While some colleagues may be put off by the use of data, it is fundamentally about imbuing the decision-making process with relevant information, creating a culture of learning. Wunderman UK's David Lloyd looks at how to do that.

Marketing effectiveness has risen way up the CMO agenda thanks to the greater transparency that comes with data-led strategies. However, measurement across touchpoints is hard when that data and its interpretation is ‘owned’ by multiple teams.

So, how can you streamline processes to allow colleagues across functions – from sales to creative and everything in between – as well as external partners to collaborate successfully towards shared goals, and feed in the right data without ending up in information overload? 

Every business recognises the value in the customer data it holds, but a horizontal structure where anyone can dip in and pull numbers from across an organisation is both a blessing and a curse. After all, when facing such a deluge of data, it’s all too easy to get caught in an endless spreadsheet loop that ultimately benefits no-one. 

With this in mind, moving to a data-informed business model often means challenging entrenched thinking. You may face an uphill struggle in making a business case, even if it is given the green light at a senior level; convincing your peers to love data as much as they should can be a tough ask. This can particularly be the case when you need to look beyond internal departments to include extended teams, such as agency partners.

Rethinking success: it’s everybody’s job

If everyone across the organisation is ultimately working towards a shared outcome, the mantra ‘my success is your success’ needs to become firmly established.

A horizontal structure can only work if everyone takes responsibility. Cutting out the silos means ‘that’s not my job’ simply won’t ever be a valid argument.

Continuous optimisation requires total transparency: if something doesn’t work as planned or mistakes are made, it’s important that everyone can learn from them. While colleagues may be happy to share in their successes, embedded attitudes towards perceived ‘failure’ are less progressive in established large enterprises than in the culture of fast-moving digital businesses and start-ups. This attitude is self-limiting, education is key and marketing teams must take the lead in embedding a culture of experimentation.

Planning for success: limit your metrics 

Everyone is familiar with the ‘6 Ps’ – proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance – and it’s never been truer in the business world. Before anything can happen at all, stakeholders need to agree on what success actually looks like and which core metrics really matter. Setting a project up properly from the outset is key; clear objectives allow you to put the mechanisms in place to deliver against these without becoming distracted by peripheral data points.

Ideally, limit the measurement to two or three core metrics that will demonstrate success in relation to a well-defined audience. Keeping it as simple as possible reduces any potential for (mis)interpretation and helps to engage teams around the shared goal. Ensure too that external partners and agencies also understand exactly what needs to be achieved, which means bringing them into the conversation as early as possible.

Making connections

While everyone is equally accountable for the project as a whole, each team needs to be very clear on what their own contribution is. This means joining up the commercial team, who will be focused on propositions and pricing; with the marketing and analysis teams, to deliver the right customer insights to feed back into strategy and creative, and drive successful commercial outcomes.

So, the next challenge is to join the dots and define how each set of metrics will link back into the overarching data set, with a clear connection point and specific indicators of success.

As such, each team will have individual roles and responsibilities – marketers will still have to make the same decisions on formats and budgeting for instance. However, each decision should be informed by data. What this means, in practice, is that individual teams are able to use data to ask the right questions of their colleagues and help guide the choices they make.

While data may already be a fact of life for the sales and comms departments, the horizontal model means it can be extended to inform creative decisions. Previously, creatives wouldn’t necessarily have known if their output performed in quite the way they thought it would. Despite concerns raised in some quarters around the potential of data-led approaches to stifle creativity, this doesn’t hold true if data is viewed as an aid to the decisions creatives make, rather than the whip hand. The level of insight offered by data can actually be very freeing in allowing teams to take greater creative risks.

Rethinking measurement: illustrate impact

Designing the right measurement for the right audience is the trick to making data work throughout a business: this often means keeping the analysis simple enough for all colleagues, internal and external, to interpret at a glance.

While analytics teams might be used to reviewing complex datasets, this isn’t the case for everyone - so adapt the tools to suit the audience. For some departments, a scorecard outlining a few core metrics might be more appropriate than an organisation-wide overview, or a spreadsheet with a thousand numbers. I have seen marketing teams obsessed with huge reports showing product sales – data diced in every possible way without revealing the impact of their specific contributions to those sales.

What’s key is that each team has a sense of ownership for their own numbers, aligned to the decisions they make, but appreciate how these feed back in to the shared marketing goals in terms of the bigger picture.

While some people might be turned off by data as a concept, what it provides is hugely valuable – so it needs to be positioned as a culture of learning. We’ve all been guilty of wanting to rush on to the next project without really thinking closely about what we can take from the last. Bringing data into everyday practice makes us reflect and learn as part of a broader team, and as a fundamental part of the routine. There’s nothing scary or exclusionary about data. You might even say it can bring businesses together in every sense.