Dark Data Discovery: Improve Marketing Insights to Increase ROI

Post originally published on IBM Watson Analytics blog.

It’s no mystery that you can increase marketing ROI and program performance with better analytics, but what if you are spending more time looking for data than analyzing it?

Data-driven marketing insights are attainable when you can effectively capture, analyze and link all the available data, marketing touches and associated costs throughout the lead generation and nurturing process. Unfortunately, as with other analytic domains (and the failed BI investments that preceded them) blind spots caused by marketing’s “dark data” can damage and pause your marketing strategy.

Gartner defines dark data as “the information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes (for example, analytics, business relationships and direct monetizing).” When it comes to analytics, this dark data can provide immense value and is a critical requirement in ensuring an accurate and a holistic view of the business.

Although this dark data may initially seem irrelevant, this information represents a large portion of unused opportunities that many companies ignore. There is a large intelligence risk that comes with not addressing this data. Companies could lose proprietary data on business products, plans, financial status and market share. Organizations can also face potential legal issues, loss of reputation and regulatory issues. If a company decides not to invest in the analysis and processing of dark data while its competitors do, the company will fall behind.


Investing in dark data is an opportunity that greatly outweighs the cost. For sales and marketing, the opportunity lies in intimately understanding their customers and their respective behaviors better to create, maintain and improve the relationship between the brand and the consumer.

The challenge, however, is that there are close to 4,000 marketing technologies available today – all of which all store a different piece of the puzzle and don’t necessarily play nice with each other. These technologies touch everything across print and online advertising, interactive, video and email content, customer experience technologies such as Genesys and Verint, social media marketing and monitoring like Hootsuite and Adobe, ecommerce and analytics and include marketing automation and CRM systems like Salesforce, HubSpot and NetSuite, platforms like IBM Websphere Commerce, web analysis tools like Google Analytics and Open Web Analytics, and so many more.

Each system collects and stores its own data and reports, so you have information on many aspects of sales and marketing activity, such as inbound inquiries, email performance, social media influence on demand generation, spend by program or tactic, sales outreach and cadence, customer support calls, web analytics and app metrics. Analyzing this marketing dark data with applications like IBM Watson Analytics and Cognos Analytics can fill in the blanks and provide critical insight for improving performance and maximizing ROI on marketing spend, including:

  • Trends: see how sales and marketing efforts are creating impact
  • Segmentation: know if your target audience is engaged
  • Spend Analysis: fully understand the costs of acquiring and retaining customers
  • Benchmarks: compare your marketing spend as a percentage of revenue against the competition over a consistent time period
  • Industry Research: power up strategy conversations with relevant and complementary market intelligence

All of this requires the ability to quickly and easily access large amounts of data in multiple formats from and across disparate systems. Altair Monarch, a self-service data prep tool, enables sales and marketing analysts to discover and access all their data – dark or otherwise – then cleanse and combine any of that data themselves, with no IT dependency or complex scripting required. Altair feeds the structured, analysis-ready data Watson Analytics and Cognos Analytics need to yield the maximum output on their capabilities.

To learn more about how self-service data prep and automated data analysis and visualization come together to transform data into actionable intelligence that drives timely, more informed decisions, download our newest eBook – 5 Dark Data Sources that Lead to Better Marketing Insights with IBM Watson Analytics and Cognos Analytics.