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Marketers of all backgrounds recognize the many ways data can enhance demand generation strategy. Marketing teams now devote more dollars than ever to reap the rewards of analytics and insights, with the percentage of dedicated data budget set to increase by 198% over the next three years.  

The future of marketing data sounds promising. But more data can sometimes mean more problems. With the abundance of useful data comes a need to organize and understand these numbers, and marketers today struggle to organize their proverbial “cluttered closet” of data and separate the meaningful insights from the junk. 

To use data effectively means to leverage tools and strategies that simplify the numbers and bring marketers closer to insights that will move the needle. Here are three ways my team has worked across the organization, leveraged new tools and implemented fresh strategies to overcome data overload and improve our demand generation efforts.

Democratize Data Responsibility Across the Organization

Gone are the days when only sales and marketing teams touched data insights. Data now has the power to help practically every team within an organization scale and work more efficiently. Just as marketing requires data to fine-tune customer decisions, teams like HR now use data to gain insights into statistics, including the likelihood of an employee leaving the company. The increase of teams accessing and understanding data means marketers can now collaborate with other teams to establish cross-functional decision-making processes.

But, with so many teams utilizing data in different ways, it’s critical that marketers establish operational efficiency practices. Implement regular check-ins with leaders to create consistency and hold team members accountable to weighing in on the data. This can take the form of a weekly or monthly meeting with one representative from each team responsible for discussing their perspective on the findings. 

Establishing a source of truth also ensures everyone stays on the same page. I’ve experienced times when two people think they’re referencing the same data, but actually refer to two different numbers — which creates unnecessary confusion and inefficiency. Consider implementing a tool like Tableau as a central data lake that enables everyone to stay on the same page.

Related Article: You're Drowning in Data, Now What?

Don’t Just Measure Data, Diagnose It 

To reap the full benefits of data, marketers need to diagnose it instead of simply measuring it. This means moving away from descriptive analytics, which will simply show what has happened, and embracing diagnostic analytics, which tells you why and helps you change your course for the better.

A key part of diagnosing data properly means refusing to accept the numbers as they are and instead bringing in an “expert” perspective to sift through and uncover meaning. Maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism allows marketers to weed through unnecessary data and identify the numbers that should guide demand generation efforts. 

At my firm, Nutanix, we currently have about 75 marketing team members dedicated to understanding data, and each micro-team within this group looks at data from a different lens. In addition to hiring team members within the marketing function to focus on these efforts, I’ve also seen an increase in “marketing science” roles and new titles like “data artists” and “data storytellers” popping up. These employees work separately from the larger marketing team, so they can offer a unique perspective and uncover stories told through data without being biased by any campaigns already in the works. 

Through data insights, marketers and data scientists can uncover customer needs and pivot the strategy based on what’s working. With consumers now expecting more personalized content than ever, the time is now to prioritize learning their interests and dislikes and changing your strategy to best fit those needs.

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

Embrace New Tech to Drive New Routes to Data 

The average marketing organization currently uses a significant 14 data sources — and this number is predicted to explode to 45 sources, on average, by 2025. Even with a team dedicated to making sense of the numbers, marketers need to adopt tools and technologies that can help analyze alongside their team of human experts.

Automation and artificial intelligence tools, in particular, have the power to change the way we interact with data, and marketers have already experienced a massive positive impact. Just over half of marketers currently use AI, with an additional 29% set to incorporate it into their teams’ work this year. AI enables marketers to automate data-driven tasks and responsibilities, moving them away from busy tasks and opening doors for them to do deeper dives into key data. At Nutanix, we’re in the beginning stages of implementing AI tools to streamline data evaluation and pave a path for members of the team to work on more complex projects.

Data overload can overwhelm any modern marketer, but putting efforts into creating a streamlined and efficient data strategy pays off.  By taking the right steps to spread responsibility across the organization, evaluate it appropriately and embrace new tools to help, you’re on your way to understanding the numbers that can maintain strong customer relationships and move new relationships forward.