Companies have never shied away from a horticulture metaphor. Dozens of books have been written telling managers how they can “sow seeds” for growth or “cultivate” a culture that bears fruit.
The parallel is certainly valid, but managers that have taken the gardening metaphor to heart have also bred an inward-looking culture that is starting to show cracks. Marketing, sales, and IT leaders have been conditioned to focus on their own teams and a narrow set of objectives, turning the companies they work for into a collection of walled gardens, each with its own siloed approach to people and data.
What exactly is a walled garden?
If we think of a business as an assortment of teams, a walled garden is a team that acts as a black box. Information goes in, it’s processed based on that team’s particular expertise, and then the result of that team’s work is spit out in a standardised format. Other departments have no visibility into what’s been done or of alternative ways to achieve these results because they’re completely isolated from the process.
Often, and especially in the case of Software Services, employees work in walled gardens don’t even see a problem with this approach because they can still do their job. An analyst can easily continue to extract the same information from a given set of customer data. An SEA expert can always find ways to optimise a campaign’s AdWords spend.
Taking a step back, however, walled gardens make it difficult to move customers fluidly through the sales funnel. Without the ability to hand over customers and the data associated with them, how can marketing departments deliver a smooth journey from department to another and provide customers with the right message? How can CRM teams make informed decisions about what will earn a customer’s loyalty if that data sits within another departments walled garden system?
It’s up to managers across the entire business to leave the horticulture metaphor behind and make walled gardens a thing of the past.
There are three steps to achieving this:
- Make everyone appreciate the value of data
Working with data with a view to only achieve their own goals in the same way each day has led many practitioners to take it for granted. Like a black box, they know what to do with information and how to tease insight from it, but their imagination is limited by narrow objectives. The fundamental shift for brands will be to help every employee understand the immense value data has to the wider business and inspire them to think beyond the bounds of the data within their scope of responsibility.
- Adopt processes that make integration feel natural
Brands also need to think of how they can combine data internally to improve their communications, product designs and customer experiences and develop processes that bring these possibilities to life. With every touch point and element of the user journey factored into to the way they work with data, companies can develop campaigns that reflect a complete understanding of their customers, while also improving their own products and services.
- Turn insight into action
With the right processes in place, brands can then start to collect and structure data in ways that will yield results. This will allow creative and execution teams to create more accurate customer profiles and feed off each other when developing campaigns, and allow marketing, sales and IT to apply this insight to their customer strategies.
Carnival Corporation has done this, working with Adobe and Sapient Nitro to develop a customer intelligence platform to better align its flagship brands. By democratising its customer relationships in this way, Carnival reduced internal competition between brands, which has in turn led to an improved customer experience and a major increase in bookings.
Third-party walled gardens
A recently, another form of walled garden has come under the microscope recently. Companies like Facebook and Google have access to so much user data that every major brand relies on them to inform their advertising. And understandably so.
But the black box issue still applies when working these organisations. Businesses hand over highly detailed information on their customers only to receive aggregated insight in return. For instance, a laundry detergent company might learn from aggregated Facebook data that 12 out of every 100 people buy cleaning products online but won’t get any detail on who those people are. They can only use Facebook’s existing advertising solutions, which are not always the most efficient, option.
This is yet another reason companies are re-examining their internal processes and looking for ways to extract more value from their own data. By tearing down the walled gardens in their processes, they can look to bring marketing, sales and IT teams closer together and engage customers with a truly unique proposition.
Read more about how walled gardens are stopping brands from making the most of their data in this report.