According to the latest research, two-thirds of CMOs are drowning in marketing data. We surveyed 300 CMOs from SMBs across the UK, US, and DACH, and found that while making data-driven decisions is a key priority for CMOs, many are still struggling to get on top of their data.
Check out the research here, or read on for some tips on how not to get overwhelmed by data.
Using data to navigate the uncertain marketing landscape
Over the past few years, marketers have been put through the wringer. We’ve seen massive shifts in customer behavior, coupled with a number of economic downturns as countries across the world locked down and opened up again. The old adage that change is the only constant rings truer than ever.
Among other things, these conditions have encouraged businesses to focus on using data to act quickly, adjust strategy, and stretch marketing budgets. And, for those who invested time and resources into their data strategies, navigating this confusing landscape was easier - while conversely less data mature businesses struggled to absorb these economic shocks.
Doubling down on data ops in times of recession
Despite the tumultuous past few years, 75% of CMOs at SMBs say their team was resilient enough to adapt to periods of unpredictability. For those who have successfully ridden out the storm, data is now front of mind as another hurricane forms on the horizon. In fact, among the CMOs at SMBs we surveyed, a staggering 85% agree that being able to make data-driven decisions is a critical competitive advantage. But with new platforms and channels spitting out increasingly granular information, getting data insights is easier said than done.
CMOs are drowning in data — and the tide keeps rising
CMOs say the biggest external impact on marketing is the increasing number of channels and platforms (33%).
Keeping track of all these data sources is tricky — they don’t all use the same metrics and many marketing teams don’t have tools in place to give them a unified view over cross-channel campaigns. If marketing teams can’t get a handle on all this data, then they risk making slower, uninformed decisions that put more and more distance between them and their customers. So, right now, it’s fair to say this is the biggest external factor shaping the CMO’s roadmap.
While it’s very promising to see that CMOs understand that making data-driven decisions is a critical competitive advantage, many are struggling to create a sustainable framework for this. Almost seven in ten (67%) feel the volume of marketing data available has become overwhelming - and when we look at the number of data sources marketing teams are working with, it’s easy to see why.
- Similar research from 2019 revealed that nearly half (47%) of respondents had 6 or fewer data sources.
- In 2022, 99% are using 10 or more data sources, and 52% are using 14 or more.
- Three years on we couldn’t find a single respondent reporting so few data sources.
“CMOs have become overly bogged down by data challenges and lost sight of their core purpose: meeting the needs of the consumer,” says Harriet Durnford Smith, CMO at Adverity, “How they got here isn’t hard to understand. As channels and platforms have expanded, so has the quantity of incoming data about audience interactions and marketing performance. Failing to implement efficient systems for managing this data, however, means they are now wary of smart tools and battling to bring disordered information into order when they should be using it to inform efforts that create consistently strong consumer connections.”
One way to understand how a lack of data maturity might undermine an organization’s resilience is to take a look at what traits the least resilient respondents to our survey have in common.
Data overload and decreased ops budget
Tellingly, for respondents who cited a lack of resilience and difficulty adjusting during black swan events, reports of data overload soar to 92%, and jump to 100% for those decreasing their data ops budget this year. For marketing teams that have not invested in strengthening data handling capacity and implementing streamlined processes, keeping pace with digitalization is a tougher task.
Top challenges are a lack of support from the C-suite and difficulty getting budget for tech investment
If we look at respondents who struggled most to adapt over the past few years, it’s interesting to note the difference in barriers to tech investment: securing budget and getting the C-suite on board are tied for top challenges (25%). Among the rest of the respondents, budget is actually the least pressing challenge - so why is there such a gap?
Underinvestment in data ops is a vicious cycle
As many of the least resilient respondents are also decreasing their data ops budget and struggling with data overload, this may suggest a negative cycle is in motion. Poor ability to demonstrate value is making it difficult to win wider C-suite confidence, meaning low buy-in and reluctance to release budget could be leaving them less able to invest in tools and training that would improve their data effectiveness and resilience.
Marketing teams need to be able to make data-informed decisions quickly in order to stretch their budgets further. They also need to be thoughtful about tech investments, as continued underinvestment makes it more likely they will battle with further inefficiencies that add to already unwieldy workloads and impact productivity.
As channels and platforms have expanded, so has the quantity of incoming data about audience interactions and marketing performance.
Harriet Durnford Smith, CMO, Adverity
It’s important to note that investment in tech alone isn’t enough to sustain a successful data strategy. For tech investments to be successful, there must be a harmonious mix of budget allocated toward the “hard” IT factors such as hardware and software, as well as “soft” IT factors such as upskilling and training its human capital.
How do you not get overwhelmed by data?
- Balance costs for data ops carefully: Businesses need to balance costs carefully, running calculations of how much they can save from stalling data ops investment, versus the benefits a well-supported team can drive.
- Use these calculations to get the C-suite on board: a data-driven culture needs to come from the top down.
- Invest in soft IT factors like people and culture: tech alone isn’t going to solve all your problems. You need people to understand and act on data insights if you want to unlock the potential of your tech stack.
“Fixing this problem is far from impossible, but CMOs need to move quickly as global market conditions worsen,” says Harriet Durnford Smith, CMO at Adverity, "Combined with an existing cost of living crisis, a looming recession is spelling a gloomy financial outlook for consumers, making it increasingly critical for marketers to offer greater value, as well as demonstrate responsibility and sensitivity. Only with a unified supply of accurate insights can they pinpoint the best path to driving relevant, meaningful, and empathetic conversations, which fuel long-term bonds and trust.”
Want more? Read the full research report here.