How to Make it Rain Money in Digital Marketing

A few weeks ago I reached out to fellow XChange attendee and friend, Bob Page, because I wanted to understand more about the modern data architectures driving high speed analytics. Bob is the VP of Partner Product Management at Hortonworks, a company that enables modern data architecture via Apache Hadoop.

I like technology so I often make it a habit with my clients to add a few slides showing how the data architecture would need to change as companies blend multiple data sources and eventually do more real time analytics.

You have never seen marketers do a faster "head scratch and tilt" than when the database slide comes up. IT and marketing rarely understand each other. And yet, a recent 

IBM study

 points out where CMOs and CIOs work together the company is 76% more likely to outperform in terms of revenue and profitability. SEVENTY-SIX PERCENT! Is this not a great reason to make some new friends with a box of doughnuts?

As digital marketers we must seek ways to work with IT, even if it is just to keep them informed. I am not saying it is easy. I am saying that high quality digital marketing eventually includes the entire company and all it can bring to bear to delight the customer.

Here are two big reasons why you might care about IT today:

1. Your ability to get insights could eventually stall

Traditional databases are slow. You probably know this, so here's an example to illustrate why they are slow. Let's say you go to a party and decide to look for a specific person. You do not know this person's name so you introduce yourself and meet every single person in the room until you find the person you are looking for. You might speed this process up a bit if you know their hair color or another attribute. But you still have to plow through the structure of each personal meeting to find the person.

This is how a relational database works. It reads each table all the way through to find the data you need. You can speed it up by organizing these tables by attributes. For example, one table might be physical attributes containing subtables such as hair, gender, and height. Traditional databases requires the data to be structured.

And this is why skills such as SQL are in such high demand. They query these traditional databases and pull out the structured data. The same applies to data visualization systems like Tableau. Tableau needs structure to work its magic as anyone who has accidentally processed 2 million rows can tell you.

Your IT department may have a lot of traditional databases but it won't always be that way. Who will you turn to when the high speed systems like Hadoop come to town? You may land an experimental Hadoop server under your desk in the marketing department, but don't expect it to stay there. It belongs in IT.

2. Your ability to add fresh data could stall

Older databases cannot handle the volume. Information carried by customer records and ERP systems is paltry compared to modern data types.

Let's say traditional data volume is represented by one Twinkie a day placed on your desk. Modern data in the form of pictures, videos, clickstream (web) data are akin to thousands of Twinkies filling up your cubicle every minute. Not only is it coming in high volumes but it contains a lot more unorganized data.

Dealing with the rules and regulations of data hygiene has long been the domain of IT. As new data sources are added (these help you gain a comprehensive view of the customer) they need to be landed, processed and made available for use. IT folks are well versed in this.

How to bridge the gap

Digital data is unstructured. The modern route is to use Hadoop which is cheap and scalable with free open source software to land a virtual "

data lake

." To do this you are going to need substantial technical help. Consider bridging the gap between Marketing and IT by designating a technically-inclined marketing person to attend a few one-time or quarterly IT meetings and start to understand what IT cares about in your organization. The more you understand about the world of IT, the faster you will converge on that elite group of companies that are 76% more likely to outperform their competition.