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The best of &THEN

Oct 15, 2018, 22:34 PM by Dave Chambers
Recapping the DMA's annual data-driven marketing conference
 
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If you want to know where the marketing industry is heading, then there is no better place to be than the DMA’s &THEN conference, which took place from October 7th to 9th in Las Vegas. Thousands of attendees attended the three-day event to hear marketing success stories and catch up on the latest data-driven marketing trends.

On the floor of the MGM Grand’s Conference Center, we had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of people, from a wide range of industries, to talk about how we can help them put data to work and make more informed decisions. Anyone who took the time to ask us ‘what we do’ were intrigued by our data and amazed by ENVISION5, our purpose-built, easy-to-use cloud-based marketing platform, which is used for market analysis, site evaluation, media planning and more. But data and software aside, in the end it’s all about crafting solutions to meet a client’s needs. Anyone who stopped by our booth during the conference left with ideas for solutions—and a pair of our signature Geek socks—not a shopping list of databases.

While everyone we met was eager to celebrate data-driven marketing, it’s clear that some organizations struggle to integrate it into their everyday decision making process. Many people told us that they expect to be looking for something soon, but before taking the next step they had to…(“fill in the blank”). There will always be something preventing organizations from taking that next step, which could involve merging files, accessing new data or any number of other reasons. We get it. Becoming a data-driven marketer can be intimidating; it takes commitment and a strategy.

Knowing where to begin is often the biggest challenge, but it’s an important part of the process. We regularly hear from executives who describe their organization as being data-driven, but then quickly discover they lack a guiding strategy to put it into action. One speaker at &THEN told a crowd they use data from hundreds of third-party suppliers. As impressive as that sounds, the comment suggests they don’t have a clear plan for their data. Collecting data from so many sources can be cumbersome and counterproductive. It highlighted an advantage of working with partners where you can access all the data you need from a single source. And importantly, where the various data (think demographic, financial, behavioral, psychographic, etc.) have been developed to work together so you don’t waste time trying to reconcile various databases.

While organizations have improved the way they work with data, many companies still have more to do before they can say they are data-driven marketers.  Organizations that use lists often fail to recognize the important analysis that has to happen before a campaign even starts. Data and analytics together will help you find the right target audience within these lists, with the added benefit of being able to help you tailor the message to ensure it resonates with your customers.

If there is one message to take away from &THEN it’s that becoming a data-driven organization doesn’t have to be complicated. Intimidating concepts like machine learning and AI—which were the buzz terms at this event three years ago—are giving way to more traditional concepts successfully applied under the guidance of an over-arching strategy. Machine learning and AI are still relevant, but they work best when organizations foster a culture around data and analytics first, which means breaking down barriers within organizations to ensure data gets shared freely between departments.

Advanced organizations are also linking in-house data scientists with creative and executional teams, and as a result nimble marketing organizations are becoming independent of the sometimes slow-moving enterprise IT department. Here at Environics Analytics, we can help such organizations build the necessary bridges to get all stakeholders focused on the customer, aligned around objectives and moving in the same direction by using data as the common language.

We’ve helped hundreds of organizations develop data strategy and analytics roadmaps that are delivering measurable results. With the DMA having now consolidated with the ANA, the next show promises to be even more ambitious in scope and attendance. The question now is what position you want to be in when that conference rolls around: as a spectator or a presenter sharing your own success story? If you’re ready to take the next step, we can help. 

Dave Chambers is Environics Analytics Group Account Director based in San Francisco.