This year, 87.9 billion consumer emails will be sent and received each day. To stand out, marketers need to deliver relevant content to their customers—but only 21% of marketers believe they're doing so.

Moreover, 62% of companies' email deliverability ranks as "questionable" at best, causing wasted marketing spend, missed campaign opportunities, and valuable time and resources spent fixing inaccurate records.

Without good data, marketing campaigns will inevitably suffer.

Marketers need to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. Without trustworthy data, that level of personalization is nearly impossible.

Data-driven marketers' two main goals—to increase and measure campaign ROI—are best achieved by personalized messaging. To do that, marketers must gain quick access to integrated and accurate customer data.

Current digital marketing methodology dictates the needs for a strategy that accomplishes these goals:

  • Finds the right audience
  • Uses the right channel
  • Delivers the right content—all at the right time

To determine a strategy for your organization that checks all those boxes, you need data.

The Problem With Data

Data determines channel, audience, content, and timing, but unfortunately, it's the hardest component to control.

Our recent The State of Salesforce Report showed that nearly 50% of all respondents still have problems reconciling data from different sources. It is the top barrier to deriving business insights from data.

Also, six out of 10 marketers cite poor or inconsistent data quality, or lack of data, as their biggest challenge to producing meaningful campaigns.

Employing an intelligent data marketing strategy, marketers can mitigate risk by understanding what's working and what isn't. The best marketers test campaigns and monitor performance prior to scaling. Doing so allows marketers to achieve their goals through a phased approach and exploit tactics that work.

Customer data can also help marketers increase one-to-one personalized content that connects their messaging with target personas, and gain a 360-degree view of the customer by tracking campaign performance.

Knowing the State of Your Data

Capturing all this new customer data in a centralized system of record will help marketers better understand the consumer on a deeper level, anticipate their needs, and improve brand loyalty.

Ask yourself, "How well do I know the state of my data? Has my database evolved over time as customer channels multiply?"

Leading CMOs are making data quality and access the central focus of their marketing strategy in 2016. To achieve this, the best marketers will be focused on:

  • Integrating disparate marketing applications to gain a complete view of their customer (93%)
  • Integrating data and driving visibility across Sales, Marketing, and Service (94%)
  • Strengthening their partnership with IT to promote system governance and ongoing innovation (75%)

The Importance of Data Integration

Companies need to integrate their platforms and applications to gain access to more and cleaner data. The longer you avoid addressing your data, the more time you expose yourself to the risk that your competitors will get in front of your customers first.

When integration is successful, campaigns are more personalized and their ROI can be effectively measured. Mature digital marketing organizations recognize that a data strategy is required to bring a sophisticated and disruptive digital campaign to life and to achieve maximum engagement and lift.

However, integration without strong data governance—and the bad data that can come of it—can hinder marketers' success. Companies with an effective data governance strategy are three times more likely to report that their marketing messages are personalized than those that lack data governance.

Tackling Your Data

We all know that data isn't sexy. I don't know many marketers who want to spend their days cleaning and managing data— but it's the lifeblood of any good lead or customer nurture program.

This year, leading marketers are partnering with IT, the traditional leaders in governance, to tackle bad data and establish a mature data governance strategy. Companies striving for clean data must start taking data seriously and partner with IT to establish a data governance strategy that will ensure clean data, personalized messaging, and marketing ROI.

Start tackling your data and set the foundation for marketing success with these three steps:

  • Constrain data input. Standardize what users can enter (specifically, eliminate free text fields) to move toward cleaner data.
  • Integrate the right data, not the most data. Pinpoint the desired outcome of a campaign and find the most relevant data sources to support it. Access to too much data is just as cumbersome as access to too little data.
  • Keep data up to date. Trusted third-party data sources that consistently update customer information can reduce the manual burden on employees and limit errors.

Companies need to think of marketing as a science, not simply a gut feeling. When companies are focused on data cleanliness, integration, and governance—of their various cloud solutions and across departments—it becomes easier to foster collaboration, focus on messaging strategy and creative campaigns, and drive the company's bottom line.

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Stop Paying Lip Service to Data and Start Actually Tackling It

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image of Corinne Sklar

Corinne Sklar is global CMO of Bluewolf, a global business consulting firm that helps clients produce extraordinary customer moments and accelerate business outcomes.

Twitter: @csklar

LinkedIn: Corinne Sklar