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Silos are for Farmers ó Not Marketers - 3/24/2015 -


Silos are for Farmers ó Not Marketers

By Alex Schwartzwald

While association marketers and publishers have spent years growing their brands and sub-brands, they have simultaneously been collecting massive amounts of online and offline data from live events, newsletters, webinars, websites, and content pieces ó all datasets saturated with useful information.

All too often I see association marketers and publishers taking a farmerís approach to data. Instead of combining all of their data assets into one unified platform, they opt to keep them closed off and separate from each other like corn in a silo. The result? Associations are overwhelmed with a substantial amount of siloed data and are unable to deliver personalized content and experiences to their members and extended audiences.

Here are two ways silos have become detrimental to an associationís day-to-day operations in todayís data-driven world ó and two questions to ask yourself.

1. Lack of accessibility. If your data isnít easily accessible, it wonít get used, and the valuable insights within the data will remain unused and locked up in their silos. As a result, collaboration and innovation will be nearly non-existent.

Question 1: When a salesperson needs data in support of a sales opportunity, is your associationís process to retrieve that insight quick and efficient?

2. Operational inefficiency. Silos create inefficiency throughout your association by increasing the time spent searching through multiple disparate databases for campaigns and metrics. The result: IT resources are pulled away from projects to clean, append, and de-dupe your data on a daily basis because you donít have a unified system that automates the process for you.

Question 2: Is the health of your audience data as clean as your financial data?

By keeping your data sealed off in separate systems and formats, you are failing to capitalize on its true potential.

Breaking Down Silos

Big data continues to grab headlines and create hype. However, many organizations havenít adapted their technologies or processes to take advantage of the value big data brings. So, this begs the question: Is the urgency to embrace big data and data-centric systems justified?

The answer: Absolutely. Digital companies ó especially the most successful ones such as Google, Amazon, and Netflixó know that analyzing and responding to data makes their approach customer-centric by default. For these companies, itís not just a case of consolidating data and information about customers. By understanding your data, you can gain a clear picture of your member, customer, and audience needs and respond quickly and more effectively than competitors.

I know there are organizations that would argue they have been handling big data and data integration and consolidation for years; in some respects, that may be true. Itís important to note, however, that your siloed systems prevent you from unlocking the true potential that lies in unified data. So how do you go about breaking down these outdated data silos?

1. Top-down adoption. A data-driven culture starts with a top-down approach. Without the support of the CEO and executive team, a new initiative will never succeed. This is the only way to break down data and departmental silos. Your commitment to the project and the time put into educating your staff is key. A mindset shift must occur for everyone to lead with data first. Regardless of your opinion, unified data speaks the truth about the wellbeing of your business.

2. Investing in a data management platform. Any organization that has siloed data faces the same problems: unifying their data, engaging their audience, and monetizing their efforts. Step two in the process involves investing in a data management platform, a centralized platform for collecting, organizing, and utilizing data sets from disparate sources.

3. Data accessibility. Set aside bureaucracy and office politics. Regardless of seniority or department, all of your staff should have access to your data. Collaboration between departments is crucial to innovation and obtaining a complete 360-degree view of your data assets. Opening the floodgates to data accessibility doesnít come without responsibility. Make sure that everyone is accountable for the data they manage and contribute.

4. Develop a data strategy. Actionable data and insights donít happen overnight. Take the momentum gained from internal collaboration and develop a structured integration plan. See what strategies are in place to integrate data assets and discover which best practices are recommended by your data management platform provider. Finally, use your new data elements to build audience segments and test, test, review, and test again. This will enhance your marketing strategy and get you one step closer to the reality of delivering the right content to the right member or customer at the right time.

Before you even start collecting and organizing your data, it is important to outline your associationís strategic business objectives and identify any key questions that remain. Once you know what data you need to complete your objectives and questions, you can strategize on how to capture it. Data collection isnít about tracking individuals; itís about tracking like-minded groups.

The catalyst that will drive and transform your association are the positive changes you make to your products, services, internal processes, and marketing strategy. These are guided by insights from the data you acquire across the organization and by breaking down silos and creating one unified database.

Alex Schwartzwald is the marketing coordinator at Knowledge Marketing.


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