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"Big Data" is more than a buzzword for CMOs these days. Understanding and using data is now an integral part of a CMO's job.

Trying to turn data's perceived value into something real within the walls of their organizations is the mission of the day for senior marketers. And we're far from achieving that goal. A study by the CMO Council found that 61% of CMOs still have work to do to understand Big Data.

But the journey is certainly worthwhile. Marketers have been under pressure for years to turn their art into more of a science. And an evidence-based approach to marketing analytics—including measuring campaign effectiveness, customer experience, customer lifetime value, and drivers of acquisition and retention—is more than possible, freeing important decisions from the vagaries of human bias.

Through our work with marketing organizations, we've learned some important lessons marketers can apply as they adopt a more data-centric approach to their craft.

1. Decide what information is necessary for success

Amid a blizzard of analytics software being sold to CMOs—many with outstanding marketing and graphical interface capabilities, making them all the more attractive—lies the truth of the data.

Corporate executives, however, often hold preconceived notions of precisely what they want to extract from the data. And, unfortunately, the real world isn't that convenient. Key data that the organization thought it had... isn't there—it's in error or not structured or integrated properly.

A bigger issue is whether the data proves a statistical relationship at all—and, if so, whether it's an impactful one.

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image of John P. Kelly

John P. Kelly leads predictive analytics at Berkeley Research Group, which works with marketing, sales, and operations leadership to harness the power of data science.

LinkedIn: John P. Kelly