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Mila D'Antonio | April 25, 2012

Breaking Down Interactive Data Silos

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After attending Forrester's Marketing Leadership Forum last week, I came away with two realizations: 1. Marketers are getting serious about leveraging conversations about their brands in social networks, and 2. Because many marketers are jumping in without a clear strategy about how social fits in with other customer touchpoints, data silos are proliferating.

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Some companies have gone so far as to recreate the siloed departments of yesteryear, breaking their interactive channels into their own separate organizations (e.g., mobile is a channel, the web team one, social another). Tim McLaughlin, president, of Siteworx, told me that this often creates a fiefdom issue between channels. "What it leads to is multiple composite repositories per channel so customers have different experiences...as a marketer you're handicapped because you can't see customer movements across channels," he said.

In addition to the incomplete customer experiences, these emerging siloed channels are creating data overload. According to Damon Ragusa, founder and chief strategist of Thinkvine, the level of preparedness to collect and analyze the data from the emerging and siloed customer channels is low. "Your social strategy is in that big data bucket," he said. The bucket is so big and unwieldy in many cases that it's paralyzing to CMOs. As a result, "There is a realization that there is a little bit of throwing the baby out in the bathwater," Ragusa admitted.

To overcome their data hurdles, marketing and IT needs to work together on developing a strategy and process for merging and analyzing this data, but it's difficult to form partnerships when, in some cases, marketing is even more fragmented than in previous years.

One database marketing director of a leading money transfer company told me that her IT team is in the process of bringing the company's customer database in-house. However, after sitting through an interactive data session during the first morning at the Forrester conference, she realized that her IT isn't actually bringing in the company's digital and interactive data, and she planned to set up a meeting with IT immediately upon her return to discuss the whereabouts of the missing data.

Most enterprise architecture projects remain trapped in IT today and the situation will only worsen as companies become increasingly fragmented, making it more difficult to form partnerships. To break this, companies must take a holistic approach to their customer channel strategies, looking at projects from the outside in rather than the inside out.

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