Webinar Recap: Data and the Future of Marketing Automation

David: Our guest today is Dan Vawter from Sojourn Solutions. Sureshot has worked closely with Sojourn Solutions, and many of their customers, over the years and we love their approach and all the smart things they are doing. Dan is a genuine data savant, and I am excited he’s going to be sharing his insights on data with us.

Questions to Think About:

  1. How would you describe your data strategy?
    • It’s a free for all
    • We have recently adopted a data strategy
    • We have a comprehensive approach to data
  2. What are your biggest data challenges?
    • It’s a challenge to implement data standards
    • Maintaining data quality
    • Getting the data we need/incomplete data

Volume of Data Created, Captured, Copied and Consumed Fro 2010 to 2025

Volume of Data Created, Captured, Copied and Consumed From 2010 to 2025

Data Volumes Are Exploding

David: This graphic is quite scary, frankly. Just 10 years ago, our data consumption level was a two, but now we are up to a 79! The amount of data that is available today is obscene, and marketers are at the center of this data deluge because we are required to use and leverage data in all our activities and initiatives so we can improve the performance, engagement and conversion of our marketing efforts.

The growth of data in such a short amount of time is astounding. I remember in the not too distant past, when in was first in marketing, we had very basic data. We had contacts, aggregate website data and a few email metrics. We didn’t know the people that were visiting our site, or which of the people opening our emails actually visited our site. It was all very simplistic.

Key Dates in the History of Marketing Automation

  • 1999 — Eloqua founded
  • 2006 — Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot founded

Key Features of Early Marketing Automation Platforms

  • Basic database
  • Email
  • Forms
  • Landing Pages
  • Website Tracking
  • Drip Campaigns
  • CRM Integration
  • Lead Scoring (added later)

Assumptions: All marketing activity flows into and through the marketing automation platform (MAP)

The Advent of Marketing Automation

David: In the beginning, marketing automation platforms operated as a simple database with a simple data structure. Marketers used marketing automation for sending emails, and managing web forms andlanding pages. As marketing automation evolved, the revolution began when we could actually see individual people and track them on our websites. For example, I could see Dan on my website, and know he had visited five pages. What made all of that so revolutionary was being able to combine general anonymous website analytics with email and other database information. As marketing automation technology progressed, we gained the ability to do drip campaigns, and integrate data into our CRM, and score leads.

The Hub and Spoke Marketing Automation Platform Model

David: In the past, the relationship between data and marketing automation was very simple because all data flowed through the marketing automation platform. The marketing automation platform operated as the hub of a wheel and all of the tools, apps, systems and platforms sharing data with it were the spokes. In this model, marketing automation is the central anchor piece of the marketing technology (martech) stack.

The Hub and Spoke Model
The MAP is the center of the marketing tech stack.
All data flows into the platform for use by the platform.

The Shopping Mall Marketing Automation Platform Model

David: An analyst firm called Real Story Group, which I recommend you follow, developed the current theory of the Shopping Mall Marketing Automation Platform Model. In this scenario, martech stacks look more like a shopping mall map with multiple anchor platforms and tools, of which marketing automation is one. Other anchor tools may include the CRM [Customer Relationship Management system], CDP [Customer Data Platform], data warehouse, ABM tools, etc. In addition to the anchors, there are a bunch of other tools working in conjunction with the anchor platforms. What’s important to note is that there is data sitting in every one of these tools. This model, which is what we all use today, has data coming and going in every direction. That’s why it becomes very challenging to marketers to leverage data effectively and efficiently—and this is the baseline for our data discussion.

New Marketing Tech Paradigm

Dan: There are three significant ways that marketing automation has changed:

  1. The evolution from a focus on outbound/inbound marketing to a cross-channel focus
  2. The transition from generating leads and handing them off to sales to engaging in Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
  3. The recent change from being highly event-focused to almost solely digitally focused

How Marketing Automation Has Changed

THENNOW
Outbound / InboundCross-Channel
Marketing Handoffs Leads to SalesABM
Event-Driven    Digitally Focused

Dan: Let’s talk about the evolution from an outbound/inbound approach to marketing to one that is cross-channel. The hub and spoke model, with the MAP in the center, and data coming in from all different platforms, sources, and data vendors is where we all have been. Back then, the integrations that we had were one-directional. Data wasn’t being shared in both directions, and marketers were limited in their ability to coordinate across data and process siloes.Most marketers started out doing some sort of e-blast campaign based on firmographic data, such as industry, company size, or job title and we sent content in a mass format.

The Increasing Importance of the Multi-Channel Approach

Dan: Nowadays, we are all working with multiple channels. Whether we are responsible for these channels, or we are simply interacting with the data associated with these channels, one thing is certain—we are exposed to a lot more than we were just a few years ago. Today, in order to attract customers, you have to reach them where they are. You can’t just send an outbound email and hope to get a high response rate. Those days are long gone. You have to be engaged in social, PPC, chat, partner content, content syndication, etc. You have to be in all of these places. More importantly, the content you create has to be personalized, useful, and align with each customer’s journey and persona. Once you have started a conversation with a customer, you must nurture that relationship based on their interests and guide them down a personalized path. This is a huge change.

Old Data Paradigm: Outbound/Inbound

  • Hub & spoke model: MAP, CRM, Webinar, Lists
  • Mostly single direction integrations with data siloes
  • E-blast-based using firmographics/job functions/ levels

New Data Paradigm: Cross-Channel

  • Cross-channel approach with highly personalized and useful content to attract/retain customers
  • Nurture campaigns based on personal interests and guided by persona/customer journey

The Challenges of More Data and More Data Sources

Dan: Modern marketers not only have a huge volume of data to contend with, but the number of data sources are also multiplying, which is quite challenging. Using a data-driven approach to figure out what your actual customer journeys look like, in an analytical sense, is not easy. Ensuring that you are not missing touch points, or that blind spots aren’t showing up as you monitor the customer journey is a challenge. To address these challenges, companies have started using marketing data warehouses. There has been an explosion of companies who have either invested in a customer data platform (CDP) or are considering going with a CDP, and that’s because you need a method and a tool to really analyze all of these cross-functional data sets.

Leveraging Customer Data

Dan: Marketing channel data spans a lot of different things. There is website data, social data, press releases, industry reports, content, syndication, PPC, CRM data, ERP data, and so much more. All of these data sets can potentially feed into your customer knowledge. Once you understand how customers are buying, then you can start using that data to personalize your messages. At Sojourn Solutions, we encourage clients to really get to know their customers by:

  • Digging into the data
  • Talking to customers
  • Talking to sales
  • Documenting customer journeys and personas
  • Studying how data maps to customers

Preparing Data for Personalized Messages

Dan: According to every research study that has been done over the last few years, using personalized content is the way to get better results. However, If you are going to personalize content, you need to:

  • Connect all of your data sources together
  • Associate customer data with customer journeys and personas
  • Pull the necessary data to make your messaging as personalized as possible
  • Make sure data is clean, complete and well-connected

It’s important to note that maintaining clean data is not a one and done effort. It is a continual process that must be done throughout the life of your marketing efforts. Also, having a ton of data is no good if you cannot identify the profile fields, or map fields specific to customer personas, or identify what indicators reveal which customer journey a prospect should take.

Trends In Data Strategies

David: Would you say that the biggest trend you are seeing is marketers investing in a data warehouse or CDP?  Do you think this movement is a response to the sheer volume and complexity of the data that marketers are now dealing with? Are there other trends related to data strategy you are seeing?

Dan: Data warehouse and CDP adoption is definitely a big trend. In most marketing automation platforms that I have dealt with, and I have dealt with most of them, the data structures cannot be infinitely configured. There are complex data structures in our other systems that we need for either segmentation or personalization, but it can become difficult to get that data into a MAP and keep it synced. Other major marketing trends impacted by data are ABM, and the shift from on-site and in-person activities to an all-digital approach.

Data Strategies for Evolving From an Outbound/Inbound Approach to a Cross-Channel Approach

  1. Manage Data Volumes.
    • Employ a data-driven approach in deciphering the customer journey
    • Consider using marketing data warehouses and/or CDPs to analyze cross-functional data sets
    • Pay attention to all types of marketing channel data, including, but not limited to:
    o Owned: website, social
    o Earned: press releases, industry reports
    o Paid: content syndication, PPC
    o CRM data
    o ERP data
    o Etc.
  2. Know Your Customer.
    • Know your customer journeys and personas
    • Understand how journeys and personas map to your data
    • Use highly personalized content
  3. Maintain Superior Data Quality
    • Ensure that the data associated with journeys and personas is kept perpetually clean

Three Tips for Masterfully Managing Marketing Data

Dan: I have three tips for mastering marketing data when it comes to pursuing a cross-channel strategy:

1. Create a roadmap. I have worked with lots of companies over the years that span the spectrum of maturity. If you happen to be at a company that doesn’t have a lot of these tools, or you do have them, but aren’t getting much use out of them, you need to create a roadmap. Building a roadmap is not a three-month journey. It is a long-term progression through a maturity curve. Don’t think you are going to implement a CDP in a month or a quarter, because it requires some serious prep work. Sit down with all of your stakeholders, marketing people, and sales teams and figure out your end goals two to three years from now.

Next, figure out the people, processes, and technology you are going to need. If you are bringing on new technologies to support some of the objectives on your roadmap, make sure you have a set-up where you get the most value out of those investments. This requires you to put processes in place, especially if you’re adding a CDP. It also means you will need to enable people and likely hire more people. These are all important things to build into your roadmap.

2. Analyze your customer journey. Don’t ignore certain channels. Make it your priority to extract data from all touchpoints, not just campaigns or you’ll end up with blind spots. One example of a blind spot is not knowing that a good percentage of your prospective customers are coming to your website via organic search.  If you are not tracking that data and feeding it into your overall picture of your customer journey, then your blind spot will cause you to make incorrect decisions about where to invest your marketing budget.

3. Make sure you are ready. Do a health check on your marketing data maturity. Ask yourself:

  • Do we have an understanding of which data sets are the most important?
  • Are these data sets easily accessible to all of our marketers?

For example, in marketing automation platforms there are different fields from different systems for creating the segments that you need or personalizing content for both new and repeat customers. We work with lots of companies that have very interesting renewal emails that they like to send out that feature two or three different subscriptions for renewal. Communications like these are challenging to do based solely on the data structures within your marketing automation platform. You have to think through all of the different issues and whether or not these processes can be automated. Manual processes are very challenging when it comes to scaling personalized communications.

Reflecting on the Old Data Paradigm

Dan: In the old days, marketers madly generated a flurry of leads, tossed them to sales, and hoped that sales would do something with them. What we found out over time is that sales teams were often doing nothing with them. Moreover, there were complaints from sales, not surprisingly, about the low quality of the leads. Marketers also used to rely on a linear funnel, and assume that buyers would move in a direct path. We thought potential customers will click here and obviously click there and then they will buy, but this did not turn out to be the case. We treated them all like individuals as opposed to a part of a bigger account.

The New Data Paradigm

Dan: In the new data paradigm, marketing creates a plan with sales, and figures out everything from goals, key metrics, terms, shared terminology, and service levels agreements, to account tiers, customer journeys, personas, and playbooks. We know now we have to be on the same page with sales on all of these different items to be effective, which is a major effort.

The Non-Linear Sales Funnel

Dan: We also know now that a linear funnel does not accommodate the fact that most customer journeys are non-linear. People are moving in all directions in the funnel, and these people are a part of an account. They are not operating as individuals. If you have two, four, or 10 or more people associated with an account that are a part of a deal that sales is working, then it is really important to understand how all of that fits together. Everyone in sales and marketing has to know their roles and responsibilities and how things pan out. It is a complicated process and requires real teamwork.

Aligning Marketing and Sales for ABM

Dan: When it comes to ABM, you need to align with sales on the data strategy, the overall strategy, the tools you’re going to use, and how you’re going to deal with issues like new business versus repeat business. Once you have those plans laid out, it’s time to think about personalization. Think about how you are going to incorporate the data that you need to personalize the messages the way you want for these accounts.

Ready or Not?

Dan: Before attempting ABM, you need to figure out if you’re ready or not. Ask yourself if your data is prepared? Do you know what is working versus what is not? When determining whether or not you are ready, start small. If your company has a target account list and an ABM strategy already, then you probably have those accounts tiered and your high-profile accounts have managers tending them year-round. Whether you start there or somewhere else, or you start with new versus existing business; figure out a way to start small and then learn what is working and what is not as you go.

Preparing Your Data for ABM Success

Dan: An ABM approach typically comes with a lot of visibility at many levels in the organization, so you definitely need to have your measurements in order. A big part of getting ready for an ABM approach is making sure you have your data ready. One of the first steps in every ABM project, once you have figured out what data is important, is to get that data cleaned up. You want quality over quantity.

Understand Your Feedback Loops

Dan: Alignment between marketing and sales is so important when it comes to ABM. You need to understand how the feedback loops between marketing and sales are going to work. Remember, it is a non-linear funnel; and a lot of contacts are going through that funnel for any given account. Sometimes we think someone is ready to talk to sales and they may or may not be, and sometimes they never will be. These decisions can happen at different stages. You have to be able to coordinate this activity and make sure people are getting the right messaging throughout the process, and that nobody gets left behind.

David: Is sounds like data is the foundation of everything that we are doing. Nothing else works well if the data is not taken care of properly from the beginning.

Dan: if you chose marketing data for a career, you have made a good choice. There will be a lot of demand for it for a very long time!

The Shift From Event Marketing to Digital Marketing

Dan: The next big issue impacting data and marketing automation is the move from an on-site event marketing approach to the more important digital focus that we have today. If you have been a marketer for very long, especially pre-COVID, you have spent some time dealing with on-site events, like trade shows and conventions. In this scenario marketers congregated at an actual event and collected list data from people in attendance. Afterwards, those lists were loaded into a MAP and some follow up process ensued.

Pivot to a Webinar World

Dan: Now, there aren’t a lot of on-site trade shows and events. Yes, there are still trade shows and events, but most are virtual, which is why there has been a massive pivot for much of the B2B marketing world to webinars. Companies that had previously focused solely on event marketing are now being challenged with the task of figuring out how to get people to webinars and create leads in a whole new way. Having a cross-channel, in-bound approach to attracting people to your webinars is very important.

Webinars have become another key piece of content in the overall customer journey. To maximize their effectiveness, you can strategically position them within your customer’s journey and base them on your established personas.

The Evolution of Webinars

Dan: Pre-COVID, there were long webinars and the primary metric for their success was the number of people who attended the live version. Now, it is more about accommodating our customers’ schedules via on-demand webinars instead of live ones. It’s sort of how everyone used to go to the movie theatre, but now they stream movies at home. People want their content when they want it. They do not want to adhere to anyone else’s schedule.

Webinar Data Strategies

Dan: When it comes to webinar data strategies there are a few things to consider. First, make it your mission to know as much as possible about each individual webinar interaction as you can. A lot of webinar platforms provide good data, such as:

  • How people found out about the webinar
  • How attendees interacted during the webinar
  • How long they watched the webinar
  • Which attendees posted questions

Second, use webinars wherever you need them in the customer journey. They can be at multiple stages of the funnel. They are no longer just a top of funnel effort anymore. Third, after the webinar, pursue a personalized outreach approach to attendees. If you know what an attendee is interested in make sure you reach out with content that matches that interest. Ideally, you want to direct them down a content path in the post webinar follow-up that speaks to their specific needs and interests. Finally, pay attention to your webinar campaigns, especially since they are a touchpoint in the buying process. Although there are many different pieces that go into a webinar campaign, tracking every touchpoint by itself is an interesting way to optimize your strategy for attracting the right people and getting them to the right webinars.

3 Tips for Mastering Marketing Data

Dan: Three tips that I want to share that will help you to master your marketing data are:

  1. Maximize Data Collection — Push the boundaries with what your anchor technology and complimentary technologies can do for you. There are lots of solutions out there, like Sureshot’s, that help you get more value out of your stack as you implement new or improved use cases. A simple example (that comes up a lot) is sending registrations through your MAP form instead of a webinar form. Marketing well is much easier when all your data is in a centralized place. There are many other ways to get more out of all your different platforms, so give yourself the freedom and permission to experiment and test different options.
  2. Attract Customers — Optimize your use of different channels. Go where your customers are, and invest in the channels that help you get the right people to your website, content, webinars, and other marketing materials.
  3. Optimize Webinar Data — Accommodate your prospects by providing on-demand versions of your webinars, in addition to hosting the live version. Be sure to think about where you house your webinars. For instance, are they on your website? If so, how are they presented? Are your gating them? Are they public? Or are prospects simply finding them on your YouTube channel? You may want to think about having your webinars be gated for some period of time and then public later. There are lots of options for optimizing data from your webinar processes over time.

David: Thank you, Dan. To summarize a few key points we’ve discussed today:

  1. Data is the foundation of everything we are doing from a marketing standpoint.
  2. Managing data well is vitally important because the volume of data we deal with as marketers is only going to continue increasing.
  3. The things we have always done in marketing — even 20 years ago—we are still doing today, just really differently. At the end of the day, we all want to find an audience of people to send a message to and have them respond positively to that message, so that we can pass their information to sales, who closes the deals, increasing the company’s revenue.
  4. Marketing tech stacks have become much more complex, due to exponentially more data and more connected tools sharing that data.

Sureshot Can Help You Orchestrate Your Data

David: At Sureshot, one of the things we focus on is revenue engine orchestration which is an automated approach to orchestrating data, messages, and customer journeys that uses the existing technology in your martech stack. Essentially, revenue engine orchestration enables you to optimize the processes involved in daily tasks, such as sending campaigns, increasing conversions and generating revenue. Sureshot takes on the challenges of making all these things happen from a technical perspective, and data is a big part of that equation. Every marketer at some level has struggles with data issues and most address it with manual work-arounds. Eliminating manual steps and restoring simplicity and functionality to data, messaging and journeys through better orchestration is essential to your ability to get the most value from your tech investment.

David: I hope you enjoyed our discussion of Data and the Future of Marketing Automation. This webinar is the third in our four-part series on The Future Of Marketing Automation. If you would like to check out the other webinars, which cover Channels, Personalization and Integration, click here.

About Your Host, David York, Founder & CEO of Sureshot

David has over 19 years of marketing technology, automation and operations experience, including:

  • Director of Marketing —Enterprise and Startup Level
  • Senior Marketing Consultant for Eloqua
  • Marketing Consulting Principal

About Dan Vawter, Managing Partner of Sojourn Solutions

Dan is a marketer that loves to help companies get more out of their marketing technologies. His areas of expertise include: Marketing Automation, Data Management, Demand Generation, Lead Generation, Lead Management, Lead Scoring, Lead Nurturing, Digital Marketing Programs, Content Management, Data Analytics, Account Based Marketing, Omnichannel Experience Design, Personalization, Revenue Growth, and System Integrations.

About Sojourn Solutions

Sojourn Solutions is a growth-minded marketing operations consultancy that helps ambitious marketing organizations solve problems while delivering real business results.

About Sureshot

At Sureshot, we help marketers orchestrate their revenue engine through a combination of software, integrations and services. Leading companies trust our solutions to help them navigate the increasing complexities of their marketing technology stacks. We enhance the revenue orchestration capabilities of B2B marketers by providing data, messaging and customer journey solutions that restore simplicity and functionality to complex processes.