CMOs: How to Break Down Barriers to Reaching Data Objectives

Three Steps to Capitalize on Data and Drive Innovation

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David Gaspar
David Gaspar
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Data is undoubtedly one of the most buzzed-about topics in marketing. But in most cases, large legacy brands are not structured to process data in order to understand where their sales are coming from, and ultimately are unable to calculate an ROI on their marketing efforts. According to a recent study, CMOs are facing major barriers to delivering on their data and digital objectives, including internal siloes, resistance to change and limited expertise in emerging technology.

For large corporations in particular, their size, structure, outdated models and old-school mentality make it very difficult to seize the opportunities presented by data. While a number of these forces and market dynamics are out of their control, in order to grow CMOs need to change their organizations to ensure success -- and this includes creating a new set of processes, metrics and mindsets. So how can CMOs circumvent or break down these barriers to capitalize on data and advance their innovation agendas? Here are three steps:

1. Aim small, miss small. Changing a company's structure and operating model won't happen overnight. Implementing subtle changes that you know you can accomplish is a much more pragmatic approach to spark those larger shifts you're envisioning. Often companies will recognize they have a problem and will want to do a complete global overhaul of their organization, systems and processes, and may even appoint a "czar" to spearhead it. But this type of change takes time and can be disruptive without bearing immediate results.

I recommend exploring the tradeoff between immediacy of results vs. immediacy of scale. Why not try a more discreet way to innovate? Identify the "middle child" -- not the new system everyone is talking about, but rather the underappreciated status-quo system. Hypothesize, test and learn in small pilots whose results can be applied globally. The key is being open and willing to fail on a small scale.

2. Love thy antagonist. As CMOs, you should always welcome feedback, whether it's from customers, competitors or your own colleagues. But pay particular attention to the people who bring different perspectives and opinions to your approach: your "antagonists." Of course, being surrounded by "protagonists" can be a good thing, but progress made along the journey will be much stronger and longer-lasting when antagonists are involved in the process. They may not immediately agree with the changes you're making, but by developing a solution with them in mind, you will have a better shot at convincing them and building consensus -- and ultimately turning them into your protagonists. Embrace internal dissention and take the opinions of your antagonists into account.

3. Don't hate! Integrate. Even after CMOs find a way around the politics inside their organizations, performing systems integration and interconnecting data are no easy tasks. Although systems integration is not the typical sexy purview of the CMO, its outputs are the keystone of effective marketing organizations. Large, complicated systems are in place in each part of the sales funnel, from marketing-planning software to website traffic analytics, conversion tracking, sales software and ledger systems, where revenue finally hits the P&L. But systems integration is really just the start of the measurement process. Now that you have the data available to you, and this is "big data" in every sense of the word, you need the right type of analytics talent to automate, translate and synthesize the information into actionable steps for the entire organization.

These three steps – starting with small changes, inviting antagonists into the process and implementing systems integration, can help the proactive CMO combat internal barriers to innovation, and hopefully make the practice itself feel less daunting.