Being data-driven is a top priority for most marketers. In fact, 99% of marketers agree that an effective data-driven marketing strategy is crucial to achieving success.

Although we know the transformation from siloed reports to cross-channel insights will require new tools, new processes, new skills, and clear leadership, we often overlook two fundamentals that are the bedrock of data-driven marketing: data ownership and data integrity.

Instead of having real-time access to our performance data, we commonly have data that's held "hostage" in execution tools or with agencies, and that data may or may not be owned by us or even contractually accessible. And even if our partners provide reports, the reports often have missing data or they come in late, allowing us little or no time to respond to findings and adjust course.

Though we marketers trust our media partners, we must ultimately own, integrate, and align all performance data. That way...

  • We can audit and validate it, and get the full picture of what's working and what's not.
  • We would get not only 24/7 visibility into how marketing is performing but also faster reporting, analysis, and optimization cycles to make better, faster decisions.
  • And by aligning our agency relationships around clear business goals and KPIs, we would build a more strategic relationship that unlocks the potential of a truly data-driven partnership.

One might assume that taking control of our data starts by finding new partners, but that's not necessarily the case. Marketers have successfully made the leap from siloed reporting to complete data ownership through a close collaboration with their existing partners. They all started with the common understanding that data ownership doesn't happen overnight. It is a deliberate journey that delivers benefits to both parties each step of the way.

Consider these nine tips as you embark on the path to bringing your data in-house and making data the foundation of your marketing organization's efforts.

1. Define your vision for the future

Before you start, get a consensus on what you wish to accomplish with your data. What do you want to measure? What do your teams want to learn? How will the data be used?

The agreed-upon answers will inform what data you need and how it should be structured as you begin the data gathering process. Also, take stock of all the data you have and whether it is valuable for what you're trying to accomplish.

Not all data is equal, so prioritize only what's essential to your end goals.

2. Identify internal ownership

Depending on the size of your organization, the internal owner can be a team of people or one person who articulates the vision and holds everyone accountable for their part in building this new capability.

They do not have to be a dedicated resource, nor do they need to be part of the direct marketing team, but they'll need to have a comprehensive understanding of how the data will be used, what data is required from each partner and how they will deliver it, and how the data will be made available for use by the larger team.

The internal champion will likely also manage and document corporate taxonomies, consistent business rules and definitions, etc.

3. Communicate your vision with agencies and partners

As with all change, there's likely to be some pushback. Expect it, and get ahead of any resistance by clearly communicating the vision, benefits, and general plan for getting there.

Agencies may feel that by taking ownership of data, brands will lessen their engagement or investment. In most cases, that's simply not true. Show partners the new world where they continue to be valued advisers and collaborators, not report creators and data cobblers.

Instead of spending time on manual reporting and arguing over the numbers, agencies and brands alike can easily see high (and low!) performance so conversations can be about testing, learning, and improving results—a win for both parties.

4. Collaborate to define KPIs and agree on delivery

Bring brand teams and media partners together to align on the KPIs and metrics you'll use to measure success, taking into consideration what data will be required and the format and frequency that it will be delivered. Some marketers also choose to implement a validation or approval process that defines the amount of time that agencies or partners have to deliver clean, validated data.

Keep in mind that agencies are critical partners, so incorporate their input on what to measure, potential obstacles in the measurement strategy, what's realistic in terms of delivery, etc.

You'll use the agreed-upon metrics and KPIs to hold your partners accountable; but, more important, close collaboration will empower agencies to confidently drive you to achieve goals.

5. Standardize naming, metrics, and tagging

Once you have agency input, standardize. Is it a brand? Is it a sub-brand? Is it a campaign? Establish consistent naming and define brand and product hierarchies, then create standard reports with supporting metric requirements. Establishing this structure will require a bit of work up front.

Data coming from dozens of systems will be formatted differently, so you'll need to look at the various metrics and overlay them with your agreed-upon KPIs and consistent tagging to come up with a standard structure that works for all agencies and partners.

6. Put it in writing

Standard agency contracts likely won't mandate data sharing or incorporate service-level agreements (SLAs) for accurate tagging. You'll need to push for standards to be included on your own, by rewriting contracts or renegotiating with agency partners.

The it can be easier to navigate this conversation when a partner is up for renewal or you're kicking off a new partnership, it can happen at any time. Since you've already established success measures, details like frequency and format will be clear, so pushing for these conversations will formalize the process.

7. Centralize data in a hub that connects directly to the source

A trusted data hub (overseen by the internal owner/champion) that pulls clean data directly from the source and continuously updates as new data becomes available is a critical element of success. It ensures there is a non-negotiable source of truth for marketing data that the entire organizes uses. There are several tools and technologies that can help facilitate this process, so research what options are best for your needs.

8. Add context

Once you have your data hub in place, to add context and perspective you can start to bring in additional data sources that might not be tied to your media partners. For example, do you have access to business-outcome data or third-party data (research data, Nielsen, Moat, etc.) that can help your team better understand marketing impact?

9. Organize meetings around consistent, standard reports

Let the fun begin! Now that you have clean, trusted performance data flowing in, lean on standard, previously agreed-upon reports during regular strategy meetings with partners and internal stakeholders. Also, empower the team to customize reports as they go, to get the insights they need to test, learn, and iterate within channels, campaigns, etc.

As you launch new messaging and creative and try new ways of reaching customers, you'll see immediately what's working and what's not, and you can reallocate spend from low performers to high performers on-the-fly.

* * *

Data integrity and ownership are the foundations of every great data-driven marketing program. Once they are mandated across the organization, you and your partners will be able to do meaningful and trusted analysis that will not only make for better, faster decisions and optimizations but also demonstrate Marketing's impact on the business.

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Data-Driven Marketing: How (and Why) to Move From Siloed Reporting to Data Ownership

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image of Amanda Roberts

Amanda Roberts is VP of marketing for Beckon, a data management, reporting, and analytics platform that global brands depend on to make effective decisions.

LinkedIn: Amanda Roberts

Twitter: @amroberts2