Actions Speak Louder Than Data

by Dave Sutton

Marketers often struggle with achieving their Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) objectives due to a lack of operational efficiency in gathering, interpreting, and applying data-driven insights.

Even armed with the most innovative and cutting-edge Marketing Automation solutions, marketers still can’t escape the age-old computer science adage of “garbage-in; garbage-out”… Since marketing automation operates by logical processes, they’ll unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, non-actionable output (“garbage out”).

This fundamental challenge can be summarized in one word: “Actionability”. Action is the ultimate goal of gleaning insight from marketing data. Marketers need to decipher the volumes of customer and consumer data, from seemingly endless channels and interactions – and use the data to create engaging customer experiences. And in today’s always-connected and mobile world, we must do all this data-driven and insightful marketing as fast as customers interact.

However, in most cases, the speed of the customer is far outpacing the speed of the marketer. This is why it’s more important than ever for marketing and IT departments to be working together in close collaboration.

In a recent research at TopRight, we found that a key trait of successful, Transformative CMOs is their ability to work collaboratively with their CIO counterparts – running the business from the same playbook and making decisions based on actionable and data-driven insights.

It’s no longer just about sales and marketing aligning; transformational CMOs are focused on IT and marketing alignment.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to gain “actionability” when all the data you need is housed in one technology solution and it’s focused on a single channel – think Nielsen ratings and television. Unfortunately, that type of solution cannot keep the pace with the modern digital lifestyle.

Marketers are often unable to tap into all of the rich customer-centric data, as most optimization tools don’t yet support sophisticated data exchange mechanisms. Likewise, most ad retargeting solutions leverage limited sets of onsite data to personalize their offsite display ads.

In practice, most organizations don’t have the marketing staff required to monitor and act on data as it streams across digital platforms. It can be overwhelmingly difficult to manage and prioritize. On the other hand, large media companies and ecommerce firms have had some success acting on real-time data and creating personalized content for their customers.

Hospitality marketers have smaller audience base, but they base their business on earning loyalty and influence tied to customer insights. Here are a few industries use cases that provide a glimpse into how marketers are achieving actionability:



Advertising dollars depend on maximizing audience size, so publishers are motivated to dynamically adjust content and article placements. VICE Media, the Canadian-American digital media and broadcasting company, leverages data to deeply understand their audience. They tell authentic, unvarnished stories and create highly personalized content to generate stickiness. As a result, they have achieved explosive growth, becoming a rare success story in a digitally-disrupted yet struggling industry.


Retailers use customer data – not just merchandise differentiation – to create personalized experiences. Data from customer engagement across websites, mobile devices, social media, and even call centers is starting to be brought together to create omni-channel customer profiles.

Macy’s is a great example of a retailer using customer data to create personalized experience across different channels. Marketers who are winning in this highly competitive space have recognized that “actionability is the new black” for this season!

chickfilaFood and hospitality

Loyalty programs abound in this industry, and high value customers have high expectations. One step wrong at any level – even if it’s at a partner or franchise property – will create a social snafu or caustic complaint. Understanding the value of different customers and recognizing them across different channels is imperative, so most firms use a combination of technology and human input to ensure profitable and productive customer experience. Quick serve restaurant, Chick-fil-A represents the gold standard in this industry.

Their new mobile app, Chick-fil-A One, allows guests to customize their order, pay in advance, and skip the line at the register. Food is prepared as customers “check in” at the restaurant via the app, at which time they can head straight to the pick-up counter for their food.

The development of the app was based on the insights that 82% of Millennials would do almost anything to avoid long lines at fast food restaurants; it’s called fast food for a reason. Customers who are enrolled will be “surprised with free favorites” periodically, which is based on their preferences and previous orders.

While actionability at the speed of customer is still in its infancy, the companies that get this right, seem to be primarily doing these things right:


Data integration

The ability to consolidate and integrate data from multiple sources at the individual level, including historical data, and to associate that data with a recognizable person, is fundamental to creating the rich customer profiles required for 1:1 marketing and continuous conversations.

Relevant personalization

Personalization is only as good as the quality and timeliness of the underlying data and the strength of supporting analytics. Taking action on a set of business rules is a good start, but attribution, predictive behavior or seasonal forecasting are all powerful analytics models that can significantly improve action ability – and ROMI.

Marketing automation

Brands need to appear human, and personalize the experience, but they also need to be responsive to the shifts in customer behavior. Marketing Automation must go hand-in-hand with quality data and analytics to ensure that it’s adding value at each level. One off brand interaction can irreparably damage a customer relationship, and when dealing with thousands of interactions the implications may prove unmanageable.

Predictive analytics

Most personalized marketing participation is reactive – we respond to clues that are provided through behavior, persona, scoring or hashtag targeting. Predictive analytics is creating opportunities for engagement across devices and platforms, and giving marketers confidence to participate more actively.

Actionability requires analysis and understanding of all customer touchpoints. It requires a data-driven finger on the pulse on the business.


So, what does the future hold for marketers concerned about actionability? We recently discovered a company in the MarTech space called Influans at which vision is to put the power of Big Data associated with Machine Learning into the hands of everyday marketers. If successful, this “pay by the drink” company could completely change the demands placed on MarTech companies by their customers.

Action at the speed of the customer is going to continue to pressure the CIO’s, developers, and IT departments to collaborate and integrate with the world of marketing. Customers are only going to expect more and more from companies. And the companies that can meet their customer needs at the right time will be the ones your grandchildren will hear about.

For CMOs or marketing directors, this may require reallocating resources to analytics and marketing automation, in order to keep their finger on the pulse of their customers’ wants and needs and succeed in their competitive marketplace.

Over to you

What do you think of this article? Will action at the speed of the customer force yet more integration between IT and Marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Subscribe for fresh tips & top articles

GetResponse S.A. needs data contained in this form to provide you with materials you requested. For more information, read Privacy Policy.

Thanks for signing up!

We'll send you an email to confirm this shortly.

Become a GetResponse Blog writer!

Write for us