OPINION: How financial services organisations can develop a data-driven marketing culture

Guro Bakkeng Bergan

By Guro Bakkeng Bergan, VP GM EMEA, Fivetran

In today’s fast-paced business environment, financial services organisations face increasing pressure to devise new and innovative methods for attracting, retaining, and satisfying customers. Using rich data sets, finservs can look beneath the surface of isolated customer interactions and understand the drivers of customer behaviour. Developing a culture around this data – where employees feel equipped and empowered to query the data relevant to their function – is a crucial step for any organisation looking to carve out a competitive advantage and foster business growth.

The marketing department, with its wealth of customer insights and engagement initiatives, is a great place to start.

Marketers’ data challenge

The marketing department plays a crucial role in driving customer-centricity within financial services organisations, so it’s vital that marketers have access to all the insight that can help them build a 360-degree view of the customer – their preferences, habits and even where their journeys break down. Yet, all too often, these teams are hindered by bad data access and lack of skill. This is a dangerous position to be in since organisations that cannot access data are certainly wasting it.

One of the biggest hurdles to data access is poor data infrastructure, resulting in data sitting in various departmental silos. Data silos can severely impede an organisation’s ability to utilise its data effectively since – without a centralised location to provide a single source of truth in data – insights tend to be limited, duplicated, outdated and inaccurate. In other words, unfit for analysis and decision-making.

Secondly, a lack of expertise to retrieve vital data often leads marketers to work with limited data sets. To counter this challenge, finservs must support marketers to query, interpret and overlay data, helping them to move confidently from initial insights to suitable actions.

Plug gaps in ability and knowledge

Marketers are already data workers to some extent – they operate in a world of KPIs and metrics around engagement, attrition and growth. But while they are familiar with dashboards and reports, they often lack the technical ability to connect the dots and see the full potential of data.

In marketing teams where technology expertise may be lacking, a dedicated data analyst can be appointed, perhaps on a rotational basis, to act as an ad hoc expert when the marketing team needs help interpreting data insights or integrating other data sources to build a more holistic picture. This can speed up the process of developing a data culture.

In the long run, however, marketers cannot rely solely on analysts – they themselves should be able to use the data in a self-service way. They should be able to access dashboards that show the most up-to-date insights related to marketing use cases, whether actual marketing data or relevant insight gathered in other parts of the business. This requires finservs to transcend data silos and really think about how data moves within the organisation.

Put in place the right data foundations

Modern technology foundations are essential if financial services organisations want to improve the availability and reliability of their data. This is integral to a strong data culture, as only when marketing teams have unbarred and unmarred access to data relevant to them will they be able to deliver a real impact.

Many finservs today take advantage of the ‘Modern Data Stack’ – a pairing of technologies that ensure that raw data from various systems and applications (such as Marketo and Zendesk) are seamlessly and rapidly moved to a central cloud destination and made analysis-ready.

One of the key benefits of this joined-up thinking across the technology stack is that data governance and security can be guaranteed at all times, no matter where the data resides. This is particularly important for finservs since they are responsible for safeguarding sensitive customer information and complying with the highest regulatory standards. For example, in the modern data stack, personally-identifiable information (PII) is automatically detected, masked and secured so that data can never end up in the wrong hands. The same governance rules can provide role-based access and ensure that data democratisation efforts go hand in hand with data security best practices. In short, that the right people can access the right data at the right time.

Watch confidence bloom

Giving marketers reliable and secure access to data has one significant benefit: it will surreptitiously lead to data literacy. When data processes are intuitive and effective, team members will want to use the data and develop new ideas. With the proper support, leaders can trust their marketing teams to execute tasks with the proper insight and knowledge for success.

Furthermore, with this confidence, teams can develop a strong top-down focus in which leaders and managers set clear expectations around data. On a day-to-day basis, this could involve encouraging everyone to bring one insight-backed new idea to meetings and empowering team members to take responsibility for execution.

This confidence to provide input is a crucial element of a data-driven culture. When team members are equipped with the proper insight, idea exchange becomes effortless, and the conversations that take place around data will force new paths for innovation. To encourage this confidence, managers should be sure to celebrate every success.

Sowing the seeds of future success

Developing a data-driven marketing culture does not happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean finservs can rest on their laurels. With more and more data to collect and analyse, now is the time to think strategically.

Technology and strong leadership are pivotal to fostering a culture of innovation and creativity, where everyone feels empowered to contribute to the organisation’s success. Empowered and equipped for success, data-driven marketing teams can have a stellar impact on financial services operations.

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