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Part 1: Data first! Building a data driven marketing department

The digital age has ushered in a wave of change and challenged marketing departments to rapidly evolve to ensure brands remain relevant and competitive. With the rise of digital, data driven marketing has become increasingly vital as consumers demand tailored and personalised experiences and marketers are challenged to do more with less.

Gartner’s yearly CMO survey reinforces the importance marketers are placing on data driven marketing. In fact, it is now so important as a capability, marketing leaders have consistently ranked data and analytics in their top 3 capabilities to build over the past 3 years.

But despite all of the hype, talk, focus and investment – many marketing teams are still stuck in first gear. For those who have attempted to make the leap, it seems their investment is falling short of meeting expectations. In a recent Gartner survey, 54% of marketing leaders stated that marketing analytics has not had the anticipated impact that they desired.

In part one of our two-part series on building a data driven marketing department we look at the common challenges holding marketers back from embracing a data driven marketing approach.

Graph on marketing analytics

So why are marketing teams struggling to embed a data driven approach? In 2019 an eMarketer survey found that there were many challenges impeding marketers ability to derive value from data driven marketing. Some of the most commonly experienced challenges include:

· Siloed organisational structure

· Poor data sharing

· Difficulty to prove value

· Lack of internal experience

US digital marketers data challenges 2019 graph

Whilst all of these reasons are valid and impede progress, we have observed though the work we have done with our various clients that once you scratch the surface there are some other much bigger issues at play, many of which relate to mindsets, behaviours and knowledge.

Whilst a single-minded view of the customer is a challenging issue to solve, it can be overcome by technology investment, whereas many of the below require more than tech to shift the approach.

1) Inability to operationalisation data & analytics

It’s a common scenario. Marketing teams seek to become more data driven, so they set out to hire a smart analyst/s and or data scientists who are very experienced in building data models and analysing data. But there is one simple problem - marketers don’t know what to do with the smarts that have been built. Often analysts and marketers speak a different language which creates a divide between the two departments. This makes it difficult to take new models or insights and apply them to solve business problems. The data is there, the ability to interpret it is not.

2) Marketers aren’t aware of what data is available and are focussed on what they don’t have

This is unfortunately one of the most fundamental issues impacting marketers’ ability to leverage data. Many marketing departments lack a basic understanding of the data assets which reside within their organisations today and the potential opportunities associated with these data sets. Without an understanding of what assets exist, it is impossible to build maturity within data driven marketing.

A related challenge, is that of marketing teams focussing on the data they don’t rather than focus on what they do have. This creates a paralysis that inhibits progress and an ability to just start with the data at their disposal and build from there.

3) Data driven marketing is given lip-service

Like often happens in the digital space, marketing teams and even organisations can give lip-service to data driven approaches – meaning they want to be seen to be doing it but aren’t really committed to it in the way they need to be to shift their marketing approach over time. Leaders committed to data driven approaches must commit to reinforcing the importance of data to the overall strategy and lead and champion the change. Without the right signals and importance placed on data driven marketing from the top, it’s unlikely teams will put effort and energy into it.

4) Data literacy is too low within the department

The fourth challenge which inhibits data driven marketing uptake is data literacy of the department. Data and analytics can be intimidating and for those who lack the understanding or confidence to use data - they will lean out rather than in. Data literacy isn’t something that is built overnight nor is solved from hiring a few data specialists. It’s something that needs to be built and nurtured overtime.

5) Paralysed by data quality issues

This is probably one of my favourites as it provides another reason for marketing teams to hold off from progressing their data driven marketing agenda. Marketers will often cite the importance of addressing data quality before leveraging data for marketing purposes. Whilst data quality issues need to be addressed to improve performance outcomes – every data set is imperfect and this shouldn’t be an inhibitor to start. Data quality isn’t something that is addressed once, it is managed overtime and improved overtime. Enhancing and improving quality can happen in parallel of shifting towards a data driven approach – it doesn’t need to be sequential.

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