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For years, marketing leaders struggled to measure their impact: how do you count the number of people who saw a billboard, or the ways it influenced their buying behaviors? But as customer experiences go digital and marketing technologies mature, marketers face the opposite problem: how do you make sense of the mountains of data generated every day? 

This mountain of data presents an incredible opportunity to understand customers on a deeper level, but collecting, analyzing and interpreting it carries a heavy opportunity cost. Without a framework for filtering out the noise and focusing on the signal, it's easy to get lost in the details with nothing to show for it. 

Here are five ways to ensure that the data you collect will optimize the customer experience.

Get the Leadership Perspective

As marketers, we are attuned to the needs of the market, but what about those of the organization? Make sure you know how your leadership sees the customer experience (CX) in terms of the metrics that define success. 

Is your CEO focused on breaking into a new market? Do they want to launch a new product? Or is improved customer retention the most important goal this year? Your CX initiatives need to reflect these priorities to help you identify the data that's critical to the organizational mission. 

Related Article: How to Convince Your CFO to Invest in Customer Experience

Filter Leadership Priorities Through the Customer Lens

Understanding the organizational priorities is critical, but a marketing leader's greatest value lies in interpreting those priorities through a customer lens. As the only customer-facing function with a seat at the executive table, marketing must translate the mission into a brand identity — the feeling you want to create in your customers when they interact with you. 

Defining that feeling will dictate the data points that are most important to track. For example, do you want to be known as the best-priced in the market, the best value for the money, or the full, white-glove experience? The answer will change the way you measure your customer experience and the data you need to collect.

Start With Customer Feedback

Every CX journey begins with customer feedback. To be credible and impactful, a CX initiative needs to originate with customer insight. What’s on their minds? What do they care about? How do they perceive your company and the experience you deliver? 

If you don't already have one, invest in a good survey platform and find out what your customers have to say. Direct-from-the-source data lends credibility to your strategy and can be very helpful in providing justification and obtaining buy-in for new initiatives.

Related Article: Customer Feedback: A Goldmine in Your Midst

Integrate Behavioral Data

Listening to customers is important, but so is observing them. Layering behavioral and survey data shows how customer perceptions influence (and sometimes contradict) their actions. For example, a survey may indicate a desire for chat-based support, but if customers continually bypass chat in favor of phone support, those actions speak louder than words. 

Behavioral data also provides a feedback loop for optimizing the marketing machine. Using technologies such as UTMs, cookies and heatmaps, marketers can measure the effectiveness of different approaches and apply the most successful ones forward.  

It's easy to get lost in behavioral data. To keep things manageable, focus on analyzing those touchpoints that are most likely to move the dial in areas that support your organization's business priorities.  

Connect CX Initiatives to Revenue 

Most importantly, don't just measure the impact on the customer  — measure the impact on revenue. This helps you make the case for a bigger marketing budget, which means more resources to invest in an even better CX.

To connect CX to revenue, start by identifying the data points that measure the quality of the CX your organization delivers. Examples include the number of form-fills completed per month, sentiment scores across social media or net promoter scores. Then connect those quality improvements to an increase in revenue. For example, if you revamp software demos to improve the demo-to-close rate, determine the percentage increase in conversions and translate that increase into revenue dollars. 

Connecting top-of-funnel marketing activities to revenue used to be almost impossible, but a new generation of revenue attribution solutions has now brought highly granular attribution within reach. 

Related Article: Beyond the Campaign: The Times They Are A-Changing for CMOs

Go Beyond Data Once in a While

As CCXP and Hertz director of customer experience Stuart Gilchriest put it, "In customer experience, it's often your job to challenge the status quo. Being a rebel almost comes with the territory when you take a customer experience role."

Nurture your inner rebel by creating a marketing R&D fund that reserves a small portion of your budget for new and potentially transformative approaches and channels. If you don't give yourself the space and budget to try and fail, those breakthroughs will never happen.

Are You Measuring What Really Matters? 

Next month, I'll take a deeper dive into the critical metrics that can help marketers at any stage in their CX journey evaluate and accelerate their impact.