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  • September 29, 2014

Live from OpenWorld 2014: Why the Best Data-Driven Marketers Are Decidedly Old-School

Editor's Note: Today's post comes courtesy of Nikki Serapio, Manager of Marketing Community at Oracle. This week he’s reporting from Oracle OpenWorld – if you’re at the conference, you can join him and others at the Tuesday, 9/30 session “Engaging Customer Communities to Drive Marketing Technology Procurement.”

I’ve met a number of marketers at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld conference who are happily defying their traditional professional labels.

Some are writers and journalists by training – who in recent years have become self-taught experts in building marketing automation systems. Others might be easily typecast as “right-brained” tastemakers (imagine a talented creative director or web designer) – if not for their impressive understanding of regression analyses, Chi-squared tests, and other go-to tools in the fledgling field of marketing statistics.

This year’s CX Central @ OpenWorld sessions make this much clear: If you want to be a modern marketer, your key task is to always strive to be a quantitative-qualitative marketer.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be both artist and scientist; your certified marketing generalist/jack-of-all-trades is a rare breed. However, the path to becoming a quantitative-qualitative marketer certainly depends on your handle on marketing data – or more exactly, your ability to gather, trim, interpret, and apply these data in order to do more thoughtful marketing.

It’s tempting to focus exclusively on the promise of the marketing tools themselves. If you aren’t an experienced data analyst, no worries: a number of powerful platforms can consolidate and make sense of your first-party (owned), second-party (partner-provided), and third-party data – and essentially do the hard analysis for you.

If you survey the many accomplished marketers here at OpenWorld 2014, though, many of them will tell you that the right practices and principles go hand-in-hand with the right platforms. And among other principles, there’s one that deserves special mention, in part because it’s too often forgotten. Perhaps it’s best expressed by way of the following maxim (coined by the customer development pioneer Steve Blank): “There are no facts inside the building. So get outside.”

For marketers, getting outside of the building and validating your marketing personas, for instance, means talking directly to people who are or might be interested in your products. Sounds simple enough, right? In reality, though, this never-ending project requires a lot of tough, nose-to-the-ground investigation -- or what Menlo Innovations CEO Richard Sheridan aptly calls High-Tech Anthropology.

Maybe you’ve discovered some things about your customers and warm leads via conference meetups and sales calls. But is that enough?

Have you also visited their workplaces, and observed them crunching through their actual everyday tasks? Do you have a firm sense of their day-to-day grind and workflow? How do they spend their scarce time? What are their habits and emotions – when they’re in front of a screen, what and how do they read, watch, share, triage, and otherwise pass over content? And based on these close-up observations, how might you reasonably expect to capture their attention?

Of course, part of the value of marketing technology is the extent to which we can learn about our ideal customers through their online behaviors. If you have even just 50 customers, you probably don’t have enough time to engage in the above-mentioned field anthropology through and through – and that’s okay, because some online (social/web/mobile) behaviors already tell you a lot about your customers’ real-life business needs and preferences.

But the larger point here is simply that data-driven marketers have the opportunity to harness many types of valuable qualitative and quantitative data. You have the opportunity to measure customer engagement, loyalty, and influence using software – and also examine the psychologies and personalities of your customers via direct conversation. If you’re a modern marketer, then, it’s worth asking yourself: Do your marketing systems allow you to be a little old-school?

Stay tuned for more coverage of Oracle OpenWorld, and follow the event discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #OOW14.

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