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Data-Driven Delight

October 15, 2013

“Voice from the Trenches” aims to inform and inspire marketing and design professionals immersed in the day-to-day activity of their firms. This month, Karen Euler offers a preview to SMPS Boston’s upcoming session in the Building Leaders  series, “Managing the Data Deluge: Organize Your Client and Project Data.” You can connect with Karen via LinkedIn or on Twitter @karen_e.

ibm-mobile-databaseOne of the promises of doing business efficiently today across a highly-connected globe is that engaged networks of people will share information and develop our collective knowledge. Closer to home, Marketing’s role in keeping up a firm’s project and client data relates closely to the twin challenges of “getting” project managers to log project information at various milestones and “getting” principals to log opportunities accurately.

Firm X struggles mightily with maintenance of a marketing database while its business developers complain about the quality and quantity of available project data. Firm Y’s marketing department boasts a healthy, well-utilized database, ships a high number of proposals every year, and provides leadership with useful analytics. What is so special about Firm Y? Let’s get technical and drill down into their business process.

Firm Y sends their project setup forms and additional services forms first to Marketing, then to Accounting. The marketing manager scans the project data for quality, records it in the database, assigns the root project number, sets up a job folder per IT protocol, and then passes the form along to Accounting. The power of assigning the root project number is what keeps the data flowing without interruption to Marketing at Firm Y. These forms are cross-functionally developed by high-level staff in Marketing and Accounting and are overhauled every few years to remain relevant. A “form” today can be a write-in form to be transcribed into the database by others, or better yet, the required fields in a database user interface. Either way, ongoing training is essential for quality control.

Besides being responsible for the marketing project database, which requires daily attention so that nothing gets backed up on its way to Accounting (otherwise known as the hub of the universe), the rest of the day of the marketing manager at Firm Y is spent utilizing this rich database. The marketing output work provides a feedback loop to the job of quality-checking the input data that comes from (1) principals, at the opportunity stage and end of each job; and (2) project managers, while projects are underway, including when additional services change the scope of a job previously logged. The marketing manager is the link between what clients and their Requests for Proposals (RFPs) require and what information the “boots on the ground” staff provide about current and recent projects. (Some readers may recognize that this client demand for information is the ‘pull’ mentioned in Lean methodologies so popular in health care institutions.) A marketing manager who also lives and breathes RFPs is in an excellent position to record the highest quality marketing data. As it grows in size, quality and relevance, the database serves all marketing staff very well, so they in turn can serve internal and external clients with useful and accurate information.

Finally, on a regular basis, the marketing manager at Firm Y is able to provide leadership with metrics about pursuits won and lost (also known as the hit rate) and rich information about the lead funnel or pipeline. For example, the database diva can answer such questions as:

  • How many leads converted to wins?
  • How many proposals went to a shortlist?
  • How much new business are we winning vs. repeat work?
  • What are the year-over-year trends?
  • What is in the pipeline by organizational unit, project type, and business developer?
  • What is the marketing department currently preparing and what are the deadlines?

Firm Y is in the game for the long haul and has created a culture that connects knowledge sharing to excellence. Firm X may have faltered during the recession for good reason; happily there is plenty of opportunity to get back on track and take delight in the drive for good data.

Join SMPS Boston on November 5 for an informative roundtable discussion lead by SMPS veterans Chris Stockwell, Laurie Strickland, CPSM and Jennifer Shelby, CPSM as they discuss their lessons learned, effective approaches toward data management, and best practices that will help keep your project/client information at your fingertips.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 29, 2013 11:00 am

    A company that is so close to this ideal scenario can still be miles away from getting the kind of easy value out of its project marketing database that is articulated here. I’m currently working for a large company whose project database has evolved over time, and has been in daily use, too, but what’s missing is not input from PMs and principals, but rather some protocol and procedure that would control the timing (and thence the quality) of these contributions. This loophole has accounted for much of the data’s internal inconsistency and limited useability.

    Legacy tools with not-so-intuitive user interfaces are easy to blame when data is lost, mismanaged, or neglected. This company has always had a sizable marketing staff, and has taken home numerous marketing awards. But I’m the closest thing they’ve had to a “database diva” in years – and I was brought in by their IT Manager! Sisters aren’t doing it for themselves!

    This glib term reveals as it deceives: Marketing Data is always Marketing’s turf, but IT often pays the bill to ensure that it can be used day-to-day to return those high-value results that justify the time and effort of data entry. But Marketing typically doesn’t hire for this non-traditional skill set, nor is it really serious about self-sufficiency. So it can’t self-train, or mentor junior staff into assuming those roles, and instead relies on dated, technical documentation hastily written by implementation consultants, subject matter experts, or sales engineers (or whoever’s hanging around). Also, a marketer who is there to sweat out a proposal on a deadline has little time or incentive to “pick up a minor in database” on the job, sans support.

    Veteran IT and Marketing managers have not understood each other’s needs or priorities. This knowledge gap has reduced what these groups can accomplish together. As companies become more data-driven, the role of CIO is becoming more than just a lofty title. As firms hire their second generation of CIOs to bridge IT and Marketing – if not to manage them both – they need to develop these data management skills within the organization, and with them figure out how to manage content development and reuse efficiently.

    Marketers with the traditional marketing skill set will never be eclipsed by IT, but the DIY “data diva” mentality needs to go. Here is abundant proof that it’s not working, and is an expensive conceit..

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