Shortly after I started working in the technology industry in the mid-2000s, I had the unique opportunity to work with a pioneer of online travel. The company delivered relevant and personalized offers to customers in real-time via its website and other channels — and the offers sent were based on that specific customer's past behaviors and destinations of interest. Understand, this was cutting edge at the time.  

What differentiated this company was that it treated data as a strategically managed asset for its marketing activities and that a collaboration between marketing and IT drove this approach. Over time, it had managed to collect valuable data to fuel new insights into customer behavior, and the marketing team used those insights in turn to drive relevant and personalized marketing campaigns. Real-time metrics helped them determine whether or not a campaign was driving revenue, and marketing leads had immediate visibility into the performance of their campaigns.

Something else happened, too — and this impacted the entire marketing team.

Real-Time Data Access Frees Marketers Up to Take Risks

The team began to take more risks. Not random risks, but measured experimental risks based on their new ability to capture real-time data. They asked more “what if” questions such as:

  • What if we send an offer for 10 percent off instead of 15 percent? Will we get the same response and conversion rate? (The answer, often, was “yes.”)
  • What if we offer our customers planning a vacation in Hawaii an unbeatable deal for a trip to Costa Rica to fill vacancies we know we have?
  • What if we increased cross-sell and upsell opportunities by packaging hotel, car and air based on the individual brand preferences of the traveler?  

Access to these insights greatly benefited the marketing team because it allowed them to develop deeply personalized campaigns. They could ask any question of their data at any point in time. And because they could measure the immediate impact of an action, they gained confidence in their marketing decisions.

With access to clickstream and purchase data, they could deduce if a customer’s travel was for leisure or business, and identify preferred airline, hotel and car rental brands. They uncovered the destinations that customers liked; recognized annual vacation patterns based on past trips; and matched product affinities with inventory from their website to create new offers. They transformed their marketing activities by combining customer data with results from their marketing apps, email campaigns and sales systems.

The new insights were based on how they centralized, captured, managed and connected their data. It was a collaboration between marketing and IT to use high-quality data that fueled their analytics and helped them better understand customer relationships with the things that mattered most to the business.

Related Article: Experiment Your Way to Data-Driven Success

Data Is a Team Effort

In marketing, we know there isn't an industry that hasn't been impacted by data-driven digital disruption. Productive data-driven companies approach data as a team effort. They know their success often hinges on collaboration between marketing and IT with this goal: cut the time it takes to answer the questions marketing asks most (or can’t answer at all), and free marketers up to experiment with “what if” questions that propel the business forward.

Learning Opportunities

With an abundance of data available to marketing, developing a productive partnership between marketing and IT presents unique opportunities for mutual benefit that also improves the organization as a whole. 

The CMO, who is responsible for customer experience and revenue growth, needs the CIO's help to turn the surfeit of customer data into increased business value. CIOs evaluate and implement technology solutions to both reduce cost and generate revenue. CIOs also add value by bringing a perspective across sales, marketing and service and bridging the organizational and process-driven silos with technology. To do this, CIOs need CMOs to help them better understand the what and why of what marketing wants to accomplish and define the business outcomes of data initiatives.

Marketing’s efforts to capitalize on the value of customer data will fall short without tight alignment between the CMO, CIO and their respective teams. The stakes are high, as marketing typically represents a sizeable share of a company’s overall IT investment. Foundation Capital predicts that overall marketing technology spend will reach $120 billion by 2025, while eMarketer projected mobile advertising spend would surpass $31.1 billion by 2018.

The CMO and CIO of my company, Informatica, are a perfect example of how this collaboration can be brought to life. The two have partnered soon after joining the company, and established early on that their combined efforts ensured they would reach broader company goals. Our CMO, Sally Jenkins, sees IT as playing an "agency role," where they bring their specific expertise in cooperation to accomplish marketing’s goals.

So how do marketers get started in a conversation with IT? Since data is the root of most marketing decisions today, I’ll explain what marketers should know before talking with IT about data quality, in part two of this two-part series. Stay tuned.

Related Article: Bridging the CMO–CIO Disconnect