Data has never been more central to the world of marketing than it is today. CMO budgets are rising fast, and with them the responsibility to spend wisely.

No CMO can hide any longer behind John Wanamaker’s famous quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.” Today’s CMO must be ready at all times to answer questions like: Which campaigns are (and aren’t) performing well? What's marketing’s impact on sales velocity? And the ultimate question: what’s the ROI of campaigns, channels, and tactics?

CMOs can’t afford to wait until pipeline meetings or campaign reviews. They make big budget decisions every day and need answers on the fly. Also, vendors hotly pursue CMO marketing dollars; the best way to protect that budget is to know how spend is allocated and what’s actually working. When the CFO or other execs stop by and ask for more details, you need to be able to drill into the numbers and answer their questions, without having to rely on the data ninjas.

Given how much money marketing spends, this shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?

MarTech is exploding

The good news is that CMOs now have more tools than ever to help them make informed decisions. Since 2011 the number of marketing technologies has exploded from 150 to nearly 4000! Furthermore, they have the budgets to spend on them. Gartner’s prediction that CMOs would outspend CIOs on technology by 2017 appears to be coming true.

The difficulty for CMOs lies in stitching together the dizzying array of technologies and data sources, and then deriving meaningful insights from them. You’ve got ad spend—spread across platforms like Google, Social, TV, print, and digital. Then there’s CRM data, marketing automation data, web traffic data, product usage data, finance data.

This is one reason why the top hire for CMOs right now is a great marketing technologist. It’s also why marketers have reported that the number one technology on their buying list in 2017 is Business Intelligence software.

Modern analytics to the rescue?

To CMOs, business analytics should be the Holy Grail. Centralised visibility across all campaigns with ROI info? Beautiful, where do we sign?

This is the bad news: if you ask CIOs about their experiences they’ll tell you that analytics software has broken more promises than a politician on the campaign trail. For decades it’s proven to be:

- Super hard to set-up (i.e. months to deploy)
- Poorly adopted (21% average of BI and Analytics Gartner Magic Quadrant Vendors) - that’s 8 out 10 people abandoning it!

Business analytics has had such low uptake because products – even the supposedly easy ones – are too hard to implement, and even harder to learn and use. In the end, we revert to using what we know – spreadsheets – or calling our resident data ninja.

7 ways for CMOs to beat the analytics adoption odds

Fortunately, the latest analytics tools offer ‘extreme ease-of-use,’ require little to no training and give fast, deep insights to even the most tech-shy CMOs. Of course, each new technology generation brings considerable hype so you’ll need to look closely. Here are my seven secrets to evaluating and embedding analytics into your organisation:

1. Take it personally - Pick an analytics product that you can and will actually use yourself – not just for looking at dashboards, but analysing data.

2. Run from training - Ask vendors (and their customers) how long typical beginner training classes run. Anything longer than a few hours means you and your team will forget what you learned and stop using the software.  

3. Know your data - Make sure the product can handle your data volume and variety. Ask IT where your data lives—cloud, on-premise, both—and make sure the product supports these locations.

4. Demand speed - Demos look slick, but in the real world, that spinny wheel of death could spin-spin-spin into eternity. Demand proof of speed; talk to customers.

5. Involve your data analyst - While tools get easier-to-use, the data world grows increasingly complex. Involve your data ninja in the eval process to ensure your chosen tool is set up optimally. Your tool should free up your data ninja for strategic work, like adding new data sources and defining shared metrics.

6. Understand your costs - First calculate how much you’re spending on data analytics talent to gauge how much you’ll save on a product that’s easier to use. Next compare how tools are priced when adding new users, data volumes, CPUs, 'cores', and devices. These costs can spiral out of control. Seek licensing models that don’t ‘tax’ you for adoption.

7. Lead a data-driven culture - Changing technology has to come with a change in culture. CMOs must drive this throughout marketing, sales, and operations—from execs down to the front lines. Establish meetings to review big picture metrics (pipeline, ROI) and also create opportunities for every team member to contribute daily their own insights (i.e. individual campaign performance—from lead all the way to close). Though many tools come with collaboration features, you’ll still need to drive engagement—especially at first.

Happy decision-making

There’s a world of opportunity for data-driven CMOs to get ahead of the competition. It’s a wild and crazy time to be a marketer, but that also means it’s a great time to take advantage. When your campaign manager comes to you with an analysis explaining how her new campaign’s cost per lead is 20% higher, but the cost for each opportunity is 50% lower—you’ll thank me. Now is the time to jump on the new data-driven technology bus—and drive it! Your company’s success and your career will depend on it.


By Scott Holden, chief marketing officer at ThoughtSpot

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