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In this era of Big Data, you really have to wonder why more CMOs aren’t jumping at the opportunity to take the organizational lead in harnessing the insights that lie in the data sets flowing out of disparate marketing efforts such as SEO/SEM, online vs. offline, mobile, and social.

I’d say it’s due to fear about how to tame overwhelming waves of data and general ambiguity about who in the organization is responsible for doing it.

As organizations fall prey to “analysis paralysis” which, for a CMO, could mean that he or she has little hands-on experience with mining data, understanding complex algorithms or evaluating discrete data sets. It could also be exacerbated by the marketing function now being inundated with data flowing in from multiple channels in such a disjointed stream that it’s nearly impossible to glean insights about how customer behaviors link back to marketing efforts.

Second, CMOs often don’t perceive the data strategy as part of their core responsibilities – and neither do the rest of their organizations. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit report “Outside Looking In: The CMO struggles to get in sync with the C-suite,” non-marketing executives see marketing’s top priority as driving revenue whereas CMOs see themselves as being in charge of creating new products/services and customer acquisition.

The preponderance of data has created innumerable opportunities for the CMO to do both, while being at the center of building a data-driven culture for their organizations.

Getting there requires CMOs do nothing less than take the wheel by becoming their organization’s point of data integration. They must not only embrace and incorporate data into their marketing efforts, but actually become the champion of the entire organization’s data strategy, moving it toward making better-informed decisions, at speed, across the enterprise.

Very few CMOs at the top of their game can be looked at as examples of marketing leaders who both excel at traditional marketing leadership and have also pushed their organizations to quantify their return on investment and engagement.

One great example is Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever. He likes to say he’s striving to balance delivering magic along with logic. It’s a balance that all CMOs – in a world of razor thin margins and the never-ending organizational misbelief that marketing is nothing more than erratically successful puffery – should aim for.

From using data to make marketing’s functions more efficient to creating better brand engagement and a more helpful shopping experience, to the mined behavioral data that allows consumers to find and access entertainment geared towards their individual tastes and interests (think Amazon and Netflix) to delivering customized buying experiences, there has never been a better time for marketing executives to use data to lead.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s hubris or overreach to imagine the CMO stepping up to drive an entire organization’s data strategy – it can be done and doesn’t require a dimunition of the role of either the CIO or CTO’s responsibilities.

Truth be told, in some organizations, it can feel as though that’s what it has to come down to – who hasn’t heard Gartner’s prediction that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO? But, that’s actually an opportunity for CMOs to lead on data. A recent survey of IT workers found that the most significant challenge they face when working with their data is that it’s siloed in various business applications across the organization – a pain point that marketing can help alleviate by championing focused, enterprise-wide data strategies.

The “analysis paralysis” crowd must find ways to acquire what is quickly becoming a new literacy for high-level marketers: leverage tools such as Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics Premium which are out there specifically to help turn hard data into a true understanding of your online presence.

The other actionable step is to talk to the internal digital marketing expert, external agency partners and the organization’s top tech person about how to break organizational data silos and leverage quantifiable insights to make the smartest marketing investments.

The CMO Survey recently reported that companies will spend between 6 to 10 percent more marketing budget on data over the next three years. Yet, when asked to report the percentage of projects in which their companies used marketing analytics that are available and/or requested, CMOs reported a dismal 30 percent usage rate – a drop from 37 percent a year ago, creating a gap between investment and utilization.

CMO’s: Your opportunity to transform your organization’s use of data is calling. Will you answer?

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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