Breaking Through the Database Ceiling
By Dennis Troyanos
Database Marketers can undermine their careers when they focus on technical COMPETENCE instead of business LEADERSHIP.
Last month, my Partner and I facilitated a “Thought Leadership Forum” at the National Center for Database Marketing (NCDM) convention in Miami, Florida.
For those of you who were in attendance, you know that we were joined by an “all star” panel of database marketers for this session which included; Glen Hartman of Accenture, Renee Soulliard of AOL, David Bernard of DB Marketing Technologies and Tony Branda of Royal Bank of Scotland. We wish to publically thank them for their participation in this session.
The central question that our group was asked to shed light on was; “How do Database Marketers Effectively Break into the Inner Sanctum of C-Suite Leadership at their Respective Companies?”
While this newsletter is not the proper venue to rehash the findings of a 3 ½ hour workshop, we thought it might be interesting to share 5 key observations that emerged from our session.
Essentially, Database Marketers tend to be:
- Excellent “problem solvers” who generally approach a specific marketing challenge in a highly efficient tactical vs. strategic manner. This approach is not surprising because these professionals typically come from the “behind the scenes” ranks of Analysts and Modelers. While this tactical DNA/orientation gets them extra points from the marketing group on specific (short term) micro initiatives, it does little to gain them C-Suite recognition for being able to solve long range / big picture marketing and branding issues.
- Plagued with the inability to effectively communicate complex analytically driven concepts to non-technical business leaders. Few if any rank and file database marketers have developed the “bi-lingual language skills” that makes it easy for their non-technical colleagues to understand the key elements of their business insights. It is the rare database marketer that can tell a story in an engaging, easy to digest manner. That’s why many C-Suite executives tell us that while they admire their “data wonks” they run away from them when they see them in the halls, for fear that they will get into a conversation with them that will make their head explode.
- Sub par at interviewing and hiring. The classic database guru is an academic at heart and feels most comfortable with people who are like them. This makes for one-dimensional teams who value a “beautiful algorithm” more than they appreciate the reason for creating the algorithm in the first place. The inability to interview and hire with the broader vision of where the company is heading in the future is a big reason that C-Suite executives get frustrated with database managers.
- Reactive rather than pro-active. Database professionals actually crave “brain busting” mathematics challenges that most people would never dream of taking on. Many database professionals are like the genius kid that sat next to you in algebra class who was always finished with the test before you were able to read the question. Due to their unique ability to see answers where others see only murky questions, we observe that the average database marketer lacks the multi-dimensional “communications finesse” that most of us needed to simply survive third grade. This lack of practice makes for a person who struggles with the likes of marketing and sales executives whose stock in trade includes their ability to resonate with almost any audience at will.
- Prone to viewing the world by looking in the rear view mirror vs. looking out of the front window. Blowing the doors off of a transactional technical dataset may be fun for some people but unless it provides insight into how consumers think and act IN THE FUTURE, the value of the analytics is questionable at the very least. Frankly, this causes the value of the database analyst come into question when it comes to bonus time.
In short, if you want to be a high profile “stand out” in the database analytics world, one who is embraced by business leaders in your company, you must …
- Become better communicators. Cultivate the ability to tell and interesting story.
- Learn to hire with the long range needs of the company in mind
- Become a strategic observer of customer behavior and build your models around those things that make the cash register ring today and make it explode tomorrow.
Dennis Troyanos is a partner in the Troyanos Group Ltd., an executive search and consulting firm specializing in the marketing and marketing communications disciplines with a special focus in the areas of measurable marketing, public relations, advertising, interactive, strategy, business development and healthcare. He can be reached at email@example.com or 914-479-1801.