How experts lead clients (and themselves) to greater data maturity

Published Apr 21 2023 Last updated Apr 24 2023 5 minute read
leading clients
Contributors
  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Given the massive shifts marketers are experiencing, it is becoming clear that improving your data maturity will be vital to maintaining your survival and sanity in the market. 

From consumer-facing AI tools to black-box algorithms managing ad buys, the exploding field of technologies and tools mean that data is more important than ever. We recently covered how to assess the different stages of data maturity and start your own path to becoming more data mature. 

But what can we learn from experts like those at data consultancies? How do they advise clients along this journey, and what do they see as the next emerging trends in data capabilities? 

To answer these questions, we recently sat down with Nick Yang, head of media for the data consultancy fifty-five, a Funnel Global Solution Partner

Nick Yang
Nick Yang, Head of Media for fifty-five

 

 

Experiencing a restart since Covid

According to Nick, data maturity programs across the board have been seeing a restart and rethink since the pandemic began to subside. At the height of the pandemic, entire programs were put on pause due to layoffs and the sudden halt in business activities across industries. 

“Now, clients are coming out the other side ready to re-evaluate where they want to go and how they want to get there,” said Nick. 

Clients are reproaching consultants to get their metaphorical data house back in order and re-engage their plans to build on their maturity, often with the idea of acquiring the latest and greatest tools. 

This usually means that clients come to fifty-five with a particular intent. 

 

The trendy request of the moment

Customer data platforms, or CDPs, seem to be the technology tool du jour. However, this merely prompts  a broader conversation with experts like Nick. 

“Rather than focusing on a specific tool or piece of tech, we prefer to have a broader conversation about underlying business objectives and use case requirements,” said Nick. “Are they looking to improve user retention or increase new customer acquisitions? Is the focus on reducing their basket abandonment rate or increasing the profit margin of the average order?”

The answer is often that clients don’t actually need a hyper-specific new gadget. In fact, their existing data stack may be underutilized.

“Most of the time, we find that our clients have too many tech solutions,” said Nick. “Instead, we show them how many of the most valuable use cases can be enabled using their existing tech stack with minimal additional configuration.”

 

Charting a course for success

We’ve all been guilty of it: hearing about a game-changing piece of marketing technology on a podcast or in an article. It could be that one last piece of kit that will change your world. 

In reality, we may already have the solutions to our needs right at our fingertips, we just aren’t maximizing the power of our existing tools. For example, you might use a marketing data hub to simply connect and share data from all of your platforms, but it can do so much more including transformation and storage. 

Imagine that you have to purchase a new car. You’ll use it to commute, to pick up groceries, for entertainment, and to go on vacation. While a Ferrari SF90 might be highly entertaining, it’s not really practical for your other uses. It’s a bit of a one-trick pony (pun intended). Instead, you might go for a mid-market sedan that still has some decent horsepower and torque – maybe something turbocharged. That way, you can gain broader functionality and enjoyment from the car. 

Same thing with software solutions. 

To circumvent temporary client short-sightedness, experts like Nick work with clients to build a clear roadmap based on their goals and make incremental plans for unlocking new capabilities. This more measured approach can help account for the vast complexities that an entire organization may face when growing its data maturity. 

For instance, different parts of the organization, like marketing or finance, may have vastly different capabilities. Even other teams within marketing will have different states of data maturity. 

You also need to account for the different tools each part of the organization is already using. 

“We often need to take internal governance into account when implementing more advanced solutions,” said Nick. “There may be various compliance and internal considerations that impact our solution design but are critical to account for to ensure success."

By building a long-term roadmap, though, organizations can consider these factors and get every function and department on the same page over time. 

 

How do experts build their own data maturity?

Sometimes, it can seem like the data consultants have the entire data landscape figured out. Yet, they're actually on their own journey to constantly push and evolve their data maturity. 

So how do they do it? 

According to Nick, it all comes back to the clients.

“You only understand as much as the problems that your clients bring you,” said Nick. “Challenging requests make us better by driving us to create custom, bespoke solutions.”

It’s these novel takes on emerging data challenges that cause Nick and his team to grow. Each new solution means a new way to educate further and inform the rest of their client base. 

 

What are the real trends to watch out for? 

New technologies come and go — often with loads of hype while failing to materialize fully. Remember 3D television and the promises of virtual and augmented reality? 

“When it comes to things like advanced chat or AI itself, it’s not quite there yet,” said Nick. “Nobody has quite cracked it. There are a lot of interesting niche applications, but nothing so powerful that it will tangibly impact a business’s bottom line.”

In a similar vein, Nick also sees a few previous trends that have gone the way of VR. Data management platforms, or DMPs, are one such example. Pre-pandemic, they were the shiny new toys everyone had to have. 

Maybe that makes CDP the new DMP?

Instead, Nick has his eye on some existing-yet-overlooked tools — particularly those that examine the creative. 

“Everyone talks about audiences and better segmentation, but the creative is still crucially valuable,” said Nick. 

He pays especially close attention to tools that can perform dynamic creative optimization and testing in new and interesting ways. 

“Take the Video Intelligence API from Google, for example,” said Nick. “It allows you to scrape all of the metadata from every single one of your YouTube creatives. That means for example it can identify each creative variant that contains a sales message in the final frame or a cat in the lower left corner.”

Indeed, the software can evaluate and apply various “tags” to your plethora of creatives. You can then see every video with a sales message and weigh that against those creatives without one. You can also analyze if those cats actually help drive conversions.

“It can help you A/B test without ever actually running A/B testing,” said Nick. 

 

Putting it all together

There is a recurring theme when speaking with Nick about improving your data capabilities and working with new technologies. Instead of grabbing the latest tool that can perform one specific task, it’s better to evaluate your existing stack to make sure that you are making the most of every solution. 

Identify which tools are invaluable for different areas of the organization, and prioritize those that give you the most flexibility and value. That flexibility extends to software set-up and ownership, too. 

Particularly for marketers, you won’t want to choose a solution that will require you to rely on IT and BI teams everyday. You want something that meets all of your marketing-specific needs and can seamlessly integrate with the more technical teams. This will mean more flexibility, less complexity, faster agility, and ownership of your data. 

This is all part of why it’s so important for the team at fifty-five to understand their client’s objectives and build a relevant roadmap. 

The perfect solution to unlock the next step of data maturity may be right before you. 

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