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Despite the buzz about big data, most marketers are not excelling at turning data into insights yet.

That’s according to Scott Monty, Executive Vice President of Strategy at SHIFT Communications and Ford Motors’ former global digital and multimedia communications manager. As we’ve announced recently, Scott is keynote speaker at the upcoming Vision Critical Summit in New York, an annual event that connects the best and brightest minds in customer intelligence. He gave us a preview of his upcoming talk at the VC Summit by talking about some of the top issues currently facing marketing and customer intelligence professionals.

Here’s what Scott has to say about customer centricity, big data and the future of online communities.

Steve Jobs once said, "Customers don't know what they want until we've shown them." Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Henry Ford said something similar. He said, “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.”

There are only few innovative visionaries that can get away with Henry Ford’s or Steve Jobs’ statement. Some companies believe they know better, but it’s by observing our customers and listening to them that we can learn a lot. Steve Jobs was creating something that didn’t exist yet. He knew the behaviors that people exhibited, and he knew the kinds of behaviors that he wanted to inspire. Having a fundamental understanding of human nature and the way people act can lead to more useful insight. When you combine that understanding with what people say, you can identify people’s underlying needs.

What are the signs that a company is "customer centric”?

Most companies claim to be customer centric, but many aren’t there yet. To be customer centric, companies need to speak the language of their customers. We need to stop interrupting our customers’ lives and start putting ourselves in their shoes.

Tweet this!To be customer centric, companies need to speak the language of their customers. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba provides a great example. When Alibaba went public in September, it wasn’t Ma or his executive team who rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. He chose eight customers to ring the opening bell. Explaining the move, Ma simply said, “I want to make my customers happy.” That’s how it’s done: you need to put the customer at the center of everything you do.

Why is it important for CMOs to be data-driven?

CMOs used to have tenure of 28 months. That short tenure is because CMOs face enormous pressure. When so much business and customer engagement is happening online, there are more data points to prove the effectiveness of your efforts. The wide availability of data means CMOs are in a great position to learn more about their customers and to evaluate their own team’s performance.

You mentioned the relatively short CMO tenure. Some stats suggest that the CMO tenure is finally going up. Any thoughts on why this is?

At this critical juncture, the intersection of the CMO and the CIO is one of the most important issues for businesses. It takes time to integrate marketing and IT—two massive pieces of your business, both of which have large legacy systems. The rising tenure could be because CMOs are given more time to delve into numbers and to get more integrations done.

That said, I’m not sure if the longer tenure is a sign that CMOs are utilizing data to its full potential yet. In fact, a study released recently revealed that over two-thirds of marketers still couldn’t quantitatively prove the impact of marketing spending on business. Less than 23% of CMOs say they’ve been able to show the impact of data to their business. In other words, most marketers are not yet doing a great job of using data to show their value.


Fill in the blank: The marketer's biggest challenge today is _______.

Getting insights from the data that they do have.

Everybody talks about big data, but what most companies need at this point are small insights. There aren’t enough marketers who have data proficiency to effectively extract insights that will drive business decisions. Communicators and marketers should work on becoming conversant in data in a way that will allow them to effectively tell stories, make business decisions and inform their colleagues’ actions.

Tweet this!The marketer's biggest challenge today is getting insights from the data that they do have. (CLICK TO TWEET)

How do you see online communities—specifically in business and marketing context—evolving in the future?

The promise of social is that it could bring us back to that one-to-one relationship building, the core of business some hundred years ago before mass marketing. And in that respect, online communities have come full circle. Before corporate blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the social networks, online communities allowed businesses to gather insights. Online communities—whether you have a community of ten people or 400, or 4,000—provide a level of intimacy that more public social networks don’t have. Having a close community working on a single and particular purpose builds more loyalty and trust within its members and drives more honest conversations. In contrast, on more public forums like Facebook or Twitter, people tend to paint a rosier picture of their lives.

Tweet this!Online communities provide a level of intimacy that more public social networks don’t have. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Online communities will continue to evolve. As people flock from Facebook and other major public social networks, we’ll see them going towards private messaging apps (things like Instagram Direct, SnapChat, or WeChat). We’ve gone from private to public and we’re swinging back to private again—although I think we’ll land somewhere in the middle this time.

Want to hear more from Scott Monty? Learn how you can join us at the 2014 Vision Critical Summit in New York

Photo credit: Joe Venuto (via Scott Monty's Flickr page)

A Turning Point in Data Collection

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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