5 Keys to Building a Data Driven Culture and Marketing Organization

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Why Developing a ‘Sherlock’ Mindset Is Vital to Marketing Success

Data plays a vital role in marketing today – from audience intelligence and targeting to campaign optimization and personalization to drive customer growth and retention. Marketing organizations at all levels of data maturity are investing to improve their ability to quickly and automatically collect, analyze, and act on available data.

Today there are a plethora of different MarTech solutions available to marketers to test and optimize millions of possible customer interactions using AI and machine learning – from Marketo, which was recently acquired by Adobe for $4.75 Billion, to fast growing platforms such as Amplero.

But marketing leaders need to be careful as they invest in these technologies to not overlook the most important ingredient for a high-performing, data-driven marketing organization: the people. In order to get the most out of your data, you need people at all levels of your company that have the skills to work with the data and a “Sherlock” mindset: curiosity coupled with a drive to probe into what’s happening and why it’s happening in order to form testable hypotheses and innovative marketing strategies.

Without the right team structure and foundation in place, organizations can fail to leverage available data and tools in an impactful way – in some cases relegating it to a small team of analysts or “data wonks”. To combat this, marketing leaders need to invest in developing a data-driven culture and best practices across their team for turning available data and insights into action.

With that in mind, here are 5 key steps to building a high-performing, data-savvy marketing organization: 

  1. Start with an executive sponsor. Becoming a data-driven organization starts at the top – with an executive sponsor. To effectively shift any company’s culture and create change, CMOs and leaders need to define a shared vision with their team around how data insights will inform the business and fuel continuous brand growth. An executive sponsor helps give legitimacy to the need for change and establishes the change as a priority by working closely with impacted employees. Effective leaders are involved in the change management process from the beginning, empowering change agents throughout the organization, and help drive change by building a coalition of support with other leaders.
  2. Restructure your team and processes to activate around data, and keep it humming. Before you can truly catch fire with leveraging data in an impactful way across your organization, you have to evaluate your team structure, roles and processes. The first step is conducting an audit to identify where in your organization data is already being used effectively, so you can work with those teams as change agents. Similarly, you can look at places where data is not being used to understand why it is not being used. You might find that the leaders are not familiar with how to incorporate data into what they are doing. Perhaps the necessary analyst resources or skills are not available. You might discover that the data and tools are not in place. With a clear understanding of where your organization stands, you have a starting point for creating the cultural shift toward being a data-driven organization.
  3. Cultivate data literacy. If the people within the organization don’t understand data or how to use it, it’ll be near impossible to infuse data into the functionality of existing business processes. You can improve data literacy in the business by providing training and resources, as well as making data fluency one of the requirements for future hires. Executive sponsors can help here by incentivizing and requiring the use of data in existing processes. This could include creating a war room where stakeholders, analysts and data-literate members of the organization come together to look at discrepancies and familiarize themselves with available data and questions it can help answer. Remember to be patient: data literacy, like any other skill, takes time and effort to develop, especially when there’s already an ingrained culture in place.
  4. Test your strategy rigorously. It’s absolutely crucial for marketers to evaluate and validate the effectiveness of their strategies. This means putting them through a rigorous testing process that controls for variable or compounding factors, such as seasonality or some other changes that might be implemented simultaneously. This testing process should clearly identify primary and secondary metrics to measure effectiveness and ensure that a sufficient amount of data is collected to understand if any performance differences are real and not just noise. You can support the “Sherlock” mentality in this process by providing a common, comprehensive data set that is accessible through self-service tools, like business intelligence software. Not only does this data need to be accessible organization-wide, it needs to be available at the speed of the business, preferably with real-time or daily updates.
  5. Experiment for success and build processes to scale. One of the biggest success factors for marketers is the ability to experiment, fail fast and apply key learnings to execute with impact. Driving sustainable and repeatable growth will only come if you build a strong process for experimentation across your team. As customers provide signals about their needs and intentions through activities, you need to have a methodology in place for how you turn those insights into action with relevant and timely content and experiences based on these triggers.

Why this all matters

Building a world-class, data-driven marketing capability requires a large investment at all levels of the organization, but those efforts can fail to achieve the desired result when they focus solely on the data and technology and ignore the people component of the transformation. Before embarking on your digital transformation to a data-driven marketing organization, check the pulse of your organization to see where it stands. Executive support is absolutely crucial to help drive the change from the top and create a coalition of support from other leaders within the organization. Keep in mind that undergoing a digital transformation is a huge culture shift for most companies, but it is possible. All it takes is the right combination of planning, resources, tools and leadership.

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