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IBM's Mackey on using data, analytics to understand the future

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Brian Mackey, director-IBM Marketing Transformation, is assigned to help IBM marketing deploy a data-driven strategy. His team has built a uniform system that helps the company derive actionable insights from disparate actions—Web searches, clicks, downloads and in-person events stretching across 78 countries. Mackey spoke to BtoB about how data and predictive analytics transform marketing into a customer-driven process. BtoB: How do you carve actionable insights from data? Mackey: When we started, we had all kinds of tools in place. As we went from one geography to another, marketing organizations executed and collected data in different ways. The ability to roll all of the data up and be able to understand it end-to-end—we were not in the position to do that. We deployed a common platform worldwide to manage all of the execution and standardize the way that we capture responses. Once you get that backbone in place, then you have confidence that your raw data is being captured consistently. You can start to apply more sophisticated tools for pattern recognition and start to do the predictive analytics to understand which marketing activities are going to work best, which individuals are going to be more receptive and the messages that are going to be relevant to the individual. You can trust the underlying data. BtoB: How has data-driven analysis shaped your marketing strategy? Mackey: It enabled a significant shift in the way that we did marketing. The marketing that we used to do was proactive. You develop a targeted list and send a message. That's much less effective than reacting to behavior from individuals and letting them drive the conversation, moving from push to pull marketing. We look for activity that takes place on our external website. If you search for information and you download a fact sheet about an IBM product, we know you are interested and we put you in an automated nurture stream that is programmed to take you through a buyer's journey over a period of time. The whole conversation has been initiated by the customer. It's us responding to what they've told us. BtoB: What is your advice for companies working on setting up a data-driven process? Mackey: You have to start with a good marketing database. You have to have a set of marketable contacts. Ultimately you will sell to a company, but you market to an individual. Next you want to standardize the backbone of all of your marketing execution, particularly the response capture. When someone reacts to a campaign, you're standardized globally on that. The information comes in on a granular level that is consistent across the world. That is what is going to feed your database, what you can use going forward to understand the propensity of an individual to positively react to a given marketing message.
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