Operation data: turning insights into strategic decisions

Savvy CMOs are translating data expertise into business intelligence, impacting the whole marketing team, the wider business and the CMO’s role.

Marketing has always used data. But a move to digital platforms has increased the data collected and how this information is used, changing marketing's place in the business.

Rebecca Malzacher is the General Manager, Marketing for the Australasia region at International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm. Data forms the heart of the company’s decisions and helps its small marketing operation understand business goals, the markets in which the business operates and product penetration.

“Data really helps us to understand where we're going to focus next, whether that's through market-mapping exercises, database reviews or looking at previous campaign performances,” Malzacher says.

"We'll focus our campaigns and activity where they will have the best impact on the company's objectives. That's whether it's a financial or a service-level related initiative.”

Using data for insights

International SOS uses and integrates Eloqua, Salesforce, Google Analytics, AdWords and Adroll to collate and track data. The business also has internal analytical support to ensure the marketing team understands the information it collects.

The most basic way the marketing team uses the information is to track leads and build buyer journeys. “We look at response rates across our channels on a weekly basis, and then we adjust our campaign activities and budget,” Malzacher says. “We look at the messaging. We change resources if things are really not working and we're not reaching our target.”

This data can turn marketing into the hub of business intelligence. The work can help identify, develop and create new strategic opportunities.

[caption id="attachment_1504" align="alignleft" width="300"]Rebecca Malzacher International SOS B2B marketing Marketorium data measurement portrait International SOS's Rebecca Malzacher[/caption]

International SOS has a proprietary case-management system that interlinks 26 global assistant centres that deal with about 1.5 million medical security cases per year. On top of that, it has a traveller-tracking system – Malzacher calls it “the largest aggregator of business-related travel data around the world”.

The marketing department uses the insights collected by this system to create thought leadership, including webinars and white papers about industry trends, which is shared with the broader business and customers. This ultimately fuels the organisation’s lead-generation efforts.

“Data in our organisation is also analysed to answer different business needs, whether that's around market share or market penetration,” she says. “We look at client-to-prospect ratios, and we also look at white space analysis or account expansion opportunities.

“That gives us a good basis for strategising and building business cases for campaigns and new market opportunities.”

For example, International SOS analysed its client base data and found that clients with a single service with the organisation have a higher attrition rate. In response, International SOS redeveloped its offerings to draw together many services. It created a membership program that integrates its traveller-tracking data with its Assistance app to deliver information to clients before they think to call for assistance or advice.

“We found that not only did this reduce the attrition of our clients, we also were able to see through client feedback and net promoter scores that it increased customer loyalty and satisfaction rates. It also drove case volumes down; less people are getting seriously ill, resulting in better security and health outcomes for travellers and ultimately saving clients money.”

Building credibility through collaboration

Being able to provide business insights has the bonus of demonstrating marketing's value to possible naysayers outside of the department. International SOS needs to engage with medical and security experts with diverse professional backgrounds. Data, Malzacher says, is key to getting them on the same page.

“To get all those individuals engaged and aligned in a project, you really need to be able to build a pretty strong business case,” she says. “That comes from marketing's ability to take the data, interpret it, and also utilise storytelling techniques to show how medical and security experts can lead change with their expertise and insight.”

“When marketing leads with insight, and if it's actionable and produces a positive outcome for the business, then the true value of marketing is realised.”

In particular, International SOS has used data to build the important (but sometimes fraught) relationship between marketing and sales. Malzacher’s team uses marketing dashboards that look at metrics, including email click-through and open rates. The executive level has more comprehensive dashboards that look at ROI and effectiveness across all campaigns. There are also sales dashboards that show the funnel and handover process, helping to join critical departments at the hip.

“Data supports handing over those marketing qualified leads and tracking them through to the sales team, and then ultimately to opportunity value,” she says.

From marketing’s perspective, the sharing of data has built stronger partnerships throughout the business. “I think it's a shift in perception,” Malzacher says. “If you're leading with business intelligence or insight then you've got something stronger and more tangible for a business to understand.”

Data switching the CMO power place

By providing business insights through data and demonstrating the value of marketing through collaboration, data-savvy CMOs become the optimal provider of advice to the CEO. In doing so, they also get a leg-up on the ladder towards CEO.

Being able to analyse and gain insights from data is crucial to modern marketing. “Personally I think when marketing leads with insight, and if it's actionable and produces a positive outcome for the business, then the true value of marketing is realised,” Malzacher says.

“That may be through the impact on the bottom line. It might be through increased client satisfaction rates, or your ability to improve a product or service. It allows marketing to be measured in such a way as to be on an equal footing with others.”

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Further reading: How marketers use data as a weapon

Photo: Natanael Melchor on Unsplash