Hart Energy CDO’s Take on Digital Transformation, CDPs & Marketing
Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) are increasingly in the spotlight, as companies try to figure out how to pivot in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world. How can your marketing organization and your company build a foundation for its data-driven future? Mark Chiles, chief digital officer (CDO) and senior VP of digital at Hart Energy, joined me to tackle this question—with plenty of real-world CDO experience and perspective—for Treasure Data’s recent webinar, “A CDO’s Perspective: How to Build a Strong Data Foundation for What’s Next.”
As a CDO with a professional background in IT, Mark has a special perspective on the interaction between marketing, business operations, and technology. He has spearheaded Hart Energy’s efforts to drive growth across varied properties and business lines, including Hart Energy’s media websites, conferences, and print publications such as Oil and Gas Investor. Along the way, Mark has gained vital insights on the challenge of turning data into transformative business results.
In this webinar, we discuss what it means to build a data-driven business, why it’s important, and how to make digital transformation happen for your company. A single blog post can’t do justice to our conversation—but let’s look at some key takeaways. And when you have a chance, you can view the webinar.
1. Data-Driven Companies Optimize the Entire Customer Journey
Data is essential to attaining what Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calls “multimoment maturity”—that is, the ability to optimize campaigns and deliver relevant content at multiple moments throughout the buying journey. Only 2 percent of companies, according to BCG’s research on digital marketing maturity, have reached the multimoment stage—but those relatively few organizations report cost savings of up to 30 percent and revenue increases of up to 20 percent.
To reach this level of mastery, companies have to understand and use data to drive decisions throughout the customer journey. This means they need to make connections between events in both the digital world and the offline world, capturing customers’ intent and making timely, dynamic adjustments in response to incoming data.
How does a data-driven approach to the customer journey look in practice? The answer depends on each company’s goals.
For example, Hart Energy seeks to understand customers’ buying behavior across multiple properties, both digital and offline, and identify ways to generate conversions and growth. If someone subscribes to a free newsletter, what’s the best way to lead them to a paid subscription? How can the company turn people who sign up for a conference into paid subscribers to one of its media properties? By connecting data points and modeling attribution between such online and offline activities, Hart Energy can better understand the paths that lead customers to take action, and direct the right message to the right person at the right time.
2. Data-Driven Business Means Agile Decision Making in Real Time
Data-driven decision making is sometimes portrayed as a strategic planning tool, with high-level decision makers using executive dashboards to make quarterly or semiannual decisions about, say, the marketing mix or budget. But this limited approach barely taps the potential of data to fuel faster, more effective decisions throughout the organization.
With the right technical tools and processes, companies can use customer data insights to learn and adjust on the fly—from week to week, day to day, even hour by hour. In addition, they can break down silos that prevent data from flowing between business units. As a result, the entire organization reacts more quickly to opportunities and adapts faster to changing conditions.
Hart Energy, for example, conducts a weekly or semi-weekly audit of its marketing campaigns across various channels, analyzing incoming data and seeking opportunities to improve conversion rates. Meanwhile, Mark’s team seeks ways to use the same data to improve performance across different functional units and business lines. Insights gleaned from subscription data, for instance, might also contribute to marketing a special event to customers who fit the right profile.
A data-driven business brings data into everyday operational decisions, not just long-term strategy and planning. In effect, the goal is to take the agile, iterative method used by software developers and apply it throughout the organization, so that the entire company is continuously adjusting its tactics and measurements for success as new data comes in. Such data-driven decisions enable the business to adapt quickly to changing dynamics—a crucial advantage in a fast-moving market such as energy.
3. Centralized, Unified Data Is a Necessity—Not an Option
If there’s one surefire barrier to data-driven business, it’s the fragmentation of data across different touchpoints and systems. Such data silos make it impossible to gain a rich, holistic view of the customer or the various moments that make up the buying journey. They also impede the sharing of actionable information throughout the organization, so essential to agile decision making.
As Hart Energy’s experience shows, data unification provides the solution to these problems. Mark and his team started out with data stored in multiple systems and databases, impeding the free flow of information within the business. To solve this problem, they used Treasure Data to create a massive data lake (now containing over 5 billion records). This data lake includes first-party data from a wide variety of sources—from web analytics and conference registration database to multiple CRM and email marketing systems. Drawing on this central repository, Hart Energy also works with the CDP to create unified customer profiles and manage its customer data.
By bringing all of this data together, Hart Energy gains true visibility into its customers—so it can determine whether a conference attendee and a subscriber are the same person, for example. Not only can Mark’s team work with data directly in the CDP, but they can also direct a flow of unified, actionable data back out to other systems for purposes such as segmenting audiences for email campaigns. The company also analyzes customers for churn propensity, determining what types of subscribers are unlikely to renew, who fits that profile and how best to persuade them to stay subscribed. These activities depend on having all the relevant data housed in one central location, rather than scattered among separate sources.
4. Culture Makes Digital Transformation Happen
Above all, a data-driven business model depends on organizational culture. That means data can’t only belong to planners at the top, or to certain functional units inside the company. Instead, every team and individual has to share an ethos that favors data-driven decision making—and this ethos needs to translate into practical action in every area of the business, from top to bottom. Just as important, your personnel need the skills to use data effectively and tools that make it easy for them to do so.
A 2019 research report from Mention and Mynewsdesk, based on survey data from marketers, PR pros and business leaders, underscores the challenge for many companies. Fifty percent of respondents to the survey said their organization’s culture didn’t support data-driven decision making—and only 18 percent said they had a high level of data literacy. Just 27 percent of companies were active responders, actively monitoring performance and changing their approach based on their findings.
So what’s the best way for CDOs and their teams to drive change? Mark recommends “asking forgiveness, not permission”—that is, taking action, rather than seeking approval in advance. By showing the benefits of digital transformation and data-driven decision making, you can gain support from key stakeholders and change the culture. It’s crucial to find a champion at the top: without executive commitment, it’s difficult to create the organization-wide change that makes data-driven operations possible.
Creating a data-driven organization requires patience. As most CDOs know, it takes more than just a quarter or two to produce results—so you need to get started while still meeting your short-term revenue goals. Such balance may be tough to maintain in a challenging business environment, but there’s no alternative if you want to lay a sound foundation for the future.
Want to Learn More from an Experienced CDO? Watch the Full Webinar
The transition to data-driven business operations is a complex process that requires an insider’s perspective to unpack. In this webinar, Mark and I dig deep into the topic with more research findings, examples, and insights from his experience as a CDO. If you watch, you’ll come away with actionable ideas—and maybe the inspiration you need to lead your company’s digital transformation.