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Like it or not, marketers have traditionally been viewed as creative types who rely on catchy copy, clever promos, and gut instinct to reach customers and prospects. Certainly they have not been seen as strategic business advisers. That's because measurement has been so haphazard that Marketing struggled—and typically failed—to demonstrate value.

But times are changing and marketing has had to adapt. The bottom line is that if a marketing organization is to deliver value and show tangible results, it must build an analytical culture.

Why is that important? Well, if you are like most marketing organizations, you already pack a strong dose of creativity. Applying analytics enables you to combine fact-based decision-making with creativity.

Analytics doesn't replace innovation. Nor does it supplant people or programs. Rather, analytics makes for less guesswork and more strategy. By rewarding curiosity, building confidence, and ensuring accountability, analytics enables innovation and makes a marketing program more creative and powerful.

If you're not quite there yet, here are six tips for building your own analytics-driven marketing organization.

1. Treat data as a portfolio

Your data is like your 401(k): You need to manage it so it delivers the results you want. It needs to be accurate; otherwise, your analysis and ultimately your decisions could be flawed. Accordingly, you'll need to rebalance it every now and then: look for sources you don't need anymore or data that isn't providing value... and get rid of them; reinvest your resources where you're getting returns.

Recently, in our marketing organization, we focused an initiative on data source performance, and we were able to eliminate the poorest-performing investments, which translated to cost savings and increased effectiveness.

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image of Adele Sweetwood
Adele Sweetwood is vice-president of Americas marketing and support at SAS. She is responsible for directing interactive marketing plans and investments with a focus on increasing and protecting revenue.