Integrated Data Success Requires Cross-Organizational Support
"Content is still king, but data is going to make you rich," says Ronda Hughes, a B2B media specialist who has led audience data strategy at companies including EnsembleIQ and UBM Americas. The caveat: “Every team within your organization has to buy in to the importance of data collection, audience segmentation, quality over quantity, and a content strategy that drives engagement."
At Publishing Executive's 2019 FUSE Media Summit, Hughes discussed five requirements for integrated data success in a media organization, which she aptly overviewed using the acronym TEAMS. We compiled valuable takeaways from her presentation in a new report, 5 Critical Steps in Turning Integrated Data into Revenue. This resource includes tactics for identifying rich and missing data, report types that will arm media sales reps for success, plus best practices for digital marketing campaigns.
Before you download the report, get to know Hughes in the following Q&A. She doles out more practical advice for publishers struggling to establish a unified audience database and explains why she believes "there is really no such thing as 'new revenue streams' in B2B."
Describe your background in B2B media. How did you come to specialize in data strategy?
I am blessed to work in an industry where over several decades I could play an actual role in the print to digital revolution. I have worked and managed just about every department and arm of the B2B business, but most of my tenure has been on the audience development side (both media and events). I never wanted to just "keep up" with the changing times of B2B, but wanted to be on the cutting edge paving the way for the next "big thing."
In the spirit of staying one step ahead, moving away from traditional Audience Development and moving towards integrated data and insights was a natural progression for me. There is something inherently wrong with spending the bulk of your audience budget on print circulation. Every industry’s reach and universe stretches way beyond those print subscribers!
What are the biggest obstacles that publishers face in unifying audience data?
There are many obstacles but if handled properly all of them can be short-lived pains for a long-term benefit. The biggest obstacle is making sure everyone in the organization, from the top down across all departments, is 100% on board with making the switch from siloed and disparate databases to one integrated, well-mapped system.
Can you share tips for overcoming that obstacle?
Have an agreed upon appointed small task force – don't have too many cooks in the kitchen. To move quickly you have to have a small group of people who are trusted to make database structure and data-mapping decisions. This task force should be allowed to delegate some of their other day-to-day tasks in order to concentrate on the data integration project as their primary focus with specific deadlines. Develop a plan that allows the task force to tackle the project in phases versus everything at once.
How have you leveraged data to develop new revenue streams in your past roles?
Some can argue that there is really no such thing as "new revenue streams" in B2B. It always boils down to sharing our content-driven loyal audience with our advertisers in the hopes of helping them make a lucrative connection. The key is to be able to update and evolve old revenue streams into more efficient and effective ways of making those connections. So, instead of old third-party email blasts (yuck), you need to evolve that into a data-focused, precision-targeting emarketing program for a much higher premium. If done properly, you can turn a dying revenue stream into a sought-after program, not to mention put a stop to inevitable list fatigue.
The data precision model holds true for any digital program you are selling – infographics, webinars, whitepapers, quizzes, retargeting, and any type of interactive experience product. Bottom line: You can invest in all the cool digital platforms and products available but unless they are executed properly to the correct audience segments, and with well-defined goals, they will fail.
What are some key ways that publishers can use data to improve their marketing efforts?
They should be paying close attention to active versus inactive audience (engagement data) and exactly what the audience is engaging with (media channel data) and how they are engaging with it (data showing push engagement, email opens, loyal website visitors). And it should go without saying that specific demographic segmentation is always a must and needs to be done right. Sending your audience relevant content – what they consider relevant, not what you consider relevant – in the ways they prefer to receive their content is important. This holds true with not only using the proper media channels but also making sure those channels are render-friendly across all types of devices.
Remember that an integrated database can also show you what your audience development teams need to work on in order to keep the marketing pool healthy. Develop plans to move non-engagers to engaged, continuously fill in missing data, collect additional audience insights, and make sure the industry universe is always well represented whether they are consuming print, digital, or on your website.
In your FUSE session you stressed that teams enable integrated data success. How can executives encourage buy-in across departments?
Actually, what I've seen happen many times is the complete opposite – it can be talented marketers and audience development teams that are trying to convince the executives to "invest" in a robust integrated system. Many executives think it's a "nicety" to have a robust integrated system, so they are hesitant to put it into the budget. In my opinion, it's not a "nicety," it's essential.
By the way, if you are an executive ready to invest in true data integration but you have marketing or audience team members that do not think in terms of data-first strategy, don't advocate for an integrated database, and have no desire to learn the system once it's implemented, you might want to think about some kind of organization development and department re-engineering strategy. P.S. I won't go into the "buy in" of the sales teams and how they sell (or don't sell) based on audience data first – that's a completely different interview.
What trends are you keeping an eye on in B2B media right now?
I like that fact that new content managers are coming into the B2B industry with less "church and state" mentality and are actually okay with partnering with customers to produce powerful thought leadership pieces. I like seeing content managers, audience generators, and digital sales coming together to ensure the right products are being placed within the right content and collecting the data. I also like seeing data science as a part of the overall solution in predicting behaviors and developing audience personas. All very exciting stuff!
Download the Publishing Executive report 5 Critical Steps in Turning Integrated Data into Revenue.