David Raab is a consultant specializing in marketing technology, selection and evaluation, with a 30+ year career spent guiding B2B and B2C marketers through lead analysis, RFPs, vendor selection and more. He is principal of Raab Associates who help marketers from Global 1000 organizations in retail, financial services, communications, travel, and other industries select the best marketing technologies and service vendors.

Q: Gartner predicts that by 2017 CMOs will have a larger technology budget than CIOs. What do you think will influence marketing in the future more, hardware design or software innovation?

A: Software innovation, clearly. Hardware really doesn’t have much impact on people, except insofar as it affects software. Incidentally, Gartner’s now revised that [stat] – they say it has happened already.

Q: If used correctly, Big Data and content can be leveraged to create meaningful experiences for customers. Where should SMBs start?

A: SMBs need to start by looking at data that tracks behavior because behavior is really the most important piece to understanding what customers are doing, what they might want in the future, what they’re interested in, and what their needs are.

Q: Speaking of Big Data, research shows that companies that effectively use Big Data and analytics together experience significant increases in profitability and productivity. How can SMBs use analytics to identify and pursue valuable leads?

A: In this context, there are two kinds of analytics: One is predictive analytics – things like lead scoring, what to next offer, who’s likely to churn, who’s not using the existing products effectively – because you get a lot of interesting data back from the products themselves. Then there is also more descriptive analytics, which is just understanding your customer, seeing what the segments are, looking at responses to promotions, and things like that. That doesn’t take advanced statistics in the way that predictive does, but still provides tremendous value.

Q: What questions should a CMO ask when evaluating marketing automation solutions?

A: It has to start with requirements. Requirements, in turn, have to start with use cases. The first question is, “Okay, what am I going to do?”

The second question is, “Given this is what I want to do, what does the system need to do to support that goal?”

And then begin to ask, “Given that I know exactly what I want the system to do, does any given system actually do it?”

There are other questions about the kind of support the vendor is going to provide, which very important, in particular, for SMBs who are definitely going to need some training and some assistance. You’ll notice I didn’t mention price, and I didn’t even mention ease of use. Those are less important than getting a system that does what you need.

Q: What are the three biggest hurdles to effective marketing measurement and analytics for today’s SMB?

A: Data, data, and data. Certainly the largest is just getting your hands on the data that you need. Marketing automation helps with that—because at least your data is assembled—but that’s not all. You have to get the data out of your other systems and assemble it and integrate it so you get something approaching a more complete view of the customer.

The second is relating marketing activities to actual business results. It’s often very difficult, particularly in a B2B context, to know that Joe in the Miami office saw the ad on our nurture stream, but Sandy in the Los Angeles office actually made the purchase. Maybe they’re even different company names; they’re not unified, but in fact it’s the same organization. That kind of thing really wreaks havoc, and is a very common problem.

Third would be finding some way to estimate the impact of multiple touches, to at least get beyond first touch or last touch attributions.

You can follow David Raab @draab.

Thank you, David!