As marketers, data is like our lifeblood. Being able to generate actionable insights using accurate information about readers is key to creating content that’s personalized, relevant and valuable to our target audience. But what happens when data isn’t up-to-date?

Well, to make a long story short, our jobs mostly become way more difficult than they need to be.

The good news is that keeping up with data doesn’t mean you need to take time away from generating great content. Instead, we’ll let you in on a little secret: All you’ll need is a marketing information management system.

What Is Marketing Information Management?

Let’s back up a little bit: What do we mean when we say marketing information management?

At any given point in time, your team is collecting an absolutely massive amount of customer data. In fact, Statista has estimated that by the end of 2021, 74 zettabytes of new data will be generated. While that number can admittedly be difficult to visualize, we’ll just make things easier by calling it a lot. The ultimate purpose of marketing information management is to make sense of all of that noise to enhance your marketing plan.

With a system in place to collect, sort and analyze the most relevant pieces of data, your team will be able to spend less time in the weeds of your databases and more time creating the newest piece of industry-leading content. However, giving your marketing team additional hours in the day isn’t the only competitive advantage of having a marketing information management system. With a clear data strategy, you’ll be well on your way to unlocking other benefits including:

  • A stronger understanding of your customers built from real-time data.
  • Potential for major operational cost savings through stronger data management.
  • Ability to proactively predict and respond to emerging market data.

At the end of the day, a strong marketing information management system does not only benefit your internal team. From internal media assets to industry-wide marketing research, all of the data your organization collects will lend to the creation of a best-in-class customer experience.

Types of Marketing Information and Channels

Marketing data comes in all shapes and sizes — not to mention from a pretty wide-reaching variety of sources. Although your team’s specific data needs will be dependent on the projects you’re executing and the goals you hope to achieve, your marketing information management system will help organize each piece as it relates to three primary categories:

1. Internal

Internal data is basically exactly what it sounds like. This category represents all of the information your company collects about your customers as well as prospective customers through your day-to-day operations. Just some forms internal data can take include:

  • Sales records.
  • Customer history.
  • Past performance trends.

In the past, it was perfectly normal for internal data to get siloed among individual teams. However, as our understanding of the customer experience grows more complex and today’s consumer expects personalization at every stop along their journey, collaboration is a must. Having a system to organize and analyze internal data allows members across marketing, sales and service to seamlessly exchange information and communicate as needed.

2. Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence varies, but some of the most common information you’ll see in this category includes:

  • Research including your organization’s current market share and positioning.
  • Competitor insights or reports from third-party sources.
  • Product information, comparisons and reviews from consumers or industry experts.

This information can be hard to come by as competitors are likely to keep their cards close to their chest. However, your marketing information management system will play a key role in collecting and analyzing what’s out there to give you a better understanding of how customers navigate the path to purchase — as well as how you can ensure that journey leads to you.

3. Market Research

Market research takes a little bit of everything to provide a more complete understanding of the state of your industry, giving your team insight into potential opportunities and areas to improve. Some common areas for market research include:

  • Customer attitudes, beliefs and perceptions.
  • Product data that explores existing product performance, opportunities for new options and market penetration.
  • Environmental factors such as the economy, technology or emerging social trends and how they may influence consumer behavior.

Regardless of the industry you’re in or the target audience you’re trying to reach, all three of these channels will be invaluable to your team. Good thing you’re about to have a next-level marketing information management system to help you manage the lift.

Marketing Information Management Systems: Set Up And Challenges

The first step to building your own marketing system is to determine whether you have data across each of the three categories we’ve covered so far. If you don’t, consider step one-and-a-half to be determining which metrics your team will track and the channels they’ll come from.

The silver lining is that once you have all of your data in a row, you’re already one-third of the way done. The remaining two components you’ll need to get your marketing intelligence system off the ground are as follows:

  • A software that not only gathers and analyzes data, but also is able to use the results it generates to produce insightful reports.
  • An output system that ensures the data insights you’re collecting gets in front of the intended stakeholders.

Just like data comes in many different shapes and sizes, so do your options when it comes to the different solutions you can use to get your shiny new marketing information management strategy into action. Fortunately, many of the top software providers out there offer tools that can do it all:

  • Hubspot can be a great option for any marketers who are beginning to test the automation waters. Your team can start with a high-level overview of the performance of recent campaigns, diving deeper into more detailed metrics such as engagement or traffic breakdowns.
  • Amazon Web Services, a cloud solution created by none other than Amazon, provides data warehousing tools and in-depth analytic capabilities. You can also use the platform to build and run powerful dashboards and reports. If your organization is still growing, the scalable nature of this cloud-based solution can be especially helpful.
  • Tableau’s intuitive and user-friendly dashboards can help promote visibility across the entire organization. Since you’ll need a pre-existing database to connect to before you can begin building out your reports, this can be a solid option for teams with a legacy system to contend with.

With so many options on the market, it almost feels too easy, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s probably because up until this point, it was. Our apologies for that one.

Like any major change, introducing your own marketing information management system will come with a few obstacles. However, it’s nothing a proactive approach and a can-do attitude (or a lot of coffee) can’t handle. As you work to update your team’s strategy, keep these potential challenges in mind:

Team Culture

Compared to stylish digital assets or an innovative marketing campaign, data isn’t necessarily the most attractive initiative out there. However, employee education and the minimization of human error will go a long way in ensuring your marketing information management system is a successful one.

Take the time to provide each department with an understanding of best data practices and explaining how your decision can help them in their day-to-day work. Also, be sure to speak with your own team about any new responsibilities they’ll be taking on to support the implementation of the marketing system.

Data Quality

When was the last time you cleaned up your databases? No, we don’t mean dusting off your desk, although now that we mention it, we probably need to do the same. Before launching your marketing information system, it’s important to run an audit to ensure that you’re working with data that isn’t redundant, obsolete or inaccurate. Otherwise, you may be working off of intelligence that is really anything but.

Strategy

The strategy guiding your team is just as important as the data you’re analyzing. Every metric and each campaign you track should connect back to your organization-wide goals. Try to tie every data point to a clear business outcome. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to track everything just for the sake of tracking it.

These three challenges are only a sample of some of the most common obstacles marketing teams may run into. Depending on your organization’s digital maturity, it could take a little more elbow grease to get your marketing information system off the ground. However, by getting ahead of these issues in advance and creating proactive strategies to address potential gaps in your team’s internal data, you’ll be better positioned to make the most out of your new system.

Using Data for Your Marketing Success

Now that you have your marketing information management system up and running, it’s time to put all of that data together.

Generally speaking, the marketing manager and their team will be the ones spearheading the daily use of marketing information systems, however this will vary based on the size of your organization. In a smaller team environment, it may make more sense for the business owner to be responsible for this operation until a dedicated department has been created.

Some marketing teams may choose to automatically generate and send regularly scheduled reports out to specific stakeholders within your organization. However, when it comes to sharing the insights you uncover, ask yourself:

  • Which marketing channel did this data originally come from?
  • What team interacts the most with the stage of the customer journey related to this data?
  • What business process does this finding relate to?

The longer your organization uses your marketing information management system, the easier it will become to determine which data is valuable to each team. The most important thing to remember is that your system should grow alongside your company. If your long-term goals or objectives change, so should the metrics you’re tracking.

Getting Started With Your Marketing System

The right marketing information management system will help your teams stay on track and give you the tools you need to collaborate more effectively. Plus, just think: As you continue to expand your databases, you’ll have even more resources to pull from to make strategic decisions down the road.

Amanda Ciarci is a senior writer and editor at Brafton. When she isn’t busy overusing the em dash, she can be found playing with her cat, drinking pots of coffee at a time or finding her next concert to attend.