How to cultivate a data-driven culture

Replace yesterday’s gut feeling with a data-driven marketing culture where decisions are made based on fact and insight.

Traditional advertising often used instinct and emotion to capture audience attention.

How do marketing organisations adapt to technological advances that foster data as the primary way to make decisions?

As Yvonne Genovese noted in the opening keynote at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference 2016, “The era of going from the gut is finally over.”

Yesterday’s gut feeling can now be replaced with data-driven marketing cultures where decisions are made based on fact and insight, noted Ewan McIntyre, research director, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, during his session on cultivating a data-driven culture.

The first step on the journey toward a data-driven culture is to spot the obstacles that stand in the way.

Identify cultural barriers

Start by understanding your organisation’s level of data-driven marketing literacy. Does the team have a baseline understanding of what data-driven means? Do they understand what success looks like?

Low levels of data-driven literacy are obstacles to progressing to higher levels of organisational maturity.

Furthermore, it’s important to drive the right data to the right people. Draw a map that creates a direct line of sight from the CEO’s data objectives for tracking market share and profitability to an operational manager who tracks reach, conversions and ROI.

Lean in to inconvenient truths

Shifting to data-driven decision-making may take marketers on a collision course that challenges conventional wisdom. Just because data paints a picture contrary to a legacy mindset does not mean the data is wrong.

On the contrary, “Don’t ditch the data because it brings up inconvenient truths,” noted Mr. McIntyre.

McIntyre introduced Jaime Punishill, head of digital marketing/channels at TIAA, the financial services provider, to discuss how data played a role in the company’s recent rebranding effort.

As part of its repositioning and rebranding effort, TIAA placed experienced data leaders in key positions to act as internal change agents and improve organisation-wide understanding.

These leaders integrated data-driven approaches into activities such as creative briefing and empowered others to think like data-driven marketers.

TIAA saw the need to overcome inconvenient truths firsthand when the company proved through rigorous testing that removing a homepage pop-up that solicited users to go paperless improved their Net Promoter Score (NPS). Despite this clear data point, some people in the organisation still believed in the old way, even with its lower NPS.

Build digital fluency

Make sure data-driven skills and experience are an explicit part of job descriptions. In addition to “hard” data skills, analysts need to have the “softer,” and more nuanced ability to bridge data and business conversations through effective communication.

At TIAA, the marketing leadership required that understanding and experience with data be a top priority when designing and filling key roles.

When onboarding people, make it clear where data plays a role in guiding business decisions, noted Mr. McIntyre - he also reminded the audience, “It’s important that analysts are able to talk business, not just data.”

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