What's the most important factor in determining success with marketing technology? Ask the finance department, and you might hear "impact on revenue." Ask Sales, and it's how well martech is generating new leads. Ask the CMO, and the measure may be whether brand reputation is improved.

But simply calculating the outcomes of a marketing technology investment is the wrong perspective. In every organization, no matter the size of the company or its industry, the single most important reason for success in martech is culture.

In my experience, martech is invariably the difference between winning in the marketplace and always playing catch up. Yet culture often gets the least amount of attention when a company strategizes around marketing technology. Data science is helping organizations gain valuable insights into the world around them, but it also is requiring a new mindset and way of working.

Being analytics-driven has much more to do with cultural readiness than with the algorithms powering data science. Some of today's leading brands—Amazon, Capital One, Uber—achieve success in large part by accepting that they are, first and foremost, data companies. And they fully embrace that identity across the organization.

Some 86% of marketers believe they will own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020, according to a recent study. The finding illustrates two intrinsically bound points:

  1. Companies are relying more on marketing services to create and execute upon customer experiences that are seamless and channel-agnostic.
  2. Tremendous volumes of internal and external data will be flooding marketing teams in the years ahead.

Marketing technology is critical to adapting to both trends, but it doesn't represent a strategic solution on its own. Companies need to commit to martech, and often, that means making certain that marketing is supporting the goals of the business.

Another study found just 16% of marketers say their martech strategies align with business strategies. This is an example of why organizations need top-to-bottom cultural investment in martech for it to make a difference.

Here are three tips for organizations that want to adapt its culture to maximize martech's impact on the business.

1. Lead from the top

Visionaries foster buy-in. On the executive level, support for a data-driven organization should be unwavering. Over the course of my 20-year research in analytics, I've come to understand the immense need for leaders who understand the value of data analytics, and that there is more to the analytics process than technology.

With a growing reliance on data, executive leadership must seek out and support those with an analytics mindset.

A recent McKinsey Global Survey found that senior-leader involvement and the right organizational structure are critical factors in how successful a company's analytics efforts are—even more so that their technical capabilities or tools. The report also found that attracting and retaining business users with analytics-related skills is the biggest challenge companies face. But in organizations with strong executive leadership for analytics initiatives and a clear vision for analytics, overall performance of analytics programs are rated higher.

Part of being a data-driven organization also means earning buy-in from all employees, including the marketing team. As companies invest in data, marketers are increasingly tasked with understanding it. Marketers themselves believe this change is happening.

If that is to be achieved, marketers must have the skill set, savvy, and knowledge to work with data and understand analysis. It's a different mindset than the past, when data analysts handled all or most of that work. Today, marketers are being tasked with this role, and companies want employees that aren't afraid of data and want to apply it to every decision.

2. Assess whether your organization is data-driven

Having data and using data are two different things. Deep penetration of analytics into every area of the organization and every channel of communication with customers is necessary to fulfill the data needs required for insight.

For example, mobile wallets provide a convenient way for consumers to pay and also create new data streams upon which data science can be applied to reveal new layers of information for marketers.

Beyond marketing more strategically, organizations armed with marketing technology tools and data science can achieve other business benefits. Those can include gaining leaner operations and better control over enterprisewide assets by taking advantage of predictive analytics capabilities to determine inventory, assortment and pricing models.

If an organization isn't using and relying on data for strategic business decisions, it's not truly data-driven.

3. Admit you're behind

Marketers are drowning in data but starving for insights. Organizations that aren't investing in marketing analytics fall a little further behind every day.

Marketing leaders should view themselves as consumers of data within the business, helping to assess where insights can deliver business value. If the organization has martech tools in place, it should understand how the resulting data is being used. If an organization doesn't have a modern tool, it should make the business case for it.

In simple terms, marketing analytics provides hindsight, insight, and foresight.

* * *

By nurturing a culture that embraces data and analytics, marketing can improve its own outcomes and demonstrate the value of martech by contributing to overall business objectives.

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The Benefits of Nurturing a Martech Culture

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image of Venkat Viswanathan

Venkat Viswanathan is founder and chairman of LatentView Analytics, a data analytics firm headquartered in Princeton.

LinkedIn: Venkat Viswanathan