Data - Distraction or Rocket Fuel for Top Line Growth

Ed Marsh | Jan 2, 2018
the role of data throughout an integrated top line growth plan.jpeg

Adjust your 2018 Business Data Resolutions

Will 2018 be the year of video? Facebook? Data? AI?

Who knows...and it doesn't matter. After all, we've had five consecutive "year of video" - it's a prognostication of limited value. All of those trends are continuing and should be on the radar of every B2B business.

I suggest a different approach - one built on a maturity model which spans all critical areas and identifies progressive capability and performance. Each business will be more advanced in some and deficient in others based on natural expertise among team members and culture.

The advantage of a maturity model is that it simultaneously identifies weak and strong areas, and it allows for planning for improvement and metrics to gauge progress. Critically, it also allows for prioritization and helps companies visualize important precursors (such as data accumulation as an intermediate step in a longer-term strategy as shown below.)

A common enemy of top line growth success is lack of focus in key areas. Without a framework, however, most companies strive for focus by simply ignoring other areas. That's a flawed approach that allows blind spots to degrade overall effectiveness.

If you're interested in mapping your revenue growth "maturity" against which you could then measure, plan & execute your revenue growth activities, let's chat.

In the meantime let's use "data" as an example.

Data Maturity Model

"Data" means lots of different things to different teams. Establishing common understandings is an important first step.

So a simple maturity model for data use in top line growth might involve the following progression.

  1. Doesn't really do much with it - may or may not have and occasionally refer to the following
    • Google analytics
    • email metrics
  2. Collect and use it - with varying degrees of sophistication
  3. Recognize the limitations of data - this may feel counterintuitive, but is a critical insight to leverage data in a nuanced and productive way for top line growth. It's important not to slavishly ascribe significance to data which may not be there. (I've written about this in the context of A Drunkard's Walk. I've also recently read and recommend The Theory that Would Not Die (about Bayes' Theorem) and The 'Resulting' Fallacy.
  4. View data as an asset
    • to build IP around the top line growth process (enhancing valuation)
    • build IIoT (industrial internet of things) product roadmap not around sensors and hardware, but around PaaS (product as a service) revenue models and data accumulation
    • strategically plan for how to monetize data and create new revenue streams that replace or supplement traditional sources of top line growth (this could include new products which monetize insights, new services, etc.)
  5. Embrace AI (artificial intelligence) in manipulating and leveraging data

These would normally be listed as columns from left to right in a row of a maturity model, with several representative criteria for each.

How does this apply to your business?

Small and middle market manufacturers are acutely aware of resource constraints. Too often, however, that's a justification rather than a reality. There are things which could be delegated and others which could go un-done. There are also traditional assumptions which are embedded in operations. (A great example of this is the investment in field sales vs. digital marketing, business development and inside sales in revenue growth planning.)

So a maturity model helps management to visualize the arc of progress rather than simply debate discrete action steps. 

For a typical industrial manufacturer this example might mean:

  • 2018 plan to implement marketing automation
  • 2018 product roadmap & R&D project to develop some data accumulation & revenue
  • 2019 accumulating data and creating parallel revenue streams
  • 2020 implementing AI in a couple areas of business

This won't happen accidentally however, and while the R&D could be turned into a daunting (indeed, overwhelming challenge) it could be channelized into a simpler approach by setting the timeline and the context of the longer-term goal.

amazon data driven marketing example for top line growth planning.jpgKeep it simple....but avoid oversimplification

Aside from personnel challenges, balancing simplicity against real complexity is probably the biggest management task in most businesses.

The value of the maturity model becomes clear when you compare the data maturity example above with this infographic (right) from Amazon/Alex which explores data driven marketing.

The graphic provides relevant and presumably accurate data. It makes a compelling case that there's a continuum of data expertise that one finds across the marketing function - from the traditional design focused "gut" driven through more rigorously measured and planned.

All true......but when you read the graphic you naturally assume that the highest level of data expertise to which a marketing department should aspire is to have a marketing data measurement tech stack of at least five tools.

The maturity model leads one to conclude that accomplishment alone vaults a company ahead of some of its peers. We saw above however, that it's only the second step on a five step journey of maturation.

Data must be a company wide (silo agnostic) strategic emphasis. While the Alexa infographic focuses just on marketing, the role of marketing is growing. A recent HBR article "The Trouble with CMOs" about which I wrote here emphasizes that a "P&L" marketing function with broad business acumen and engagement will be critical to position companies for success moving forward.

This maturity model example illustrates precisely how that impacts a company's planning.

If this feels like a model with the potential to help you grow and improve - consistently and in a scalable way - let's chat. I can help you build a maturity model of this sort for a variety of strategy and revenue growth functions.

In the meantime, if you're thinking about 2018 strategy, my free planning guide offers a roadmap of questions to guide your internal conversations.

Download your free copy