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Creating organizational buy-in for your data-driven strategy

It’s the question with a million different answers (few of which are terribly satisfying): How do you get organization-wide and C-level buy-in for using analytics to bring a data strategy to life?

Some people say it’s a matter of getting buy-in from key stakeholders. Maddeningly, others believe it’s the CEO’s responsibility to, as Star Trek’s Capt. Jean-Luc Picard would often say, “make it so.”

That’s what SAS, the business analytics software giant, and the CMO Council found when they surveyed over 400 senior marketers and senior IT executives from top global brands for their March 2013 report “Big Data’s Biggest Role: Aligning the CMO & CIO.”

Their research found that the old cliché about CIOs and CMOs being at each other’s throats is virtually nonexistent, with both marketing and IT seeing eye-to-eye on the core aspects of what makes a customer-centric organization.

“Both groups (76 percent of marketers, 69 percent of IT executives) believe that working within a corporate culture that places the customer at the center of the relationship is key. Both also agree (40 percent marketers, 51 percent of IT executives) that big data is critical to executing on customer-centric programs.”

Sounds good. But, frustratingly, while these two organizational leads are already working together, they’re not making the most of their collective efforts because, as the report summarizes:

“What is lacking is not the will to partner, but the mandate to partner. This lack of top-down leadership became most evident when both marketing and IT were asked to identify the primary owner of the customer within their organization. The picture that emerges is one of chaos, ill-defined ownership and organizations without a clear center point that is dedicated to advancing customer centricity.”

That center point, the report suggests, should be the CEO, who can take full ownership of the customer and serve as the singular voice with the power to mandate that business decisions be centered on the customer across all functions.

In a recent Summit focused on how to build a data-driven culture for marketing, which Cardinal Path co-hosted with Google, audience questions and comments very quickly voiced many marketers’ frustration about the lack of senior commitment and engagement to prioritizing a data and analytics strategy.

As CMOs, it’s incumbent upon us to be the change agents spurring organizations in the direction of making rationalized decisions supported by the data that is now available to us from our marketing channels and partners.

Yes, it requires senior sponsorship — and if that sponsorship comes with a clear vision for how a holistic data strategy can transform not just sales, but whole organizations, even better — but ultimately it requires leadership from the top person in the organization with the responsibility for facilitating growth, sales and marketing strategy.

CMOs must take the reins and provide a data strategy vision if one isn’t already in place. If that means becoming the organization’s top data literacy champion, making the business case for data driven decision making until he or she’s blue in the face, so be it.

Alternately, CMOs can clearly demonstrate the value of data in decision making by taking on the role of storyteller.

An intriguing issue also raised in last month’s Summit saw our panelists discussing whether or not marketing teams were doing an adequate job of storytelling — translating data into insights and actionable recommendations that helped marketers’ to iterate their strategic assumptions, marketing tactics and channel investments.

Many wondered aloud if they were doing enough to present insights from data in ways that were truly impacting the business and the marketing resource allocation decisions being made for the organization.

Showing the utility of data applied to the fundamental questions of what is driving profitable growth is critical and too often marketing practitioners are incapable of demonstrating the intrinsic value of how data can affect granular decision-making.

It won’t be easy. But as professional marketers, surely we’re up to the task of educating our organizations on how to bridge the analytics divide and make our marketing investments more accountable.

Barb Kittridge is Chief Marketing Officer of Cardinal Path, a dedicated team of passionate, award winning analysts, statisticians, academics, leading developers, and some of the top minds in the digital marketing space. Cardinal Path helps its clients unlock the value of their data across a wide digital footprint, sharing all that we know and empowering confident decision making that creates sustainable growth.


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