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. And while we know the transformation from siloed reports to cross-channel insights will require new tools, new processes, new skills and clear leadership, two areas core to great, data-driven marketing are often overlooked: the fundamentals of data ownership and data integrity. Most brands have data held “hostage” in execution tools or with agencies that may or may not be owned or even contractually accessible. If reports are provided from partners, they are often missing data or they come in late, with no time to adjust course and optimize.
While we trust our partners, marketers must ultimately own, integrate and align all performance data so we can audit and validate it, and get the full picture of what’s working and what’s not. Not only will we get 24/7 visibility into how marketing is performing, but we’ll also get faster reporting, analysis and optimization cycles to make more informed decisions in real-time. And by aligning our relationship around clear business goals and KPIs, we will build more strategic relationships with our agencies, unlocking the potential of truly data-driven partnerships.
Many assume that taking control of our data starts by finding new partners, but that’s not necessarily the case. Several brands have successfully made the leap from siloed reporting to complete data ownership through close collaboration with existing partners. However, data ownership doesn’t happen overnight. It is a deliberate journey that delivers benefits to both parties each step of the way.
If you’re ready to bring data in-house at your organization, consider these 9 tips for success.
Define your vision for the future.
Agree on what you wish to accomplish with your data upfront. What do you want to measure? What do you want to learn? How will the data be used? This will inform what data you need and how it should be structured as you begin the process. Also, take stock of all the data you have and whether it’s valuable for what you’re trying to accomplish. Remember, not all data is equal, so prioritize only what’s essential to your end goals.
Identify internal ownership.
This can be a team of people or one person who articulates the vision and holds everyone accountable for their contributions. It may not be a dedicated resource, nor do they need to be part of the 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. This internal champion will likely also manage and document corporate taxonomies, consistent business rules and definitions, etc.
Communicate your vision.
As with all change, there’s likely to be some pushback. Get ahead of any resistance by clearly communicating the vision, benefits and general plan for getting there. Agencies may feel that by bringing data in house, brands will lessen their engagement or investment. In most cases, that’s not true. Paint a picture of the new world, where agencies continue to be valued advisors and collaborators, instead of spending time on manual reporting. No more arguing over the numbers. Agencies and brands alike can focus on testing, learning and improving results—a win-win for everyone.
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. Consider implementing an approval process that defines the amount of time that agencies or partners have to deliver clean, validated data. Remember to incorporate partners’ input on what to measure, potential obstacles, what’s realistic in terms of delivery, etc. You’ll use the agreed upon KPIs to hold everyone accountable, and close collaboration will empower agencies to confidently drive you to achieve goals.
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 work upfront. 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.
Put it in writing.
Standard agency contracts won’t likely 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. While it can be easier to navigate this conversation when a partner is up for renewal or you’re kicking off a new partnership, you can request these changes at any time. Since you’ve already established success measures, details like frequency and format will be clear. Pushing for these conversations simply formalizes the process.
Centralize data into a hub that connects directly to the source.
Secure a trusted data hub that pulls data directly from the source, cleanses and normalizes it on the way in, and continuously updates as new data becomes available. This ensures there is a non-negotiable source of truth for marketing data that the entire organization uses. There are several tools and technologies that can help facilitate this process, so research what options might best meet your needs.
With a data hub in place, consider bringing in additional data sources to add context and perspective. For example, do you have access to business outcome data or third-party data (i.e. research data, Nielsen, Moat, etc.) that can help your team better understand marketing impact?
Organize meetings around consistent, standard reports.
Now that you have clean, trusted data flowing in, lean on standard, agreed upon reports to drive conversations during regular strategy meetings. Also, empower the team to customize reports as time goes on to get the insights they need to test, learn and iterate. As you launch new campaigns, quickly see what’s working best, so you can reallocate spend from low performers to high performers on-the-fly.
Data integrity and ownership are the foundation of every great, data-driven marketing program. Once it’s mandated across the organization, you and your partners will be able to do meaningful and trusted analysis that will not only fuel better, faster decisions and optimizations, but also demonstrate marketing’s impact on the business.