The Silos That Dog Us — Putting Them Out To Pasture

Silos, while they might be pleasing to the eye in a pastoral setting, are a known negative in the world of business and marketing. We should not organize, manage workflow or report in silos. Nor should we plan and execute in silos. And, never should analysis and optimization of our efforts be done in silos. […]

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Shutterstock 114118168 SilosSilos, while they might be pleasing to the eye in a pastoral setting, are a known negative in the world of business and marketing.

We should not organize, manage workflow or report in silos. Nor should we plan and execute in silos. And, never should analysis and optimization of our efforts be done in silos.

Yet, the default position is the silo. In many ways, transcending the silo is an unnatural act. It takes curiosity, thought, delving and collaborative instincts to set the course for cross-pollination and collaboration to make those things happen.

You’ve got to have a silo busting mindset and a commitment to perpetuating the right systems and practices to sustain integrated, cross-trained operations.

Thought pieces touching on the perils of siloing in different arenas of the business always catch my eye.  Recently, I breezed through IBM’s State of Marketing Survey 2012, in which this  issue was touched on in several different ways,  indicating  marketers’ frustration that it remains so difficult to un-silo data in particular parts of the marketing mix. And subsequently, across that mix.

Here’s a little peek:

For instance, 58 percent of those surveyed said that they believed existing marketing systems were too disparate. This lack of integration can be detrimental to marketing’s ability to drive the customer experience. More specifically, it affects the way marketers can leverage their data across channels. While 65 percent analyze their online visitor data, only one-third are targeting one-to-one offers or messages through digital channels, and less than one in five are using this data for other traditional channels.

Email shows further siloed data symptoms. Only about one-third of survey participants said that their systems automatically integrated email data into their customer data mart, while the remainder either used manual integration, or did not integrate at all. When numbers remain this low, the ability for marketers to effectively target customers with relevant emails is significantly impaired.

This is only one slice of the marketers’ take summarized in the IBM report. But, this mini picture of siloing is indicative of something that persists day-to-day; therefore, dogging our longer term prospects. Because it is so difficult to escape this tendency to silo, I found myself wondering: if you could do one thing — if you could adopt one new mindset in each key area of consideration — what would that thing be?

For Organization?

Retain (agencies, partners, practitioners) or hire specialists who have an obvious cross-training bent. Whether a marketing or client lead — a specific media type manager or an analyst — they should be able to think, reach and team across the org chart and the table top with their hearts into it. Everyone on the team should be authentically bought into cross-training, cross-pollination, collaborative discovery, planning and performance assessment of your collective efforts.


Create a non-linear collaborative model where people know their roles and understand the roles of others. Similar to the above point, teammates and vendors should not perceive or enact their roles in isolation.

In today’s environment, there is really no such thing as an individual contributor. Yes, create space for deep, individual, creative thought. But those on the team should see their work within the scope of the organization, the department and the project.

There is no harm in creating that kind of visibility. Integrated processes for discovery and planning are a start — and strategically collated deliverables (i.e., a combined SEO assessment and SEA recommendation) are a sound practice.

Marketing And Media Planning/Execution?

No singles, only combos from now on. Following on the point of cross-training — and knowing that the days of single media type execution are essentially over — commit that the folks on your team will be encouraged to think and plan, always, in terms of pairings within the mix.

This applies to integrated Search Marketing; leveraging Search and Social; integrating Social, Email and Mobile and so on. If you un-silo your thinking, planning and execution, you are miles closer to a more integrated data picture.

Data, Analytics And Optimization?

Get on top of attribution modeling. This is a big one. Yes, the first part of this point, is that you absolutely must invest in appropriate campaign management, tracking and data systems for your organization. And, that is a gating imperative. A given.

Systems and tracking systems for their own sake are not enough to adopt an un-siloed approach. We must make it our goal to get serious about analyzing, optimizing and scaling our [now forevermore] integrated efforts.

When it comes to the media mix, we started out in too-siloed a manner and stayed there for too long in the early 2000s. Many would say we got distracted from the potential of conversion attribution modeling for a while.

Now, all the kids are doing it. First click, last click, equal weighting, custom models — find yourself the right tools and systems to determine your most productive models and keep the mindset that such modeling is key to your future.

Silos are quaint and orderly. They have their place. But that is out on the countryside. Not inside your business.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Kendall Allen
Kendall Allen serves numerous media and data technology clients for WIT Strategy as a Senior Associate in corporate affairs and media relations, as her primary engagement. She also runs collaborative pursuits through her company, Influence Collective, LLC. -- advising and supporting media and tech entrepreneurs in cooperation with other trusted partners and firm principals.

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