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Blog / 3 ways CMOs can overcome the data capability drought

3 ways CMOs can overcome the data capability drought

Insights without actions are useless. To give your business the best chance of success, you need to invest in the data skills your team needs to reap the competitive advantages of data. But, you don’t have to be Microsoft or Walmart to have sophisticated marketing analytics - this advanced technology is available to companies of every size, and using it should be a turning point to upskill current teams.

Most of us know that crucial data expertise is becoming more and more difficult to hire in, train up, and retain. In fact, some two-thirds of CMOs say it’s harder to hire new employees with a data background than to upskill their current team while another report shows a third of brands are struggling to fill data and analytics voids.

Part of this is because the rapid evolution of digital marketing has reshaped the skills required. While not all modern marketing essentials are new — such as being able to set, test, and adjust an overarching hypothesis — achieving insight-driven effectiveness calls for higher data and tech literacy than ever before.

But we face another issue: many marketers still see sophisticated tools as a magic bullet. Yes, automation has a huge capacity to help drive streamlined data integration and coordination, with proven productivity gains. But simply adopting smarter systems isn’t enough. 

CMOs must also focus on equipping their teams with the knowledge and abilities needed for putting well-organized insight into action; with up-skilling a vital element of that.

Here are three areas CMOs should prioritize to build an environment where data skills can easily grow and flourish.


1. Re-focusing on upskilling marketing teams

CMOs are realizing that merely doubling down on recruitment drives won’t plug their capability gaps. This sentiment was echoed in our latest study, with 66% of CMOs recognizing it’s more difficult to hire in employees with hard data skills than to upskill their existing team. While arguably overdue, this is a positive shift. As well as freeing themselves from trying to plug holes with limited expertise, CMOs can concentrate on critical workforce development.

As you can imagine, needs will differ between companies. But the main objective for most CMOs should be ensuring their teams have the capacity to obtain accurate insight and find the best ways of optimizing outcomes. On top of tackling low skills areas across teams — instead of relying on new hires to power data use alone — ramping up internal training can help significantly boost time to value. Current workers who know the organization will be able to start making better decisions faster when armed with augmented abilities.

Additionally, there is major scope to improve overall data proficiency. As found by Deloitte, almost one in four (36%) companies that have re-trained their workers, rate as advanced, or masters, in data maturity rankings. Since every extra percentage point of higher data maturity is estimated to drive around 6.7% in revenue gains, this means skills enhancement not only enables individuals to do more with data but also brings tangible business benefits.


2. Building and retaining hard data skills

Cultivating a culture of empowerment is one thing but making sure employees can apply their skills is another. In our research, 43% of CMOs admit their teams spend more time herding data than actually using it. The connection between outmoded practices and rising retention challenges for 36% of CMOs doesn’t need spelling out: just under half (49%) already think time-consuming manual reporting is putting people off working in their department.

Even accounting for the impact of pandemic changes on working needs, sticking with legacy processes is having its own negative effect. Marketers rightly don’t want to be wasting their skills, newly honed or not, on resource-intensive tasks like manual data wrangling. The same goes for lingering organizational silos that mean marketers are out of sync with analysts on which tools their company has. This includes tech that makes data management, visualizations, and activation easier, such as a centralized data warehouse and BI reporting.

The solution for avoiding losing marketers to more data mature companies is straightforward. CMOs must get to work in laying integrated pipelines for smooth data flow, automating mundane tasks, and reconnecting with analysts — paying specific attention to identifying the time-saving tools their team could, and should, be using.


Did you know that 30% of marketers say they don't trust their data due to inaccuracies and mistakes?

Learn more in the Marketing Analytics State of Play 2022 report!


3. Reframing creativity for a new digital marketing era

The final hurdle frequently lies closer to home: addressing CMO views on data and how it balances with traditional creative marketing. Currently, opinion is evenly divided on whether data and creativity gel together; with 42% saying it hinders creativity, and 41% saying it helps.

You might think this debate is as old as the hills and that’s true. But marketing teams taking their cues from CMOs aren’t going to adopt data-driven mindsets without encouragement. CMOs need to lead the way in championing data as an asset they can tap to make productive use of their skills.

After core data groundworks are complete and autonomous systems are doing the heavy lifting, teams can begin using dials and dashboards to create a robust picture of marketing performance. This means they’ll be able to not only track the precise impact of creative efforts but also pinpoint where fine-tuning might be needed to bolster results and catch outliers. Almost nothing is worse than pouring budgets and creative energy into campaigns that miss their mark when audience preferences or market conditions suddenly change.

Then there are the possibilities of emerging creative frontiers. Organizations ready to explore predictive analytics can assess their activities in line with multiple variables and generate forward-looking insights that guide creative optimization. For example, evaluating responses to different ad types can pinpoint what kind of messages work for specific target audiences and channels, as well as where to direct ad spend for maximum reach and ROI. The caveat, of course, is that CMOs must allow space for teams to experiment with varied approaches and fail; as Andy Lark, CCO at Dubber said: paving the way for long-term value comes with learning from mistakes.


Conclusion: CMOs need to build and unleash marketing skills

Simply put, insights without action are useless. To really maintain their competitive edge and drive sustainable performance, CMOs must ensure their people are able to produce, understand and use reliable insight. Equal emphasis must be placed on all three pillars of great leadership: investing in and upskilling people, nurturing experimental and data-assisted culture, and building the right setup for lasting efficiency.


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