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Data-Driven Marketing | How To Build And Execute An Effective Data Strategy

By: Linda Schumacher Marketing teams often hear a mandate from their CMOs: “Be data-driven.”

That’s because the pressure is on for marketers to utilize the myriad data sets at their disposal to meet the ever-higher customer experience bar. But as a CMO, do you know exactly what you’re asking of your employees when you give this mandate? And does your team know what you mean?

I’ve seen countless instances of this rallying cry (usually given by CMOs prior to the start of a new fiscal year) turn into a whimper 12 months later, with plenty of potential opportunities lost in between. The truth is, if we’re not clear about what it means to take full advantage of modern analytics, technology, and data, we’re going to derail our own efforts to become truly data-driven organizations.

Here is a guide to help CMOs build and execute a data strategy that bears fruit.

1. Be customer-driven:

Merely having data does not mean you are a data-driven organization. Rather, it’s about what you do with the data.

Brands that hoard data but fail to act on it often end up delivering a one-size-fits-all experience to buyers. For example, they might serve the same Web content to all visitors without segmentation, or fail to A/B test their campaigns.

Being data-driven in marketing means making decisions about how to activate data on behalf of the buyer. How can you use the data you’re collecting to deliver a more relevant, tailored experience to a customer?

2. Operate with responsibility:

Collecting customers’ data puts the onus on you to be responsible with it. This doesn’t just mean protecting it from hackers, though that is critical. Being data-driven means your team has signed an invisible contract to do two things:

  • Create value in every interaction: If we collect a customer’s information, it’s our responsibility to use it to enhance that customer’s experience by adding value in every interaction. If not, why bother collecting data in the first place?

  • Challenge internal assumptions: Our assumptions about buyers are often what drive broad-based, one-size-fits-all marketing. But data tells the truth. To be data-driven, marketers must listen to what the data is telling them, even if it contradicts their long-held beliefs about buyers.

As a CMO in the age of data, your job is to make everyone on your team clear on these new responsibilities.

3. Maximize three core skills:

Before you issue a mandate to your team about harnessing your data, review your resources. Is your staff able to accomplish these three important capabilities to bring this vision to life?

  • Data collection and storage: Evaluate the best way to capture data and store it in a reporting tool or database. You may use campaign tracking, website tracking, tag management, Web analytics, data lakes, or a data warehouse.

  • Reporting and analysis: You should look to find anomalies and trends in data to inform marketing decision-making. This includes dashboards, visualization, analysis, data segmentation, data modeling, and data science.

  • Data activation: Your ultimate goal is to use this data to tailor content for customers through tactics such as ad targeting, A/B testing and optimization, personalization, recommendations, and lead nurturing.

Without staffing your marketing team to cover each of these functions, it’s nearly impossible to be data-driven.

The Road Ahead

The biggest skills gap facing CMOs today is within the activation skill set. Too many companies are failing to take full advantage of all the ways their data can be put to work.

If you’re embarking on the journey to be a more data-driven organization, starting with the right understanding will help you live up to the promise data offers. A focus on improving the customer experience will almost certainly lead to improved business outcomes. But to bring this goal to life, you as the CMO must make sure you’re sending your team in the right direction.

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