Awareness. Consideration. Decision. Purchase. The four stages of the marketing and sales funnel. A formidable formula that has explained consumer behavior for over a hundred years, when it was first theorized by advertisers.
But what was once a clear-cut process has become a complex collage of touchpoints thanks to the rise of digital marketing and social media. As Scott Feldman, Customer Intelligence Practice Lead for Canada at SAS describes, “Buying is not linear, and successful brands know it. Skilled marketers understand that digital and non-digital touchpoints all work together to drive conversions…You must add unique value across channels.”
Ultimately, he explains, it’s about showing up on the channels your customers use, and giving them the experience they’re looking for. To do that, it’s essential to tap into marketing business intelligence. In this article, I’m sharing more from my interview with Feldman where he explains what marketing business intelligence is, and how the insights you gain from it lead to more effective strategies for reaching your customers.
What is marketing business intelligence?
Feldman describes marketing business intelligence (BI) as: “The accumulation of data from all of your external channels.” For example, marketing BI originates from a variety of places including social content performance data, social listening insights, website analytics, email marketing metrics and more. The data can be applied to functions within and outside of marketing, including customer care, product development and corporate strategy.
He goes on to add, “Marketing BI needs to reside in one place to effectively model and market. It enables a single view of your target audience and customers, and empowers you to track the channels your customers are using. Working off of that model allows us to be better connected marketers.”
How can marketing business intelligence benefit an organization?
Marketing BI is essential to empathizing with consumers at every stage of the customer life cycle. With those insights, you can grease the wheels of your marketing strategy, enabling stronger targeting, increased ROI and an improved customer experience (CX).
Define your ideal customer profile
Knowing who you should be marketing and selling to is key to growing your business. Yet, narrowing down an ideal customer profile is a challenge for many companies.
As Feldman explains, “When I work with brands that aren’t [tapping into BI data], I ask: ‘Do you know who your customer is? Do you know who you’re selling to?’ They often answer: ‘We’re everything to everyone.’ No brand should be a catch-all. Even phone companies don’t sell to everyone. Be true to yourself and your business by knowing who your customer is.”
With accurate marketing BI data, you can segment your audience into different buyer personas. The right BI tools enable you to create data visualizations and reports that demonstrate the defining characteristics of these personas—including their needs, pain points, demographics and even personality traits. The marketing BI insights should also illustrate the arc of a persona’s relationship with your brand—from first encounter to final sale.
For example, with social media intelligence insights, you can surface critical voice of the customer (VoC) data from various sources such as social listening, reviews, surveys and contact center interactions to track brand health, improve products and enhance customer engagement and retention.
Sprout Social’s social listening solution uses AI technology to calculate the overall sentiment of your brand, product or CX, and reveal audience insights from social conversations. This intel might reveal that a segment of your customers is using your product in a way that you didn’t realize, helping you better position your product going forward.
Refine marketing attribution
When it comes to asking for resources, marketing BI can help demonstrate the value of marketing initiatives to your CFO.
“The CFO doesn’t give an infinite budget. Your marketing campaign needs to be important to the business. Prove how your campaign leveled-up to revenue with data,” Feldman advises.
Marketing BI metrics like conversion rate, cost per conversion, return on ad spend, customer acquisition rate and marketing-sourced revenue demonstrate the throughline from your campaign efforts to your company’s bottom line. Continuously analyze marketing BI data to assess the status of key performance indicators (KPIs), measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and make data-driven improvements.
Not only will this data illustrate ROI, it will also guide your future investments in specific channels, and set you up for stronger marketing campaigns. As Feldman says, “Not every channel provides the same ROI. It’s important to attribute revenue and conversions to a certain source.”
For example, when defining actionable social media ROI for your business, using a tool like Sprout Social aggregates your paid campaign results from across channels. These analytics reports directly tie social activity on each channel to business results in shareable, digestible reports all stakeholders can understand.
Deliver a smoother customer experience
What was abundantly clear in my interview with Feldman was his passion for helping brands deliver a smoother CX. It was the crux of his argument for why BI data matters, and how it can help organizations.
“CX should be easy, memorable and positive. That’s what brands need to deliver. That’s what consumers are looking for. Every point of friction is measured against you. What you must create as a brand is an experience that people want,” Feldman emphasizes.
As a real-world example of what a smooth CX looks like, Feldman cites KFC. “Whether you like their food or not, KFC is one of the best brands on social. They’re smart, funny and witty. What you see on Facebook is not what you see on TikTok. They provide different value on each network.”
He goes on to describe how their customer care is second to none. “They’re responsive. It’s not just about being on these different channels. Their customer interactions are next level.”
Achieve this enviable world-class CX by using Sprout’s Smart Inbox to enable stronger collaboration between your social and customer care teams.
The inbox unifies your social channels into a single stream, and when you reply to a user, you see key BI like conversation history and customer relationship management (CRM) data. With this data, customer care reps can provide higher quality support across channels, and improve satisfaction across the customer journey.
Select the right business intelligence tools for your marketing team
Maximizing your use of marketing BI requires following data management best practices. As Feldman puts it, “If you’re working with stale data, then you’re not actually working off of marketing BI.”
To keep your data up-to-date, you need processes and tools that support seamless data collection and maintenance. Here are a few tips when selecting business intelligence tools for marketing teams.
Have an end goal in mind
According to Feldman, the most important step to take before setting out to update your processes or find a new tool is to think critically about what you want your marketing BI data to achieve. Ask yourself: What do we need to learn about our customer to improve our go-to-market approach? Feldman adds, “It’s not the channel or the tool you use, it’s what you get out of it.”
When you audit your processes and evaluate new tools, keep your brand’s strategy top of mind. Be sure you can access the customer intel that’s most important to your brand and industry. A good rule of thumb is to remember that your tools should meet your needs, you shouldn’t retrofit your strategy to fit a tool.
Choose user-friendly tools
In the same vein as serving your company’s unique strategy, your marketing BI tools should be accessible. They shouldn’t be so complex that only a data analyst can use them. The democratization of marketing BI data is what amplifies its impact beyond the marketing department, and makes a material difference in your CX. Usability is also critical for keeping data accurate and up-to-date.
Look for tools that are intuitive to use and make it easy for your team to make decisions that improve business strategy.
Integrate BI tools with your existing tech stack
When marketing BI tools integrate with the rest of your tech stack, the result is deeper customer satisfaction and internal synergy. Yet, many companies don’t have tools that work together. According to a Q3 Sprout pulse survey, only 37% of enterprise companies use integrated technology to address customer care needs, and 42% of all organizations cite gaps in available customer information as a barrier to providing customer support and a better CX.
On top of limited data, many organizations don’t know where their data is coming from, according to Feldman. By introducing complementary tools into your tech stack, you can improve your marketing BI reporting capabilities and improve your approach to customer care.
For example, with Sprout’s Salesforce integration, social data enriches your CRM data to provide a comprehensive view of your customer. With this integration, agents can engage in real-time with all the context they need. With a more complete picture of your audience, you can track customer journeys and segment audiences based on their social interactions with your brand.
Contextualize BI insights
Even as a social media management company, we acknowledge that social isn’t the only source of marketing BI. Feldman agrees. “You can’t attribute marketing BI from social alone.”
Having tools that help you contextualize and streamline all your marketing BI in one place, and illustrate how your different campaigns and channels interact together is essential.
Take Sprout’s Tableau integration. This Tableau BI Connector combines the power of social data with all your key data streams, including display ads, email campaigns, website data and more. You can customize the dashboard with the exact visuals and metric combinations you need, without requiring time-consuming development work.
To aid your search for the best tools for your company, here’s a complete list of marketing BI tools that can level up your business’ decision-making and improve your brand’s CX.
Use marketing business intelligence to better understand your customers
Accurate and up-to-date marketing BI makes it possible to optimize your campaigns, share meaningful data with stakeholders and, most importantly, elevate your CX. With comprehensive BI data at your fingertips, you can decrease customer acquisition and retention costs and prevent churn. As Feldman says, “People buy on emotion. Loyalty comes from having positive interactions with your brand, and forging an emotional tie.”
When used to its full potential, marketing BI is the bridge that connects your brand to your customers. If you want to dive deeper into understanding your customers’ journey, use this CX audit template to ensure your social channels are meeting the needs of your target audience.