget numbers or limitations passed along by others isn’t going to cut it in an area of such innovation and movement as marketing.

You’ve gotta fight for your right to market, right?

What’s your thoughts?

  • Great article, Frank. Sadly, too many professors never had to sell management on doing the right thing, and graduates from business schools are completely unprepared for the battles they will have to fight. First they come to the terrible realization that management can be clueless, stubborn, and misled. Then they realize that others in the company are largely responsible for the misinformation driving the CEO’s decisions. They realize the battle is bigger than they thought.

    No one in business school teaches marketing majors that they do have only one reliable ally in this fight – the customer. If they get to know the customer better than anyone else in the company, that knowledge will become their true source of political power – they will have more influence over the CEO’s decisions than they can possibly imagine.

    Thanks for writing about this.


    Kristin Zhivago, Author, Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy