Riding the right engine on the route to revenue

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Recently I traveled to the Monterey Peninsula. While known for what you can see and do there, I took no binoculars, no golf clubs, no wetsuit. I went to Monterey for the CMO Council's annual retreat and packed light: some casual duds and a fully loaded ballpoint with which to record revelations from the marketing leaders that make up the 3,000-plus members of the council. The event was tagged “Routes to Revenue.” Its agenda: Explore ways to generate growth on the rough and rocky economic landscape. Speakers from Eastman Kodak Co., Hewlett-Packard Co., Ricoh/IBM Corp.'s InfoPrint Solutions Co., SAP, Sony Corp. of America, Symantec and others, along with various strategic partners, unfolded their road maps. Among the ideas: New products targeted to hi-def segments; new partnerships and revenue-sharing; demand gen and new customer acquisition; broader geographic footprints; reconfigured channels; ramp-up of e-commerce; direct customer communications; and, of course, merger and acquisition. These were the routes to “Destination Revenue,” delivered with insight and best practices. But as I took in the sights and sounds, billboards along the way told me a different story. Finding illusive revenue ... no matter what the route ... requires a single engine ... without which you're kaput. That all-important engine is data, travelers. That's what we at EMA Group B2B call the “SMIP”—the single most important point. Whether data mining was the subject of a presentation or whether it was lifetime customer value, the majority of the content underscored the incredible role of data as a key driver of successful (read: measurable growth) marketing activity. We even learned how data from across customer touch points can be used to anticipate customer behaviors. How good is your data? The biggest roadblocks to revenue identified by the CMO Council are the lack of real-time data and analytics, inaccurate or incomplete data and data that is siloed or restricted. OK, many marketers and agencies understand the importance of data; but are we prepared to use it? Or trust it? Do we have enough data to drive our decision-making, understand the customer, identify segments, develop innovative products or business models? Do we even lack the basics, such as post-campaign data? What we all learned is that data not only needs to be a tool but also a goal. Sure we need to know what we know and what we don't know. But we should also understand what we need to know for the next trip: better economy, faster arrival, deeper insights on the people we meet. What “Routes to Revenue” told me was that data is the “Freeway to Revenue,” but it's not free. Somewhere in all our detoured budgets we will need to find a way to build the data systems that will help point us toward better planning, better targeting, better programs. And if we don't? “Hey buddy, how do I get to ... ?” John Favalo is managing partner, Eric Mower and Associates, Group B2B. He can be reached at [email protected]
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