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PHOTO: Zan Ilic

Now is the time to create a data culture. A data culture is a learning culture; it shares trusted customer data across the organization so everyone can demonstrate results by pointing to actual data. In a data culture, experiments happen often, success becomes repeatable, and failures can be seen and measured quickly, so their impacts are minimal.

Five key technology shifts are converging to drive the need for a data culture:

  1. An explosion in the volume of data, which now doubles every 12 to 18 months for most companies.
  2. An increasing demand for access to actionable data, also known as data self-service or democratization of data.
  3. New data types proliferating within and outside of marketing, including mobile and social media data.
  4. Data moving to the cloud in apps like Marketo and Salesforce.
  5. And, perhaps having the most potential to impact our daily lives, is the rise of AI and machine learning — which require vast amounts of data to leverage new algorithms.

Marketers in companies with an established data culture are lucky. They recognize the disruptive power of their data to fuel innovation, become more agile and realize new growth opportunities through new business models and processes. 

Whether you’re just starting to think about your data, or have been managing your data for a while, a few fundamental principles hold fast across all companies, all industries, and all geographies. These include:

Every Business Challenge has a Corresponding Data Challenge

Marketers ask a lot of what, why, how, who, what if and similar questions. When you can’t easily answer even seemingly simple questions, it’s not because you lack the data, it’s because you don’t have access to trusted data. 

The business challenge of campaign effectiveness starts with this corresponding data challenge: your data exists across dozens of systems. Your fragmented customer view blocks your ability to gain a full picture of a customer. With great data, you’ll see the relationships that exist between customers, their households and the products they own so the offers you send will be individualized, well-timed, and relevant.

Related Article: The Data-Driven Organization Is an Endangered Species

Your Data Is a Strategic Asset

Some marketers think of their data as an ever-growing problem with no solution — and perhaps someone else’s problem. But every marketing strategy needs a data strategy. Your company, and only your company, has the ability to gain unique insights from all of your data. Actively managing your data as a strategic asset will help you attract more and better prospects while building great relationships with your current customers. You want to be able to follow your customers on their end-to-end customer journey.

You Need a Strong Data and Operations Team

Seek members for your data and operations team who are naturally curious and who can provide you with the insights from applying advanced and predictive analytics to your data. They’ll be essential in helping your digital, product, campaigns and other marketing members to shine. And with self-service capabilities, they can guide your team to get the data that helps them figure out what’s working and what’s not and how to better serve your customers.

Related Article: Data-Driven Decisions Need Context

Create Data That’s Trusted

To make the right predictions about your customer’s buying behavior or the next best experience you’ll want to deliver, you need to base your predictions on a trusted customer profile that’s contextual, current, and complete. It’s imperative that you do this, or your customer experience will be unsatisfying. The best way to build a trusted customer profile is to master your data and connect it with interactions and transactions. Mastering your data means combining all the disparate high-value data known about your customer into one cohesive master record that can fuel your business applications, operations, and analytics.

Partner with Your CIO

Marketing is probably the biggest consumer of IT services, which makes your CIO a VIP with whom you need to collaborate. Your CIO wants to work with you, too. Successful data-driven marketing depends on a solid relationship between marketing and IT. In the right environment, this partnership works to solve the critical data management issues that marketing struggles with every day.

Change happens more quickly than ever before and it shows no sign of slowing. The current wave of digital disruption has changed everything — including your customers’ experiences with your company. You need to continuously improve your data so your marketing team remains nimble and doesn't struggle. Because if your customer data is stuck in your agency, isolated applications, spreadsheets, or other silos that are line-of-business-, department- or region-specific, you may never be able to use it.