Digital Transformation Media Measurement Business Growth

Not just ‘plug-and-play’ – data-driven decision-making must be baked into company culture

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By Maria Greaves, Assistant editor - branded content

May 21, 2024 | 7 min read

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Despite investing billions in data and analytics, businesses still need to get better at using it to future-proof their growth, says Analytics Partners’ EMEA vice-president Kevin O’Farrell.

5 ways business leaders can unlock their data potential to seize new opportunities

5 ways business leaders can unlock their data potential to seize new opportunities

In a fast-moving, fragmented and uncertain marketplace, data-driven decision-making is more vital than ever. Spending on data and analytics is expected to reach $29.5bn by 2026. But brands are still struggling with the “continuous advocacy and cross-functional change management” that are vital to get the most out of their investment, O’Farrell explained to global brand executives at Analytic Partners’ recent NorthStar Connect event.

As research from The Drum and AAR shows that 52% of CMOs have enormous amounts of data but don’t know what to do with it, he highlighted the five ways business leaders can unlock their data potential to seize new opportunities, maximize return-on-investment (ROI) and thrive in the years ahead.

1. Get key stakeholder buy-in to change your data culture

Brands need to move from thinking about data as a box-ticking exercise that measures marketing performance to thinking about it as a strategy that guides all commercial decision-making throughout the organization.

And that “accountability for data-driven decision-making needs to come from the top-down,” advises O’Farrell. Senior stakeholders need to “evangelize and educate,” he adds. Otherwise, data will remain as a tool, rather than a mindset – it’ll stagnate as a report card, rather than thrive as a culture.

For those who manage to make the shift, the rewards are huge. Brands who adopt analytics across their organization and gain buy-in from all stakeholders generate five times more growth than those who don’t. 

2. Ditch the silos

Who’s been in a meet when different teams provide contradictory reports using the same data? That happens when they’re making decisions according to their own KPIs and needs, decisions that are based on siloed metrics.

Siloed metrics don’t tell the whole business story or light the way to a seamless customer journey. They’re pot-holed with blind spots, biases and gaps. For example, last click and simplistic attribution metrics overstate the role of clickable activities by 2-10x on average, and they understate the role of non-clickable or non-user-level activities (like video, for example) by even more.

Brands who don’t adopt a holistic approach are paying the price: for every $1 spent on data, 35 cents are lost when brands use siloed metrics. Once key stakeholders have bought into the fact that data needs to be baked into their organization, they need to ensure it’s used to create a single source of truth by removing any disconnected views. Only then will brands be able to “plan out multiple scenarios before they happen, plan for multiple outcomes, find multiple opportunities and adapt to them while they happen,” says O’Farrell.

3. Collaborate to drive growth

Despite efforts in recent years to drive credibility and accountability, marketing can still be seen as a business cost rather than a key commercial driver. As such, marketing budgets are often challenged during tough economic times, leading to tension between the CFO and CMO. But, O’Farrell advises, aligning CMOs and CFOs “lifts a lot of internal barriers and makes it easier to work towards the same goal: company growth.”  

And that alignment pays off: research shows that businesses can accelerate revenue growth and unlock incremental financial improvements of 20% to 40% when CFOs and CMOs regularly collaborate. That’s why O’Farrell is calling for the industry to seize the opportunity “to rebrand advertising and marketing, to take the conversation from ‘what can we cut?’ and move it forward to ‘how can we invest for long-term, commercial success?’”

And what does this have to do with data? It’s the key that will unlock a brand’s commercial success. Data that measures a shared definition of success is the glue that can bind CFOs and CMOs together.

4. Bridge the talent data gap

The CMO and CFO are not the only leaders who need to be aligned on how to achieve company growth. All the teams handling the data need to be supported as well. Brands are struggling to optimize their data because there is “often a skills gap in companies that prevents them from leveraging data to their advantage,” cautions O’Farrell.

His warning is backed by recent industry research, which revealed that 42% of marketers believe there is a critical data and analytics skills gap in their organization. A further two-thirds (65%) said a lack of the right skillsets limits them from delivering valuable insights from their data.

Over the coming year, leaders need to invest in training internal teams, hiring data and marketing science specialists or working with experienced external suppliers to ensure they’re getting the most out of their data stack.

5. Use storytelling to bring data to life

Moving from a tactical data culture that’s based on performance measurement, to one that’s strategic and based around commercial intelligence, is easier when data is seen as a narrative rather than a collection of stats. It’s about moving from numbers to insights.

And brands need to bring those insights “to life with good storytelling that covers the impact across the whole organization – not just marketing,” says O’Farrell.

Weaving a coherent story around company data will make it easier to align, influence and inform different departments and get key stakeholders’ buy-in.

Interested in learning how to unlock your data potential? Get in touch with Analytic Partners.

Digital Transformation Media Measurement Business Growth

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