The Marketing Strategist:

CDW’s Data-Driven Marketing Closes the Insight-to-Action Gap

April 11, 2017

  • Marketing Strategy & Operations, Sales & Field Enablement

With 250,000 customers, CDW has no lack of potentially useful customer data. Generating actionable insight from all that data, however, is no simple task.

Andy Lausch, senior director of analytics and insights at CDW, learned this lesson several years ago. At the time, he worked on the sales side and was receiving a weekly report that a marketing analytics group had developed to help the sales team acquire, retain, and expand business with customers.

Although Lausch initially welcomed the report, other initiatives achieved priority over the need for this information, and he eventually stopped using the report. Over time, he then began to wonder if his peers (who were also receiving the report) were also no longer leveraging this data. Digging into this hypothesis further, Lausch learned that his hunch was right; no one else was using the report either.

In retrospect, Lausch has identified three factors that he believes contributed to the diminished usefulness of the information he and his peers were receiving:

  • Data, not insights. The reports focused more on delivering data than providing insights gleaned from the data.
  • Lack of significance. The weekly findings were not significant enough to make a difference to the recipients and their business objectives.
  • Complexity. The reports were too complicated to digest easily.

Further, Lausch’s observations, from this and other examples, has led him to remind his coworkers throughout marketing that busy people in stressful jobs (e.g., sales) are likely not to provide feedback as much as desired, including not telling others when they are no longer using content created for them.

A New Vision for Data-Driven Marketing

Fast forward several years and Lausch has taken on the challenge of building a new analytics and insight program to accelerate growth with a world-class, data-driven marketing organization. Lausch explains, “CDW’s vision is to know the customer better than any other organization so we can better serve our customers and add value, which eventually helps our customers better serve their customers.”

To this end, marketing at CDW has made three key investments on the path to becoming more data driven:

  • Process: Created a standardized data taxonomy, consistent KPIs, and program governance.
  • Technology: Upgraded their marketing infrastructure with a new technology architecture and best-in-class tools to strengthen data collection, integration, analytics, and insight.
  • Organization: Utilizing these investments in process and technology, marketing leadership reorganized their department, including creating a new, integrated analytics and insights team to collect, analyze, and drive actionable insights into the business.

Most important, Lausch’s new analytics and insights team has brought together data and marketing experts into a unified decision support team that understands both the data as well as the associated business need, and can rapidly translate learning into action to create competitive advantage.

Within the team, an analytics group is responsible for marketing measurement, building predictive models such as propensity to buy and marketing attribution, and helping stitch together all the tools and technology. CDW’s data sciences team is also included in this analytics function. Working in parallel, an insights group, comprised of highly experienced marketers who are well-versed in both marketing strategy and execution, is tasked with helping the business leaders in sales, as well as marketers, make better decisions.

Having dedicated insights resources is making a big difference, according to Lausch. This group works on insights 100% of the time—a significant departure from the old model where industry marketers devoted only a small portion of their time to insights generation.

Communication is the Secret Sauce

Based on his decade and a half of experience within sales, Lausch understands that the best way to provide useful insight varies greatly depending upon particular stakeholders and their preferences for consuming information. “For salespeople, for example, we need to remember to distill the insights down to a couple of bullet points so they don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to do with data provided to them. It has to be very clear to them.” If those few bullet points prompt action, then the analytics and insights group has done its job. The challenge is getting the analytics and insights professionals to get to the impactful insights, right away, when communicating to other stakeholders.

Lausch emphasizes the lesson learned from his earlier experience:

Don’t assume you know what the business leaders in sales want. You have to get inside their heads. They may not be able to tell you the exact solution they need up front, but they can definitely tell you the problems they are trying to solve. It is up to our insight professionals to find out if the work they are producing and communicating is useful and impactful. For example, when a salesperson opens a report, is it immediately clear what he or she should do differently based on the data? If not, start again.

The Impact of Better Insight

Lausch describes the marketing transformation at CDW as a multiyear journey and he is starting to see results. For example, the team is seeing significant interest in several new insight-focused data products under development, which will significantly help the business identify incremental business opportunities. “The democratization of our data has the ability to put actionable insights into the hands of our almost 6,000 customer-facing employees,” says Lausch.

Perhaps the greatest evolution underway is that CDW’s insights professionals are becoming perceived as internal business consultants, in addition to the highly capable integrated marketers they’ve been in the past, providing valuable decision support services. More people outside marketing are becoming aware of the insights discipline and what it can do. At CDW, the team is clearly moving from reporting nice-to-know data to producing insights that help guide the business.

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