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Shake off data paralysis and free your strategic marketing potential

Vicki Godfrey, CMO, Avention OneSource Solutions, argues why data has the power to be a marketing enabler rather than a handicap

Perfect data-driven marketing promises so much – precision engagement with the right audiences at the right time, and accurate, actionable insight to shape strategic decision-making and drive growth.

Today’s marketers recognise putting data-driven insight at the heart of their business strategy is the best way to seize new opportunities.

So why is data so often seen as a handicap to marketing rather than an enabler?

Data paralysis

The barriers to effective data use are numerous, but typically reside in the diversity of data sources across the business, doubts about accuracy, and uncertainty about how to translate time and effort into business benefit.

If you feel your organisation is the only one experiencing this, think again. Many companies suffer from what I call data paralysis – knowing they have to do something but feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the task.

Typically, marketers are dealing with six or seven internal data sources spread across disparate, disconnected and incompatible systems. Over the course of a year, that’s weeks of Excel work that marketers are having to deal with, even before incorporating external data sources for a complete view of customers and markets.

Efforts to conquer this data paralysis are complicated by the ownership question. Is it sales, marketing, IT – or none of the above – that owns customer data? Harnessing data to achieve organisational objectives is just too complicated, so why bother?

Recent precedent suggests that it’s no longer a choice. It’s easy to forget that less than a decade ago, digital was a distinct element of the marketing mix; a specialist, technical capability sitting alongside traditional channels.

And yet today, marketing is digital. Modern marketers are, by definition and necessity, ‘digital marketers’. It has become so quickly ingrained that we don’t even differentiate anymore. This evolution occurred because the tools arrived to release digital’s significant benefits, and the resulting measurement enabled them to better demonstrate the value they deliver to the business.

Free your potential

Now is the time to see data as the new digital. The successful marketer of tomorrow will be data-driven by default. So, stop fearing the complexity and start realising the value.

Today, online tools are doing the same for data-driven marketers as they did for digital marketers, putting the power of data into the marketer’s hands without requiring specialist skills or support functions. The barriers to centralising, analysing and visualising internal and external data sources within a single view, if not gone, are now significantly reduced. This means marketers can finally use their data to perform better business analysis, efficient customer segmentation and highly targeted campaigns.

Realising this insight empowers marketers to deliver significant value back to the business too – well beyond their typical operational and communications remit. Now marketing departments can also be the drivers of strategic activities such as market sizing, opportunity identification and territory planning; indeed, the list goes on. Using data to drive relevant insight in this way elevates the role of marketing and will foster far greater alignment with sales and other functions.

Make no mistake, data is complex, but it’s as transformative as web and digital revolutions. Shaking off data paralysis may be daunting, but its benefits are profound. New and simple technology solutions enable marketers to see their customers and markets holistically, with deep insights into where existing customers are and how to maximise opportunities, while accurately targeting untapped prospect potential. Data has the power to not only enhance your effectiveness as a marketer, but also confer real strategic influence on your marketing department. So use it.

B2B Marketing's Data Skills Benchmarking Report

This blog is part of B2B Marketing's Data Skills Benchmarking Report. Data now dominates the agenda of many B2B marketers. But do marketers really have the right skills to use data to its full potential? In this brand new research project we surveyed over 200 B2B marketers to find out.